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2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 8 Michigan



Last season: 50-22 (16-7 in Big Ten); College World Series runner-up.
Final ranking: No. 2.
Coach (record at school): Erik Bakich (259-162-1, seven years).

Top 100 draft prospects: RHP Jeff Criswell (No. 53).

The good news: Michigan is coming off its best season in more than 50 years after winning 50 games and reaching the CWS, where it fell in three games to Vanderbilt. That team returns a significant amount of its core, which was built around what is now the Wolverines’ junior class. That includes Criswell, who will look to become the third member of last year’s rotation to be drafted in the top 75 picks, and up-the-middle players catcher Joe Donovan, shortstop Jack Blomgren and center fielder Jesse Franklin. Michigan also gets back lefthanders Ben Dragani and Steven Hajjar, who both missed last season due to injury and will now bolster the pitching staff. Another solid recruiting class last fall arrived in Ann Arbor and is ready to quickly make an impact, starting with sluggers Jimmy Obertop and junior college transfer Cameron Hart.

The bad news: The Wolverines return a lot, but they do have to replace a lot. All-American outfielder Jordan Brewer is gone, as are steady senior infielders Jimmy Kerr, Blake Nelson and Ako Thomas. Michigan is also missing its two workhorses from the front of the rotation in lefthander Tommy Henry and righthander Karl Kauffman. Dragani, who had a strong freshman year in the bullpen before missing 2019, and Hajjar, who has premium stuff, provide ready-made replacements for Henry and Kauffman, but they are coming off significant injuries and will need to show they can get back to their prior form. Offensively, Brewer last year was one of the best power-speed threats in the country as he hit 12 home runs and stole 25 bases. The Wolverines won’t be able to directly replace that kind of dynamism, but Franklin and Nwogu have loud tools and a history of production. They’ll need a couple new players to step up around them, but there’s enough talent in place to feel secure about that happening.

Player to know: Jesse Franklin, OF.

Franklin has been an everyday player at Michigan since arriving as a highly anticipated freshman. He’s shown solid power, hitting 23 home runs in his first two seasons, and last year took over in center field for the Wolverines. Now, as a junior, Michigan needs Franklin to be a cornerstone, both offensively and defensively. A big year from Franklin would take some of the pressure off Michigan’s more inexperienced hitters and propel him up draft boards.

Path to Omaha: Michigan’s breakthrough last year to the sport’s upper echelon had been anticipated for a few years, but few saw it coming so dramatically that the Wolverines would come within one win of a national championship in 2019. Now that it’s happened, Michigan is out to prove it has staying power. That requires quickly reloading, which this team is equipped to do with such a talented junior class. To get back to the CWS, Michigan needs its new-look rotation to live up to its promise and its lineup to find answers without some of last year’s leaders like Brewer and Kerr. It’s all within reach for Michigan, if it can just find a way to maintain the ease and looseness it displayed last June.

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Boise State Eliminates Baseball Program, Cites Budget Concerns

Boise State on Thursday announced it eliminated its baseball program just three years after the school moved to restart its long-dormant team.

LINEUP
POSName, YearAVGOBPSLGHRRBIAB
CJoe Donovan, Jr..234.314.421209937
1BMatthew Schmidt, R-Fr..167.389.2501202
2BRiley Bertram, So..385.515.5382607
3BTeddy Burton, Fr.HS - Huntington Beach, Calif.
SSJack Blomgren, Jr..314.417.401242347
LFJordan Nwogu, Jr..321.435.5572461246
CFJesse Franklin, Jr..262.388.4772601355
RFChristian Bullock, Sr..263.385.407118214
DHJimmy Obertop, Fr.HS – St. Louis
PITCHING
POSName, YearWLERAIPSOSV
RHPJeff Criswell, Jr.712.721061163
LHPBen Dragani, R-So.Did not play – injured
LHPSteven Hajjar, R-Fr.Did not play – injured
RPIsaiah Paige, R-So.312.7552331
RPWillie Weiss, So.222.9739509
POSName, YearAVGOBPSLGHRRBIAB
CJoe Donovan, Jr..234.314.421209937
1BMatthew Schmidt, R-Fr..167.389.2501202
2BRiley Bertram, So..385.515.5382607
3BTeddy Burton, Fr.HS - Huntington Beach, Calif.
SSJack Blomgren, Jr..314.417.401242347
LFJordan Nwogu, Jr..321.435.5572461246
CFJesse Franklin, Jr..262.388.4772601355
RFChristian Bullock, Sr..263.385.407118214
DHJimmy Obertop, Fr.HS – St. Louis
PITCHING
POSName, YearWLERAIPSOSV
RHPJeff Criswell, Jr.712.721061163
LHPBen Dragani, R-So.Did not play – injured
LHPSteven Hajjar, R-Fr.Did not play – injured
RPIsaiah Paige, R-So.312.7552331
RPWillie Weiss, So.222.9739509

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