Michigan bests Manhattan, 5-1, in the first game of the series
All the precautions taken on Thursday to avoid weather were useless. Lightning came, rain came and even an alleged tornado came. No matter what happened, though, the Michigan baseball team (10-4) and Manhattan (4-10) were going to finish their game.
Despite winning 5-1, the Wolverines went through the first two innings without a runner on base, until they reached the bottom of their lineup.
A lead-off double in the bottom of the third inning from senior infielder Blake Nelson to the left field corner got their first runner on base. Sophomore catcher Joe Donovan launched a fly ball to right center to follow it up, but the gusting wind brought it back to the Jaspers’ center fielder, advancing Nelson to third base. Sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren doubled in the nine-hole down the right field line to score Nelson.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the bottom of the lineup proved again to be the most productive part of the lineup as junior infielder Jordan Brewer started the inning with a single to left field. Capitalizing off a throwing error from a pitcher in an attempt to pick him off at first, Brewer advanced to second base where Nelson’s second double of the game scored the second run for Michigan. Nelson advanced off a wild pitch, and sophomore outfielder Jordan Nwogu brought him in for a run with a single to right field.
Nelson finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs, two runs batted in and two doubles.
“He had a great night,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It’s even more special because he hasn’t played in a while and it would be very easy for him to come out and use the lack of playing time as a reason for not being in a rhythm to do well, but he’s been a great teammate even when he’s not in there. It’s great for a guy to have success because of the type of teammate that he is.”
The defense and pitching, the Wolverines’ biggest strength throughout the season, wasn’t overshadowed, holding Manhattan to only one run.
Ace junior left-hander Tommy Henry was dealing. Sporting a violent fastball that reached 92 miles per hour, a changeup that had batters finishing their swing before the ball even got to the plate and a slider to boot, he flourished in front of a litany of Major League Baseball scouts. He only allowed two hits in six innings with five strikeouts and no walks on just 67 pitches.
“To be honest I didn’t really notice that kind of stuff,” Henry said. “We work a lot, we meditate as a team, we work a lot with mental game and that kind of stuff so when we step on the field I can speak for all of us. It’s laser-focused and don’t let anything that happens in the stands distract us.”
The fielding, not to be outdone, made great plays. On a short hop that went under senior third baseman Jimmy Kerr’s glove, Blomgren barehanded the ball and made the long throw across the diamond to a long stretch from Brewer for the out.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, though, Brewer was stuck in a full count with a runner on second, when the tornado struck.
When the dust of the non-existent tornado settled, the two teams waited to play. But mother nature had other ideas, and every three minutes the radios would crackle “30 minutes” as another lightning strike could be seen until finally, the game began at 9:30 p.m. again. The first pitch walked Brewer.
The game was on as if it were two hours earlier.