Michigan’s baseball team is a mere 27 outs away from the program’s first national championship since 1962. The Wolverines are set to face Vanderbilt in Game 2 of the College World Series Championship Series Tuesday night in Omaha (7 p.m. EST, ESPN).
In fact, a Big Ten team hasn’t won it all since 1966 (Ohio State). En route to this historic moment for Midwestern baseball, head coach Eric Bakich utilized a method seen more by Jim Harbaugh’s team.
Those watching Michigan during the NCAA Tournament may have noticed the big “buckles” on the players’ belts. They actually aren’t buckles…they’re play cards.
According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the coaches signal numbers with their hands to indicate plays, which the players translate with their belts.
The cards are similar to those football quarterbacks wear on their wristbands. U-M changes the numbers before every game and has even added a fan aspect to it: On Sunday, the program had fans vote on Twitter for an addition to the card.
The big play cards attached to their belts is not the only card they carry: There is another play card for defensive positioning that many keep in their back pocket on the field. But the most obvious card — the one that many people in Omaha are asking about — is primarily geared toward offense, when players are at the plate or on the basepaths.
This level of organization is part of the reason the Wolverines are on the brink of the national championship. Let’s take a look at their run to what could potentially be their final game of the season.
Michigan’s Road to the College World Series Final
The NCAA Tournament selection committee picked Michigan as the fourth-to-last at-large team in the field. Since then, the Wolverines have won nine of their last 11 games, including five over seeded teams.
In the opening round, they travelled to Oregon State’s regional. They didn’t even have to face the Beavers, instead topping Cincinnati once and Creighton twice to reach the Super Regional. The decisive final game was a 17-6 rout over the Blue Jays.
Michigan stayed out west for the Super Regional to face top-overall seed UCLA in Los Angeles. The Wolverines actually beat the Bruins 7-5 earlier in the season in their only meeting as part of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic.
The Wolverines won the first and third games in the Super Regional to spring the upset and clinch the program’s first College World Series appearance since 1984.
In the College World Series, the Wolverines bested Florida State and Texas Tech (twice) on the back of superior pitching. Karl Kauffman allowed just six runs in two outings versus the Red Raiders, while Tommy Henry threw a complete game shutout against Florida State. Both are MLB Draft picks.
In Game 1 of the Championship Series, Henry almost threw another complete game, striking out eight and ceding just three runs to fuel a 7-4 victory over the Commodores.
In addition, first baseman Jimmy Kerr belted a home run late for insurance scoring. His father Derek played in the program’s last College World Series in 1984, while his grandfather John was on the last national title team in 1962.
The Wolverines will try to close tonight, but have another chance Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST should they fail on the first try.