OMAHA, Neb. – The Michigan baseball team (50-21) lost to Vanderbilt, 4-1, in Game 2 of the College World Series Final on Tuesday. The two will face off again Wednesday, with the winner taking home the national championship.
The teams spent much of the game locked in a pitcher’s duel. Unsurprisingly, Michigan’s offense was quiet, as Vanderbilt threw its freshman ace, right-hander Kumar Rocker. More surprising, though, was a solid four-inning outing from freshman right-hander Isaiah Paige, who started on the mound for the Wolverines.
“The big story line tonight was Kumar Rocker,” Bakich said. “I’m glad that the college game has players like that in it. The college game is better when guys like that come to school. And he was good tonight. He had our number. We had some chances that we didn’t cash in. We didn’t get the two-out RBIs tonight.”
The Commodores got on the board first in the top of the fifth inning. Paige allowed a leadoff single, enough for Michigan coach Erik Bakich to sit his starter and bring in junior left-hander Ben Keizer. Keizer quickly induced a grounder, but sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren mishandled it to put runners on the corners.
Michigan then intentionally walked Commodore right fielder JJ Bleday and shortstop Ethan Paul to load the bases and avoid two of Vanderbilt’s most dangerous hitters before a third grounder finally ended the inning with the Wolverines down, 1-0.
A leadoff single, a walk and a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners over was all Bakich needed to see to send Keizer to the dugout in favor of Jack Weisenburger. The junior left-hander wasn’t much better, though, allowing two runs to score on two wild pitches, bringing the score to 3-0 for Vanderbilt. A walk later, Bakich sat Weisenburger in favor of sophomore southpaw Angelo Smith with the bases still loaded and only one out. Smith was the answer Michigan needed, inducing two swinging strikeouts to end the inning without any further damage.
Michigan threatened to cut Vanderbilt’s lead in the bottom of the sixth after sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin reached on an error and Brewer singled to left field. But Rocker got senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr to strike out swinging and induced flyouts from senior third baseman Blake Nelson and junior left fielder Christan Bullock to end the inning with the Commodores still up, 3-0.
Vanderbilt added to its lead in the top of the seventh. Smith started the inning with another swinging strikeout, but then allowed a solo homer to Commodore catcher Philip Clarke, bringing the score to 4-0, and a double – enough for Bakich to sit him in favor of freshman right-hander Willie Weiss, who was able to end the inning with a popout.
“I thought our guys that we pieced this game together with did a good job,” Bakich said. “They scored an unearned run as a byproduct of an error, we spike a couple of wild pitches that score two runs. But outside of that, the solo home run was really the one run that they had really got into.”
Michigan finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren singled to lead off and advanced to second as Rocker balked before scoring on a single from senior second baseman Ako Thomas.
The game, and the quiet Michigan offense, were a stark contrast to a decisive Game 1 victory for Michigan. The two teams will face off tomorrow in a winner-take-all Game 3. The contest is slated for 6 PM CDT Wednesday.