#34 Michigan Baseball 2016 Preview

Michigan Wolverines
Overall Rank: #34
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
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Under the direction of head coach Eric Bakich, the Michigan Wolverines have been on a steady upward trend over the past couple of seasons ever since Bakich took over in 2013. Michigan returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 as they won 39 games, a Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship and made it to the finals of the Louisville Regional. With several key players turning the Wolverines are in a great position to the win the Big Ten title in 2016.
2015: 39-25, 14-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Erick Bakich
Field Players:
One of the top two way players in college baseball, junior Carmen Benedetti, will be back to lead the Michigan attack offensively. Benedetti hit .352 with five homeruns, 25 doubles and 71 runs batted in. The 25 doubles and 71 RBI’s by Benedetti were good enough for second all-time in a single season at Michigan. Infielder Jake Bivens will provide a nice mix of contact and speed that will be a great compliment to Benedetti in the lineup. Bivens hit. 319, drove in 19 runs and stole nine bases in 11 attempts.
Brett Adcock will be the ace in 2016 and will be looking to improve upon his 2015 season of a 10-4 record with a 3.10 earned run average. Adcock also did a nice job of limiting opponents to a .213 batting average, while striking out 95 batters in 90 innings. Ryan Nutof is back as the likely number two starter and was 5-3 last season. He is a bit more of a control pitcher, as Nutof walked just 32 batters in 80 innings.
Who to Watch:
Senior outfielder Cody Bruder will be a key player to watch. Bruder can drive in key runs at critical times just like Benedetti. Bruder drove in 43 runs last season. A good target goal for Bruder is to drive in over 50 runs in 2016. The bullpen returns Bryan Pall, who will have an opportunity to take over the closer role after the departure of Jacob Cronenworth, who saved eight games last season. Pall saved three games and went 2-0 with a 2.97 earned run average, while striking out 31 batters in 33.2 innings. The ability to attack batters and not waste baserunners with unnecessary walks will be a great asset for Pall in the closer role this season.
Final Projection:
A single game against a potential College World Series contender in California will be the first big test for the Wolverines on February 29. It will be interesting to see if Coach Bakich sets up the pitching rotation to give Adcock or Nutof a shot at the Golden Bears. In addition, a return trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma to play Oklahoma State in the middle of March will be another great test for Michigan to see where they stand nationally. If The Wolverines can go 2-2 or better in those four games, that should set them up nicely for the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten schedule also sets up nicely for Michigan as they don't have to play Maryland at all during the regular season. Thus, with the veteran experience back and a schedule that is favorable, look for the Wolverines to win the Big Ten title.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Carmen Benedetti, UTIL, 233
Hits: Carmen Benedetti, UTIL, 82
Home Runs: Carmen Benedetti, UTIL, 5
RBIs: Carmen Benedetti, UTIL, 71
Runs: Jake Bivens, IF, 43
Stolen Bases: Jake Bivens, IF, 9
Wins: Brett Adcock, P, 10
Innings Pitched: Brett Adcock, P, 90
Strikeouts: Brett Adcock, P, 95
Saves: Two with 3