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August 1, 2007

Rising programs: No. 8 Michigan

  • Talk about the Rising Programs Countdown in The Clubhouse

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    With fall workouts in the not too distant future, we continue our inside look at many programs around the country.

    In our latest series, we breakdown the nation's Top 10 Rising Programs.

    Though the top spot won't be unveiled until next week, we continue the countdown with one of the nation's surging programs - Michigan.

    The Wolverines put together an impressive regular season campaign in 2007, but made their biggest statement against Vanderbilt in the postseason.

    After another successful campaign, coach Rich Maloney and the Wolverines will enter 2008 with high expectations.

    Rising Programs: No. 8 Michigan
    Why are they rising?
    Long-time Michigan coach Rich Maloney assembled a consistent program without many pundits taking notice. That changed this past season. After putting together an impressive regular-season campaign, the Wolverines entered the postseason with something to prove. Michigan was sent to the Nashville Regional to face top-seeded Vanderbilt. Not intimidated by anyone, the Wolverines shocked everyone by knocking the Dores out of the postseason. Michigan's win over Vandy was monumental. Not only have the Wolverines earned national respect, they've set the stage for future successes. With the uniform start date in 2008 and a renovated ballpark, Michigan should become a more significant player on the national stage.

    2007 Year in Review
    Without much debate, Michigan entered 2007 as the favorite to win the Big Ten and didn't disappoint. Though the Wolverines absorbed bad losses to East Carolina, San Diego and San Diego State early in the season, they also tallied impressive wins over Mississippi State and Oklahoma. Once in Big Ten play, the Wolverines flexed their muscles by finishing the regular season with a 21-7 league record. While the Wolverines made a clean sweep of rival Ohio State in a four-game series, their only series loss was to Penn State - a team that ended the year as a pleasant surprise. After putting together an impressive regular-season resume, the Wolverines made their biggest splash in the postseason. Unfortunately, their season came to an end against Oregon State. For Maloney and the Wolverines, it was a season to remember.

    What the future holds
    Barring a major surprise, the Wolverines should be a national contender in 2008. Some might say we're taking too much from their 2007 postseason run but the Wolverines welcome back several integral pieces from that team. The most notable returnee is junior two-way star Zach Putnam. Putnam was a force both on the mound and at the plate in 2007. The Wolverines also welcome back talented pitchers Mike Wilson and Chris Fetter, among others. While the weekend rotation and pitching staff and is in good shape, Michigan's lineup should be one of the nation's best. The Wolverines welcome back hard-hitting first baseman Nate Recknagel along with consistent hitters Derek VanBuskirk, Adam Abraham, Kevin Cislo, Doug Pickens and Jason Christian. If they live up to their potential, the Wolverines should be in great shape.

    Kendall's analysis
    When it was announced that Michigan was heading to Nashville as the two-seed during the 2007 postseason, my first thought was Vanderbilt earned an easy draw. However, the Wolverines proved doubters - including myself - wrong in a most impressive way. Not only was I impressed with Michigan's pitching, I was also impressed with their clutch hitting and composure during tight situations. As Michigan moves forward, its success in the Nashville Regional should breed confidence for the 2008 team. With the return of several key players, the Wolverines should once again contend for a spot in the College World Series. For a program once considered somewhat of an afterthought, the Wolverines are making a significant surge.

    Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.