OMAHA, Neb — Running down the first base line, sophomore designated hitter Jordan Nwogu was trying to beat the throw from a mishandled ground ball. Then he felt a tug.
His leg wouldn’t move forward as he tripped over first base.
He would have been safe, if not for pulling his quadriceps muscle two steps before the bag. The imposing threat at the top of the order was out for the day and now, the rest of the season, as Michigan has to compensate for a leadoff hitter who had a stifling on-base percentage of .438.
His immediate replacement was junior Dominic Clementi, hitting at a .195 average on the season, but he struck out twice in his two at-bats Tuesday.
“(Clementi) could be a guy that we could run back out there, but I’m probably leaning towards a guy like Riley Bertram who’s been a spark throughout this postseason,” Bakich said. “A guy like Miles Lewis could do it and has done it all year. He’s got 200-something at-bats and 16 doubles and had a lot of clutch hits.
“I think what we’ll do is watch a lot of film tonight and tomorrow and just see the matchup with (Mason) Hickman and what seems to fit best, whether it’s a right-hander like Miles Lewis or switch-hitter like Bertram or just a lefthander like Dominic and make a decision between one of those three guys.”
Bertram came on in the Corvallis Regional for an injured Jack Blomgren, going 8-for-14 with three doubles and three RBIs. In the bottom of the ninth Tuesday, Bertram was on deck in case Ako Thomas got on base.
Then there’s the senior Lewis, who started most of the season in left field. Lewis had the team’s first home run of the season, an on-base percentage of .364 and 10 stolen bases. He fell off towards the end of the season, though, and was replaced by Christan Bullock in the lineup. Of the three potential replacements, he has the most experience this season.
Still, Clementi has the potential to be a difference maker. He was out at the beginning of the season with an oblique strain, and could never get back into the flow of the game. Last year, though, Clementi had an on-base percentage of .485, a team-high despite coming in and out of the lineup due to injury.
“I like the flow of our lineup, so I thought would be to just bump everybody up one,” Bakich said. “We've had Ako shift up a time or two, but I like the order and the way it goes. So we may just bump everybody up and whoever is DHing could hit in the 9 hole.”
Regardless, whoever the replacement is will need to make up for one of the the biggest bats in the Wolverine lineup on the biggest stage of college baseball.