Michigan has an unusual secret to success: Kenny Chesney

Michigan baseball snuck into the postseason field. But the Wolverines started off the College World Series with an upset victory over Texas Tech. Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports

OMAHA, Neb. -- There are metrics people who could probably explain how a group that barely made it into the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament is now humming along in the winner's bracket at the College World Series.

In the Michigan clubhouse, they believe they know the answer.

"Turn Kenny on," Wolverines outfielder Jordan Brewer told a teammate after the Wolverines upset Texas Tech on Saturday.

"At practice Kenny's on, on the bus Kenny's on, in the airplane Kenny's on, and when we're chillin' Kenny's on."

"Kenny" is country singer Kenny Chesney. Before May 18, a few of the Wolverines would've rather cut the grass at TD Ameritrade Park with a pair of scissors than listen to a lick of country music. But now they believe Chesney is a reason they're playing in their first CWS since 1984.

Michigan was coming off a series loss to Nebraska in mid-May, had lost five of its previous seven games and was a little down in the dumps. So the Wolverines decided to take a team-building trip to Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, to catch a show on Chesney's "Songs of the Saints" tour.

"I guess when you're in Lincoln, you've got to do something the Nebraska people do," said catcher Harrison Salter, who was skeptical about the concert.

But then the team danced and laughed and started singing songs the players didn't even know. Even Salter, a techno fan, got into it.

It was a chance to put the bats down and hang out together in an environment with no pressure or worry. "It was stress-free after that," Brewer said. "We washed everything away. It was like a mental flush."

That next week, when the Wolverines played at the Big Ten tournament 45 minutes away in Omaha, they insisted on putting Chesney on their playlist for the bus ride to the stadium. They've been twanging ever since.

Michigan won the Corvallis (Oregon) Regional on June 3, then beat No. 1 UCLA in the super regionals in Los Angeles. Baseball players are a superstitious lot, so there was no way the Wolverines (47-20) were changing their routine once they got to Omaha for the College World Series. They popped in Chesney as the team bus rolled out of the downtown Marriott on Saturday, and played two other techno songs they've listened to since May.

One of the techno songs has just three words in it that are repeated seven times. Oddly, the words are, "I'm losing it."

It doesn't matter. They're loose, they're having fun, and they're still playing in mid-June, with Florida State the next opponent, on Monday night. "Michigan wins" is becoming a broken record.

"It's crazy, isn't it?" Brewer said. "Good ol' Kenny."