LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A game of fire and ice.
That was the Michigan baseball team’s Sunday regional finals matchup against Louisville. Coming off a strong victory over Oregon with their season on the line, the Cardinals were blazing.
The Wolverines’ depleted pitching staff was no match for Louisville’s scorching offense and the Michigan bats remained cold all night.
The Wolverines (34-27) were incinerated by the Cardinals (41-19-1), 20-1, sending the Regional Final to a tie breaker game on Monday.
“It spiraled today,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “it’s not a good feeling when you get down … we knew it was most likely going to be a high scoring affair. … Unfortunately, offensively, we didn’t have anything going.”
And with none of its top arms available, the Wolverines didn’t have anything to quell Louisville.
All weekend Michigan has been on fire, and that was highlighted just one day prior when it defeated the Cardinals 7-3. But on Sunday, Louisville was the team that came out strong, and after its hot start, the Cardinals never looked back.
Carrying the offensive momentum from its win over the Ducks earlier that day, Louisville quickly loaded the bases and started bringing in runs. Four runs crossed the plate before freshman right-hander Avery Goldensoph managed to work himself out of the jam that the Cardinals created.
With Louisville scoring another three runs in the second and the Michigan offense unable to fight back in the bottom halves of the innings, it became clear: The Wolverines were in for a long day.
“We were down seven nothing before we could blink,” Bakich said. “When you’re a hitter … trying to claw your way out of the deficit, it’s just different.”
And the difference definitely threw off the offense.
Junior left fielder Joey Velazquez put one run on the board with a solo shot to center field, but it was the only run Michigan would score all day. The Cardinals quickly came back, scoring two runs in response, making the score 9-1.
Velazquez’s home run was unable to provide a spark for the Wolverines, and Louisville kept blazing with another three runs in the fifth.
Then, the Michigan pitching finally seemed to find a rhythm, putting a stop to the bleeding thanks to freshman right-hander Jake Keaser. He pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, striking out three.
However, it would prove to be a short-term solution, as the Cardinal hitters came back in the eighth, and the Wolverine bats remained in limbo not mustering up any response.
All day Michigan struggled just as much at the plate as in the field. It garnered just three hits all game and didn’t walk once.
“We just were unable to lay off the chase slider and changeup out of the zone,” Bakich said. “12 of the first 19 hitters (got out) via strike out. That’s just not like us.”
That complete lack of offensive production did no favors for the struggling pitching staff, who, after Keaser’s departure, quickly resumed their rapid implosion.
The Cardinals notched a game-high six runs in the eighth, stretching the lead to a towering 18-1.
With the bench players in, the Wolverines had given up hope of a comeback, realizing that a win was out of sight.
The ninth inning followed the same pattern as the game. Louisville put a couple more on the board and the Michigan bats remained silent.
And with that, the Louisville inferno handed the Wolverines their worst loss of the season.