Michigan felt pretty good about its chances of getting into the NCAA baseball tournament. The Wolverines had a 42-15 record, and despite going two-and-out in the Big Ten tournament last week, they still had a solid RPI of 37 and other positive metrics on their side.
Michigan was among the 64 teams when the field was announced Monday afternoon. It was the last at-large team selected, ahead of Miami, Connecticut, Old Dominion and South Carolina. Miami’s exclusion ends its record streak of 44 consecutive seasons playing in the NCAA tournament.
— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) May 29, 2017
There wasn’t much suspense in the room where Michigan awaited to hear its fate. Michigan showed up in the first bracket in the second half of the draw, in the Chapel Hill regional with host and No. 2 overall national seed North Carolina (47-12), Florida Gulf Coast (42-18) and Davidson (32-24). The Wolverines are the No. 3 seed in the region and will play Florida Gulf Coast on Friday at 1 p.m. ET in the equivalent of a No. 6 vs. No. 11 match-up in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Let's dance! pic.twitter.com/kV7M9pn3kc
— Michigan Baseball (@umichbaseball) May 29, 2017
“I think I would do best just to say we’re happy to be in, and we’re hoping to make the most of it,” Michigan manager Erik Bakich told the Detroit News. “This is a team that has quite a bit of an edge all season, so if they see that nationally the perception is we’re the last team in the field, then yeah it could deepen that edge a little bit. It could make that chip a little bigger.”
Michigan last played in the NCAA tournament in 2015 after winning the Big Ten tournament title. The Wolverines were the No. 3 seed in the Louisville regional and went 2-2. They beat No. 2 seed Bradley twice but lost twice to host and No. 1 seed Louisville. The last time Michigan advanced past the regional stage was 2007, when it beat Vanderbilt in Nashville but lost to eventual national champion Oregon State in the Super Regional.
Michigan finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings (16-8), one-half game behind Nebraska (16-7-1). The Wolverines won six of their final seven games before losing to Northwestern (6-4) and Indiana (5-4 in 13 innings) in the Big Ten tournament. They also won their final four weekend series and own a three-game sweep of Oklahoma, the No. 2 seed in the Louisville region.
“I think the story line is these guys from start to finish have been very consistent all year, and they deserve a bid,” Bakich said. “They earned a bid. We didn’t win the tournament championship. We went oh-and-two, had a poor showing in the conference tournament but that was our 56th and 57th game. From games [No.] 1 to 55, we were very consistent and played at a high level for pretty much the entire year.”
Michigan was one of five Big Ten teams to earn berths into the tournament, along with Nebraska, Maryland, Indiana and Big Ten tournament winner Iowa. The Hawkeyes were among several surprise conference tournament winners that wouldn’t have made the NCAA tournament otherwise and helped cause the at-large field bubble to shrink.
Florida Gulf Coast has won 14 of its last 16 games, including its last four in a row to come through the loser’s bracket to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title. FGCU went 5-3 this season against traditional in-state powers Florida (2-0), Florida State (1-2) and Miami (1-1). First baseman/designated hitter Nick Rivera was named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. Rivera has a .304 batting average, an on-base percentage of .452 and a slugging percentage of .585. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 55 runs. The Eagles’ top pitcher is Kutter Crawford (7-1, 1.58 ERA), who was named first-team all-conference. Opponents have hit just .192 against him.