Baseball is back! Well, sort of. Let’s try again: COLLEGE baseball is back!
While Major League Baseball and the Players Association seem less likely to strike peace this month than Kanye West and Pete Davidson, Michigan baseball is back on the diamond to begin the 2022 season.
The Wolverines are scheduled to face No. 14 Texas Tech today, Kansas State Saturday and Oklahoma Sunday in the State Farm Showdown at Globe Life Field before traveling to face UT-Arlington Monday.
Here is what you need to know ahead of this weekend.
Michigan finished 27-17 last season while playing a conference-only schedule at the behest of the Big Ten due to COVID-19 concerns. The Wolverines finished third in the conference and received an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
Against UConn in the opening round of the Starkville Super Regional, the Wolverines fell 6-1. Following the defeat to the Huskies, Michigan lost to Central Michigan 8-2 and were eliminated from the tournament.
Players to watch
- Junior infielder/outfielder Clark Elliott finished 2021 strong by hitting safely in 20 of the last 24 games. Following the collegiate season, Clark was the batting champion of the Cape Cod Baseball League (.344/.464/.978) and a West Division All-Star selection as a member of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Clark is the highest rated MLB prospect in the Big Ten.
- Junior infielder Ted Burton led the Wolverines in batting average (.342), OPS (1.101), OBP (.434) in 2021. Burton was second in home runs (seven) and led the team in slugging percentage (.667) for players with six or more at-bats.
- Junior catcher/infielder Jimmy Obertop led the Wolverines in home runs (11) and finished second in RBIs (34) despite being limited by injury in the second half of 2021.
- Senior right-handed pitcher Willie Weiss led the team in WHIP (1.10) in 2021 for players who appeared in three or more games and finished second in ERA (2.63). Weiss has averaged just shy of 1.5 strikeouts-per-inning during his time as a Wolverine.
- Junior right-handed pitcher Cameron Weston led Michigan in wins (seven) and innings pitched (83.1) in 2021. Weston will be the heavily relied upon ace in 2022.
Michigan is expected to be slightly better than 2021. Despite playing a deep Big Ten Conference, the Wolverines are one of four schools (Nebraska, Maryland and Iowa, being the others) expected to reach the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
- Texas Tech — The Red Raiders are a consensus top 25 team led by right-handed pitcher Brandon Birdsell and preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and 2021 All-American, third baseman Jace Jung.
- Kansas State — Despite missing the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats finished the season hot and reached the Big 12 title game. With a staggering 25 first-year players between freshmen and transfers, the Wildcats will look to build off last season’s momentum. Outfielder Dylan Phillips (.333/.422/.643) and first baseman Terrence Spurlin (.339/.406/.496) are the returners to keep an eye on this Saturday.
- Oklahoma — The Sooners are also breaking in several new faces (26 new players), but this is more in response to the mediocrity (27-28 overall record) experienced in 2021. Despite their struggles last season, the Sooners do return Peyton Graham and Jimmy Crooks, who combined for 21 home runs last season.
- UT-Arlington — Coming off a 27-30 season, the Mavericks will rely upon a deep bullpen to crest the .500 barrier this year in the Sun Belt. By the time they face the Wolverines on Monday, Tanner King and Michael Wong will be the relief pitchers who could make a difference for UT-Arlington to pull the upset.