ORVALLIS, Ore. — For the first few innings of Monday night’s game between Michigan and Creighton, it seemed like the momentum was completely with the Blue Jays. Creighton scored seven runs in the top of the ninth Sunday to earn an 11-7 victory over the Wolverines to force Monday’s winner-take-all game. Will Robertson put the Big East champions in front in the top of the second when he crushed a Walker Cleveland pitch down the right foul line and over the fence.
A one-run lead turned into two when Parker Upton, a thorn in the Michigan defense’s side on Sunday, hit a one-out RBI triple to center to make it 2-0 Blue Jays. The Wolverines, who led the Big Ten in batting average on the season (.284) needed their offense to wake up, and in the fourth inning, the Wolverines started walking tall and carrying several big bats. In the bottom of the fourth, Michigan loaded the bases, and Jesse Franklin stepped into the box. The sophomore smacked a ball down the left field line scoring both Riley Bertram and Jack Blomgren. Michigan trailed 4-3.
Next batter up, Jordan Brewer, making his first start in five games after suffering a turf toe injury, reminded everyone why he earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors. A single into left field cleared the bases and scored Jordan Nwogu and Franklin, Michigan took its first lead 5-4.
The hit parade continued over the following three innings as Michigan scored ten runs between the fourth and sixth innings, carrying an 11-4 lead after six innings.
The onus then sat on Michigan’s relievers. The bullpen had to shake off the demons that haunted their dreams Sunday night after allowing that nightmare ninth inning to the Blue Jays less than 24 hours prior. Benjamin Kezier manned the mound in the seventh, going three up, three down despite inheriting a man on base.
The Wolverines tacked on plenty of run support before the final six outs needed to be earned, plating six against a Creighton pitching staff that ran out of gas after the Blue Jays played their fifth game in the last three days. Michigan carried a lopsided 17-5 lead into the eighth. The Wolverines even managed to plate two on a rarely seen double squeeze.
In the top of the ninth with two out and one on, Jack Weisenburger faced Creighton’s Isaac Collins with the count at 1-0, Collins smacked a grounder to Riley Betram at second who tossed to first where Jimmy Kerr made the out. The celebration was on as the Wolverines stormed out of the dugout celebrating their first trophy under Erik Bakich.
While the Wolverines will enjoy celebrating their first regional title in over a decade, at the time of writing, the team turned its attention to Monday night’s game between UCLA and Loyola Marymount. If the Lions could stun the top-seed Bruins for a second time this weekend (LMU beat UCLA 3-2 on Saturday) Michigan could be put into a position to host a Super Regional. If top seeds lose in regionals, the selection committee will take factors into account such as facilities, if a school put a bid in for hosting regionals, and also use more traditional rankings like RPI.
For the Wolverines, it would be an incredible swing of fortune after losing in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and being one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament. Three wins later, despite facing some incredible adversity Sunday night, and the Wolverines did something none of the 12 Michigan teams before them could: win an NCAA Regional and continue on the road to Omaha.