It didn’t take long for the No. 18 Michigan baseball team to fall back into comeback mode in Tuesday night’s game against Notre Dame. In the first inning, Fighting Irish centerfielder Matt Vierling skyrocketed a ball over the left-field wall at Ray Fisher Stadium to give Notre Dame a three-run lead.
Still, the Wolverines (4-2 Big Ten, 23-6 overall) managed to stave off Notre Dame (4-8 ACC, 10-17 overall) in the showdown thanks to four runs in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings that led to a 4-3 victory.
“They know they’re going to come back, I know they’re going to come back,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It’s just part of our deal, we just come back.”
After the scorching start by the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame kept the pressure on junior right-hander Alec Rennard, who was on the mound for the Wolverines.
While the Fighting Irish’s bats were hot in the first inning, they cooled off just as quickly. Notre Dame failed to score for the remaining of the game.
While the Wolverines were hitless going into the third inning, they kept getting contact and looked poised to break out of their scoreless drought.
Sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier started the hitting barrage for Michigan in the third inning with a single to right field. Following him up was Engelmann, who immediately singled to left.
“I think offensive baseball is contagious,” said sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelmann. “Guys start to get hits, other guys feel more obliged to do so.”
With two walks from sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas and senior centerfielder Johnny Slater and a sacrifice bunt from senior catcher Harrison Wenson, the Wolverines cut their deficit to two.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Fighting Irish pulled their starting left-hander Scott Tully, who had clearly been inhibiting Michigan’s offense.
“He did a good job mixing in off-speed,” Engelmann said. “He was a guy you have to set your rhythm later for.”
Notre Dame’s Charlie Vorsheck relieved Tully, and Engelmann immediately jumped on him, lofting a ball into shallow right field for an RBI triple, cutting Notre Dame’s lead to only one.
The Wolverines faced another scare in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Notre Dame managed to load the bases with one out. Freshman southpaw Tommy Henry entered in the middle of the inning, though, and forced a groundout and a strikeout to end the inning.
Michigan finally got the equalizer it had been looking for in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Slater hit a sacrifice flyout to left field that brought in Thomas — who had reached third base after an overthrown ball sailed over the second baseman.
The core of the Wolverines’ offense came from Poirier and Engelmann, who, in the bottom of the sixth inning, carried the team to its first lead of the game. Engelmann lined a double past the diving first baseman to send a sprinting Poirier home from first, giving Michigan a 4-3 lead. Despite Notre Dame multiple chances to regain the lead n the eighth and ninth innings, the Fighting Irish couldn’t execute.
“It’s pivotal,” Engelmann said. “Coming out with a ‘W’ after this and getting a win over a great ACC team.”