Junior designated hitter Tito Flores stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Michigan baseball team started the inning down four runs. Now, after a rally, it was only down by one.
Flores cranked the second pitch he saw over the left-center wall to give the Wolverines their first lead of the day. While that lead would not hold, continued heroics from the offense would, in the end, carry the day in the 11-10 win over Cal State Fullerton.
“We had contributions up and down the lineup,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “So proud of the way our guys responded.”
Against the Titans the Michigan offense was finally able to return to its high scoring ways. With the exception of a blowout win against Dayton in their first home series of the year, the Wolverines have struggled to put up crooked numbers at home the way they have on the road.
But Saturday, the offense scored eight runs, and on Sunday it scored ten.
“We preached energy Sunday,” Flores said. “Giving everything you have to the field, and you could feel it … magic was gonna happen.”
And magic was needed.
The Titans had lost the first two games of the series, but they came to play in game three.
In the top of the second inning, left fielder Jason Brandow obliterated the first pitch he saw, sending it far over the center-field wall. That gave Fullerton its first lead of the series.
Continued offensive success, including another home run, grew the Titans’ lead to four, before the Michigan bats could really get going.
But in the third inning, the Wolverines managed to get one back, and in the fourth they added another two to cut Fullerton’s lead to two runs. The latter of the two fourth inning runs was walked in.
Walks were another theme of both the game and the weekend as a whole for Michigan. The Wolverines drew six walks and were hit by three pitches. On Sunday the capitalization off of those Titan mistakes is what won Michigan the game.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, for example, the Wolverines were down, 10-9. Fifth-year center fielder Joe Stewart was hit by a pitch, gaining first base. He then advanced to both second and third on a pair of wild pitches.
When the Fullerton pitcher threw yet another, Stewart took his opportunity.
He darted home, sliding in head first and reaching safely on a bang-bang play to tie the game.
“Joe Stewart tied the game up by himself,” Bakich said. “He takes a chance to score on a risky ball that didn’t get that far away. … That’s creating your own opportunities just by being aggressive.”
The Michigan offense continued to create its own opportunities, and one of those would win the game. In the bottom of the ninth, fifth-year infielder Alex Fedje-Johnson was standing on third when yet another wild pitch was thrown.
As Stewart had the inning before, he sprinted toward the plate. Unlike Stewart, he was not in time to make it to the plate before the ball was on its way back.
“You’re either feeling the pressure or applying the pressure and that really is the difference,” Bakich said. “You want to be the team that gets the breaks because you make the breaks and you make your breaks by being the most aggressive.”
This time, Fullerton cracked under the pressure, as the pitcher couldn’t corral the catcher’s throw.
With their aggressive play on the bases, willingness to leave it all out on the field and maybe a little bit of magic, the Wolverines walked it off.