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College Baseball Countdown: 85 Days to Go- Michael Hurwitz

If you haven’t already, check out our introduction post on the college baseball countdown here.

Maybe the name Michael Hurwitz of the Illinois Fighting Illini doesn’t ring a bell at first, and certainly the fact that he missed the entire 2015 season doesn’t help his name recognition, but in any event, he’s on the short list of players in the Big Ten who could have the biggest impact on his team in 2016.

Is Hurwitz a draft prospect on the level of Tyler Jay, who had scouts flocking to Illini games all season long in 2015? No. Is Hurwitz likely to be the most dynamic player in the Illinois lineup? Honestly, probably not, as that honor will likely go to someone like Adam Walton or Jason Goldstein. But Hurwitz might be the most important piece in the lineup, because he’s returning to the order just when Illinois needs him most.

The Illini suffered some serious personnel losses on offense after the season with the likes of David Kerian, Reid Roper, Casey Fletcher, and Ryan Nagle all exhausting their eligibility or signing contracts after they were selected in the MLB Draft.

The aforementioned Goldstein and Walton return, as do developing power bats Pat McInerney and Matthew James, but the 2016 offense was slated to be short on proven bats.

Enter Hurwitz. The senior infielder was expected to end his Illini career in 2015 as well, but those plans changed when he was injured in summer ball back in 2014, causing him to miss all of last season. Certainly, head coach Dan Hartleb would have loved to have a healthy Hurwitz last season during his team’s deep run into the postseason, but the offense might need him more, as a leader and a consistent hitter both, in 2016.

Over the course of his Illinois career, Hurwitz has been, in short, an on-base machine. In 2013, as part of a regional team, he hit .296 with a .415 on-base percentage. Not surprisingly given those numbers, he walked more times (39) than he struck out (32). In 2014, he only hit .198, but he still managed to be a quality contributor by getting on base almost as often as he did in ’13, with an on-base percentage of .399. This time, he walked almost twice as often (36) as he struck out (19).

It’s unlikely that Illinois matches their outstanding season from a year go, particularly when you consider their roster turnover, but how well Hurwitz bounces back and gets on base like his old self will have a lot to do with how close the Illini ultimately end up getting to those heights once again.

Joe Healy was first introduced to college baseball when he grew up watching the likes of Jeff Niemann, Philip Humber, and Wade Townsend pitch for Rice University. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. That love only grew as he went off to college at Sam Houston State University, where he practically lived at Don Sanders Stadium watching his Bearkats under the direction of the legendary Mark Johnson. He holds a B.A. in political science from SHSU and is working toward his Masters in Public Administration from SIU-Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois.