OMAHA, Neb. – It was almost enough.
Deft management from Michigan coach Erik Bakich. A batting order that had been hot all postseason.
All of these were almost enough.
But Vanderbilt’s pitchers were just too talented, too experienced, and Michigan’s upstart offense wasn’t up to the task. The Wolverines recorded just 2 runs on 6 hits in a 8-2 loss to the Commodores.
“The last two days in the red zone, I haven't gotten it done,” said senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr. “I've been striking out with runners on base, less than two outs, when my team needed me. We haven't got the two-out RBIs that we did early on. We didn't have the clutch hits that we got early on.”
In the top of the first inning, it looked as if Michigan’s lineup would stay hot in the postseason. Senior second baseman Ako Thomas, thrust back into the leadoff role he had occupied in years past after an injury to sophomore designated hitter Jordan Nwogu, cracked a single to left field to kick off the title game. He advanced to third on a single from sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin and scored on an RBI single from junior right fielder Jordan Brewer, putting the Wolverines on top, 1-0.
But that was all the success that Michigan’s offense saw for several innings. A few walks saw some baserunners, but Vanderbilt’s pitching retired the lineup each inning with clinical precision. The Commodores didn’t allow a runner past second base for six straight innings. They struck out 14 Wolverines on the day.
The Wolverines didn’t get another hit until the eighth inning, at which point Vanderbilt already led, 7-1, a chasm that proved too wide for Michigan to breach. The Wolverines tacked on another run, but it was too late. Their bats had been quiet for too long.
Though they ended up totaling a respectable six hits on the night – just three short of Vanderbilt’s nine – they could not capitalize on the opportunities they got. Michigan left eight runners on base. And as a volatile Commodore lineup beat up the Wolverines’ pitchers, those were opportunities Michigan could not afford to lose.
“We just didn't execute the way we were supposed to,” senior second baseman Ako Thomas said. “We were kind of on our heels the rest of the game, didn't maximize our opportunities. But we fought our hardest out there.”