When the Michigan baseball team finds itself in a hole, the Wolverines know they can rely on sophomore infielder Clark Elliott and sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop.
Redshirt sophomore Steven Hajjar stood on the mound with the ball in his hand. The previous inning had been rough for Michigan’s starting pitcher, as Hajjar had given up four hits and two runs with two outs. If his team was to win the first game of what was shaping up to be a tough series, Hajjar knew he could not rest on his laurels for the rest of the game.
But Hajjar wasn’t fazed. After all, this was the same player who refused to give up a single run even with bases loaded just two weeks before. After gathering himself, Hajjar flung the ball and struck out each of Penn State’s first three batters, denying the Nittany Lions any chance to score. As he dapped up his teammates and headed back to the Wolverines’ bullpen, Hajjar’s determination remained unwavered. He went on to notch a season-high 11 strikeouts in a defensive slugfest that ultimately went in Penn State’s favor.
“(Hajjar)’s very consistent, he put us in a position to win,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “He set the tone that a Friday night pitcher needs to set and minimized (Penn State)’s opportunities very well.”
Despite Hajjar’s career performance, the Wolverines’ offense lagged far behind and managed just two runs total in the first game. However, knowing their team needed a strong response, Elliott and Obertop provided an offensive spark in the final two games.
Elliott and Obertop aren’t new to hitting clutch runs, and to them, it’s all about bringing Michigan the win.
“It’s a team game, we’re all trying to do our part to help the team win,” Elliott said. “Just being able to do anything I can whether that’s a moonshot or going from first-to-third on a base hit, anything like that to give us the edge and put our team in front.”
Michigan won the second game with a 17-4 rout and mounted a comeback in the final game of the series to win 8-6. Obertop and Elliott almost outscored Penn State all on their own with a combined nine runs across the three games.
The duo’s offensive outburst was reminiscent of their performance against Illinois and Michigan State a week earlier, in which Elliott smashed a grand slam into right field and Obertop hit a walk-off home run in an eight-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
Even with the offensive struggle in the first game, the Wolverines were always confident knowing they had Obertop and Elliott in the wings.
“Jimmy and Clark are excellent hitters,” Bakich said. “Jimmy maybe had the best day he’s had all season offensively and had five absolute rockets (in the second game). It was like a laser show at the field every time he came up.
“When Jimmy and Clark come up everyone has the mindset that they’re going to hit it hard. They just have a knack for putting the barrel on the ball and both have very good decision-making skills. Having them in the middle of the order is a huge bonus for us, and they’re a big part of our offense.”