Michigan pitcher Tommy Henry discusses Vanderbilt and his start in the first game of the College World Series championship series. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Omaha, Neb. — Tommy Henry, who had a brilliant complete-game performance against Florida State in Michigan’s second College World Series game, will be the starter when the Wolverines open the championship series Monday night against Vanderbilt.
Henry had 10 strikeouts in the 2-0 victory last week. The junior left-hander has struck out 127 this season — a Michigan single-season record — and ranks sixth in program history with 243 for his career.
That outing won't change Henry's approach when he comes out in the best-of-three opener as Michigan tries to win its first baseball national title since 1962.
“It’s a completely different game,” Henry said Sunday, sitting in the dugout at TD Ameritrade Park after Michigan's practice. “It’s a new day, a new game. It’s been a week, but one of the cool things about (pitching) coach (Chris) Fetter is that he’s working with us a lot about being able to control our thoughts and give yourself that self-confidence.
"So whether you gave up 14 runs in your prior start or zero, you should still have that same confidence going into your next one because it is a new day, a new game and you have a chance to pitch well that day.”
Henry said there was a lot to enjoy about his last outing and being in the proverbial zone.
“It’s fun. Any athlete would tell you that,” Henry said. “Not much is going on between the ears. Everything is pretty quiet and you just kinda go numb. The zone is the only way to describe it, really.”
Karl Kauffmann started the first and third games of the College World Series with Jeff Criswell finishing both of those outings, including last Friday’s 15-3 victory over Texas Tech that sent the Wolverines to the championship series. Michigan was able to use only three pitchers those three games.
“It means more guys will get a chance to pitch,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It was a very unique situation those three games and we only used three pitchers, but that’s the nature of the tournament. We were fortunate to have quality starts from everyone who threw and fortunate enough to have time off in between and Jeff Criswell be versatile and pitch in relief.
"This next series won’t be the same. I don’t anticipate only using two or three pitchers. I’m expecting that we’ll use more guys, but those guys will be ready and certainly looking forward to that challenge.”
Criswell will be available to pitch in relief Monday, Bakich said.
“We’re not saving him,” Bakich said. “If we’ve got a chance to win tomorrow, we’ll worry about Tuesday on Tuesday. We’ll treat tomorrow like it’s the only game we’re playing. Kauffmann from a rest and pitch count standpoint, he will be available most likely Wednesday and we’ll see how he feels on Tuesday. Could be a situation he can relieve on Tuesday. But he could start on Wednesday.”
The Wolverines have their 1962 throwback uniforms available to wear for the World Series, but it’s unclear when or if they will break them out for the championship series. Michigan won baseball national championships in 1962 and 1953.
The Wolverines wore the ’62 pants as part of their uniform during the Super Regional at UCLA.
“I don’t know if we’ll wear them tomorrow,” Bakich said. “They might prefer long pants. I’m not going to get sentimental about a uniform. If our guys want to wear long pants, we’re going to wear long pants.”
The 1962 uniform is worn with stirrups.
“I’ll get a poll of the team,” Bakich said. “We’ll either wear those or the all-white unis.”
Former Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has moved on to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he took time to send a video to the baseball team at the start of the NCAA Tournament that Bakich said was quite special.
"He talked about belief, but most importantly he talked about the belief in outliers and there needed to be some type of an outlier moment whether it would be someone who has been in a slump getting a big hit or a great pitching performance, someone coming off the bench who hasn’t played," Bakich said Sunday. "And we saw that take shape. Riley Bertram gets a spot start and goes 4-for-4 with a double and hit by pitch. It totally energized our players.
“He was very gracious. He’s obviously got a lot of things going on in Cleveland. But for him to take time out to send a video message, I greatly appreciate that.”
College World Series championship series
Monday: Michigan (49-20) vs. Vanderbilt (57-11), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday: Michigan vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday (if necessary): Michigan vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (ESPN)