Just a few weeks ago, Matthew Schmidt’s go-ahead homer in the ninth inning crowned him the hero of the Michigan baseball team’s season opening win against Vanderbilt. 

On Tuesday night, he stepped to the plate in a near-identical situation against Stanford. Two of the Wolverines’ young but productive core stood on the corners, and the three-school journeyman in his final year of eligibility seemed primed to generate another storybook ending. 

But Schmidt’s bat found only air. His strikeout was the final out in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinal (4-8), a defeat suffered in head-scratching fashion.

The fifth-ranked Wolverines (6-5) reached base 19 times, handing the Stanford pitching staff a 2.00 WHIP. The Cardinal tasked its bullpen with seven innings of work, and Michigan responded by chasing two relievers in the third inning, tallying three runs in the frame. 

Meanwhile, freshman right-hander Cameron Weston made his first start for the Wolverines after allowing just one earned run in five relief appearances. Weston hit the first batter he faced hard enough to necessitate a pinch runner; hardly an auspicious start, but one from which he recovered to throw four innings of one-run ball. 

With a strong starting pitching performance by Weston and warm bats striking early against the Stanford bullpen, a win for Michigan seemed likely until two bad breaks pushed the advantage the other way.

The Cardinal struck back in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases against sophomore left-hander Angelo Smith. Michigan coach Erik Bakich only went to the bullpen, calling on redshirt sophomore right-hander Isaiah Paige, after Smith walked in a run.

That was when the floodgates opened.

Junior shortstop Jack Blomgren contained a ground ball, but his subsequent throwing error cleared the bases and gave the Cardinal a 5-3 lead. In the top of the eighth, Blomgren had a chance to reclaim the lead with the tying run at third. Instead, a ground ball to the left side became an inning-ending double play when freshman outfielder Joey Velazquez found himself too far off the bag at third and senior outfielder Dominic Clementi arrived after the forceout at second. Savvier baserunning by Velazquez could have forced the Stanford infield to eat the ball, loading the bases, or trade an out for the tying run. 

Still, the Wolverines wouldn’t go down without a fight in their half of the ninth. After two quick outs, freshman right fielder Clark Elliott was down to the final strike of the game before singling up the middle. Freshman third baseman Cam Hart faced a two-strike count and followed suit — and with Elliott running on delivery, the base hit landed runners at the corners. 

But that brought up Schmidt, and the rest is history.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *