One more game. That’s all that stood between the Michigan Wolverines and a college baseball national championship last season. That title would go to the Vanderbilt Commodores, but Erik Bakich and his club would not have to wait long to get a little taste of revenge.
The Wolverines used some late-inning heroics on Friday night to upend Vandy by a score of 4-3 in the MLB4 Collegiate Tournament being held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Michigan was propelled to a victory on a two-run home run from first baseman Matt Schmidt (2-4, HR, 2 RB, 2 SO) in the top of the ninth to turn the tide one last time to put his team in front.
Junior right-hander Jeff Criswell got the start for the Wolverines, going 6 1⁄3 innings with three runs allowed on two hits to go with five strikeouts and four walks in a no-decision. Ben Keizer (1 2⁄3 IP, 1 H, 2 SO, wild pitch) would get the win out of the bullpen with Isaiah Page (1 IP, H) picking up the save for Michigan. Star outfielder Jordan Nwogu, who played in center in this one before shifting over to left, went 2-for-4 to start the season.
Vandy’s Tyler Brown took the loss in the ninth.
Vanderbilt got on the board in the first inning on a groundout RBI from Austin Martin (0-4, RBI, HBP), the potential No. 1 overall pick in 2020 MLB Draft, to give the Commodores a 1-0 lead. Michigan would tie things up in the fourth inning after catcher Joe Donovan (0-3, R, K) scored on a throwing error.
Both Criswell and Vanderbilt starter Mason Hickman (5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3K, 2 BB) would settle down after throwing a decent amount of pitches each in the first inning. Hickman exited after five innings and gave way to Ethan Smith. Infielder Riley Bertram (0-4, R) reached on an error to start the top of the seventh inning and advanced to second on a SAC bunt from outfielder Clark Elliott. Bertram stole third and would then score on a wild pitch to give the Wolverines a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the frame.
Criswell was able to get a flyout to start the bottom of the seventh before surrendering a pair of walks and being replaced by freshman Cameron Weston. Weston came out of the bullpen throwing 93 mph with his fastball, but the Commodores got him for a single and a SAC bunt RBI in a third of an inning of work to give the lead back to Vanderbilt 3-2 heading into the eighth inning. Keizer would take over for Weston and handle the rest of the seventh and all of the eighth inning.
Elliott had a one-out single in the top of the ninth to put on a runner on for Schmidt, who crushed his two-run blast to left field. In the next at-bat, freshman Jimmy Obertop (1-3, 2B, SO) was ejected for, um, this I guess?
Page came in out of the bullpen in the ninth for the save and while things got a bit interesting with two batters hit by a pitch with two outs, the Wolverines closed out the night with a win to start the year.
Michigan will play two games on Saturday with the first coming in the second game of the MLB4 Collegiate Tournament in a bout against Cal Poly at 3 p.m. ET, which can be viewed on MLB.com. They will then take a short bus ride over to Tempe to take on Arizona State and another potential No. 1 overall pick in Spencer Torkelson at 8 p.m. ET in a game that will be streamed via Facebook Live.