OMAHA, Neb. — It was an explosion from the Michigan lineup. Unfazed by the looming prize of a championship series, the Wolverine offense produced 15 runs despite a Texas Tech momentum swing, a carousel of relievers and continuously falling behind in counts.
Michigan scored in seven of eight innings, unleashing an unrelenting torrent of hits and walks.
“Just trying to slow the game down as a team and have quality at-bats, one pitch at a time,” said senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr. “And today we did a great job of that. I think we hit over .380 as a team today and took advantage of a lot of free passes we got.”
The Wolverines’ first runs mimicked their most vital runs scored in the two teams’ previous meeting — a Kerr double down the right field line with two outs drove center fielder Jesse Franklin in, and another two-out single from third baseman Blake Nelson brought Kerr in.
It was an early sign of what’s to come, but first the offense had to respond to Texas Tech’s own explosion — three runs in the top of the second gave them a lead and hinted at a high scoring game, something Michigan hadn’t done since the Corvallis Regional.
But the Wolverines’ offense responded in a big way, stealing back the momentum.
A fielding error from the Red Raiders’ centerfielder put Blomgren on third and senior second baseman Ako Thomas drove in the tying run on a single. Micah Dallas, Texas Tech’s ace, was out of the game after just one inning.
The first of six relievers, John McMillon, came in and started 0-2 with every batter he faced. Still, he hit Jordan Brewer with the bases loaded to surrender the lead. Michigan fought its way back into the game.
“That was the storyline today,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Guys just competing every at-bat. Nobody threw their at-bats away today. Twelve walks today. That's a lot. And we just had a lot of pressure on the bases just because guys refused to go quietly."
Then came some separation after scoring two more runs on McMillon.
“To have Ako Thomas and Jordan Nwogu draw the walks that they did with two outs,” Bakich said. “Fouling off pitches, spoiling pitches, just even taking ugly swings, just gritty not pretty, just fighting to see the next pitch to get to the point that Jesse (Franklin) got… that was a huge hit at the time.”
Then it began running away with the game, beating everything thrown at them, including the shift.
“That's something we work on BP every day, drop down that bunt down the third base line in case they were playing me back,” Kerr said. “I haven't done it all year and they just, with no strikes, put a pretty big shift on. I thought I'd try it out.”
Seven pitchers made an appearance Friday for the Red Raiders. Only one was not responsible for a run — Caleb Freeman, who walked in a run with the bases loaded.
Kerr had two home runs, he scored four times. Franklin drove in four runners. Thomas and junior left fielder Christian Bullock both walked three times. The bench played in the College World Series semifinal.
Nothing worked for Texas Tech. Everything worked for Michigan.