The Michigan Wolverines baseball team will have to play a deciding game three Sunday night after failing to close out the UCLA Bruins, falling 5-4 in extra innings.
Jeff Criswell got the start after closing out game one and pitched admirably. Throwing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings, Criswell left in the sixth with runners on first and second. He found himself pitching out of trouble too often, but it’s worth noting he left the game with the lead. His final line of 5.2, 2 ERs, 2 Ks upheld his end of the bargain.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, Michigan responded with some savvy small ball in the bottom of the frame. Outfielder Jordan Nwogu roped a double to left center before a pair of ground-outs from Jesse Franklin and Jordan Brewer brought him home.
In the bottom of the second, sophomore catcher Joe Donovan hit a mammoth shot to left after Christian Bullock’s hustle beat out an infield grounder. The two-run homer made it 3-1 Wolverines.
Donovan garnered another highlight in the top of the 4th when he combined with Ako Thomas to catch a lead-off Bruins’ baserunner trying to steal second. Defense shined in the fifth as well. With a man on first and second and no outs, Jordan Brewer made a smooth as silk catch in right field that not only stole a hit but kept the baserunners where they were. Criswell struck out the next batter before a walk loaded the bases. Ako Thomas tracked a skying infield pop-up to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, it was time for UCLA’s defense to make a play. After stealing second with Brewer up to bat, Nwogu was thrown out at home when Brewer knocked a single into left. After a dramatic frame, the score somehow managed to stay 3-1 Wolverines.
Criswell got himself in trouble once again in the sixth. After a lead-off walk, UCLA suddenly had a man on third after a balk and passed ball. The next Bruin fouled out to right, but a strong throw from Brewer held the runner at third for the moment. He’d score one batter later on a single to left. Following a walk, Isaiah Page replaced Criswell. A pair of pop-ups and an uneventful bottom of the frame from the Wolverines later, Michigan escapes with a one-run lead at the end of six, 3-2.
UCLA proceeded to tie things up with a lead-off dinger. Page rebounded getting the next three batters out with a ground out and pair of fly outs. The damage was done, however. The Bruins closer came in and made quick order of the top of the Wolverines line-up. Heading into the ninth, 3-3.
Michigan shot itself in the foot in the ninth inning. Jack Weisenburger walked a batter and allowed him to steal second despite what appeared to be a clear opportunity to pick the runner off. Disaster soon struck as Christian Bullock dropped a high fly ball that would’ve ended the inning. The Bruins took a 4-3 lead.
Michigan came out gunning in the bottom of the ninth. Jimmy Kerr opened with a double and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Bullock was hit by a pitch on a full count, and Jack Blomgren hit a deep sacrifice fly to right that drove in Kerr to tie the game. With two outs, Donovan gave another ball a good, clean swing sending a towering fly to deep left. He used every inch of the fielder, but the Bruins left fielder was able to make the catch with his back and glove up against the wall.
The top of the 11th can only be described as bonkers. Michigan committed three errors across the first two batters. An intentional walk to the next batter gave UCLA the bases loaded with no one out. However, a liner skipped to third where Nelson grabbed it and tagged two confused UCLA runners for the double play. In a bizarre move, the Wolverines intentionally walked another Bruin without a free base but the move paid off as Thomas fielded a grounder cleanly to end the threat. Despite a two-out single, Michigan was shut out in the inning and after 350 pitches across 11 innings, things remained tied 4-4.
The Wolverines committed their fifth error of the game to lead off the 12th. Two batters later, Kevin Kendall drove in what would be the go ahead run with a double into the right-center gap.
UCLA forced a third game Sunday night at 9 ET. The winner will advance to the College World Series.