For as different as the Michigan and Michigan State baseball teams are, on Wednesday they both had one thing in common: a Salter brother squatting behind home plate donning the number 11 on the back of his jersey.
In the non-conference rivalry contest, the younger brother Harrison and his fellow Wolverines prevailed, as Michigan (14-3 Big Ten, 31-14 overall) trounced Michigan State (8-9, 17-26) 10-2.
It’s fitting that a rivalry depicted as the squabbling between siblings has now featured a legitimate battle between brothers.
It was clear that this game would be special for the Salter family from the beginning. During the second inning, Will Salter stepped up to the plate where his younger brother Harrison was waiting for him.
Sitting a mere inches from his brother, Harrison anxiously awaited to see how his brother would perform under the unique circumstances. Not wanting to disappoint, the senior knocked a single to left field to load the bases. After a forceout and strikeout ended the inning, it was the redshirt freshman’s turn.
Not to be outdone, Harrison knocked an RBI single also to left field to match his brother hit-for-hit and give the Wolverines the lead.
But the fraternal competition would not stop there.
In the bottom half of that same inning, Will would get another chance to show his brother who was boss.
Will then legged out an infield single which was hit to third base for his second hit of the day.
After the Wolverines regained the lead in the fourth inning, Harrison and co. entered the fifth wanting to extend that lead and show his brother up. The younger Salter would do just that, clobbering his first career home run deep over the right field fence again with his brother within spitting distance.
“I haven’t hit a home run since I was 12 years old,” Salter said, “but the past couple weeks I’ve been working with the coaching staff on getting balls to drive and stuff like that. Luckily I got that pitch to drive. It was kinda a blur for me walking around the bases, but it was a really cool experience.
“I’ll probably hold on to that forever.”
Wanting to add further to his career day, Salter then slapped another RBI single up the middle extending Michigan’s lead even further to 6-2.
This would mark the end of the Salter family’s fruitful day at the plate. Ending with a combined five hits and a lot of brotherly love, this contest will surely be one the boys will remember.
“It was a little weird at first because he’s always been my best friend, always been on my side,” the younger Salter said. “He’s definitely my role model, my older brothers are my role models, so it’s definitely a cool experience to definitely compete with him, but I got over it now and it’s a great feeling.”
Besides sharing a field together, the brothers also share a number — 11.
The number was worn by their grandfather, legendary catcher Bill Freehan and is even retired at Ray Fisher stadium in Ann Arbor. Harrison was granted special permission to wear the number in honor of his grandfather.
“When you can assign deeper purpose and deeper meaning to wearing a number and playing for a school, that’s how you get some magical performances,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “And for he and his brother Will and his brother Blaze, they have been so strongly influenced by one of the legends of the game in their grandfather Bill Freehan, so it means an awful lot to wear number 11 for him… so he’s a totally selfless kid and it just means so much for him to play for Michigan and wear the block-M and to be at a school that his grandfather played at and coached at.
“There’s not a person on the field or in the stands that isn’t happy for those types of moments.”
Also contributing to the Wolverines’ big day was freshman left fielder Jordan Nwogu.
The first-year had two momentous plays that added crucial insurance runs deep into the game.
The first came from an extremely rare inside-the-park home run off a ball clobbered to center field. After flying out to center field earlier in the game, Nwogu found better luck in the seventh inning, as he turned on the jets and rapidly slid into home plate.
“At first, I thought it was a line drive to center field because at my first at-bat I hit a very similar hit and he caught it, so I was discouraged a bit because I saw it went right to him, but then I saw him dive for it and immediately I turned on the burners,” Nwogu said. “It was just exhilarating. I ran as fast as I could, and it just felt like little league.”
Then, to follow up with the astounding play, Nwogu cranked an absolute moonshot over the left field wall for perhaps the team’s farthest home run of the year. The solo shot marked the team’s 10th run and the last of Michigan’s dominant performance.
For a game between conference opponents but without conference standings consequences, the dramatics surely were not lacking. Despite the outcome, this was a game that both programs — and brothers — will remember forever.