With the game tied at one going into the fifth inning, the Michigan baseball team’s offense looked to be following the same pattern of inconsistency that it did during opening weekend. Then, graduate outfielder Joe Stewart came to bat.
With two outs and two runners on base, Stewart clobbered a fastball 398 feet to left-center for the first home run of his Michigan career, giving the Wolverines a substantial lead.
Michigan (2-2) went onto defeat UT-Arlington (1-3), 9-7, to finish a wrap-around weekend series in Arlington, TX to start the 2022 season.
The Wolverines struggled to consistently score runs in the College Baseball Showdown, and through the first four innings against the Mavericks, the story was the same. Aside from senior infielder Jack VanRemortel’s second-inning double that scored Stewart, Michigan stranded six runners in scoring position.
UT-Arlington found itself in a similar position. Sophomore right-hander Chase Allen allowed just three runs in 5.2 innings with two strikeouts to keep the Wolverines in the game.
“I feel like we’re really starting to gel with a lot of older guys,” Allen said. “It’s nice knowing that we have that behind us on the mound as a staff. We’re gonna keep rolling our staff out there over and over, regardless of the results. And I just believe in our (pitching) staff and our coaching staff.”
Even after Stewart’s fifth-inning blast, Michigan was not out of the clear yet. With a hit by pitch, a single and an error, the Wolverines found themselves in a hole. A double play saved them from a big inning, but UT-Arlington didn’t stop chipping away.
In the seventh inning, Michigan found itself in a pickle once again. The Mavericks had first and second with one out and were looking to take the lead. In came senior left-hander Walker Cleveland. Before throwing a pitch, Cleveland picked off the runner at first base. Then, Cleveland forced a routine pop-fly to center field to end the inning. This is where the game’s momentum shifted.
In the eighth inning, the Wolverines’ offense erupted. With a double steal, a sacrifice fly-out and a single, Michigan scored two runs to build up their lead. Then, junior outfielder Tito Flores took the game into his own hands, hitting a three-run home run himself to give the team a 9-3 lead going into the final inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Wolverines were just one out away from victory. Then, turmoil arrived.
A walk and a hit-by-pitch gave UT-Arlington hope. All of a sudden, a six-run lead dwindled to two behind two doubles and a single.
Despite the chaos, sophomore right-hander Ahmed Harajli came in to record the final out, averting a crisis.
“Making my collegiate debut was really awesome,” Harajli said. “I only (pitched) three pitches, but I guess that’s all we needed. The guys did a good job at the plate scoring nine runs. Really easy to pitch when you have a great defense behind you.”