LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Entering the Louisville Regional, the Michigan baseball team looked to take its miracle run out of the Big Ten and onto a national stage.
And on Friday night, the Wolverines proved they could succeed outside of their conference.
Michigan (33-26) beat Oregon (35-24), 8-6, positioning itself well for the rest of the weekend and winning a regional game for the first time since 2019.
“These guys are fun to watch,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “They’re playing hard, playing loose. On a night where Clark Elliot and Joe Stewart weren’t quite as sharp, the rest of the lineup picked us up. I’m very proud of these guys.”
After a quiet first inning for both teams, the Wolverines found their first opportunity in the top of the second, loading the bases on two walks and a single by senior shortstop Riley Bertram.
Junior left fielder Joey Velasquez came to the plate with one out and the opportunity to put Michigan on the board first. But off of the bat, the dangerous ground ball he hit nearly amounted to an inning ending double play. Velasquez didn’t let that happen though, beating the throw to first and driving in the first run of the game.
The Wolverines added on to the lead in the next inning with a two-run homer over the center field wall off the bat of junior catcher Jimmy Obertop.
“We got a really good offense,” Obertop said. “Just going one at bat at a time and trying to pass it to the next guy.”
The Ducks plated their first two runs of the day in the bottom of the fourth inning off the backs of Michigan errors — a wild throw in the infield by Bertram and a wild pitch by sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran.
Instead of letting the errors rattle their momentum, the Wolverine used their bats to turn things around and take the runs right back. And leading that charge was Obertop, who smashed his second two-run homer of the day, putting the lead back at a three-run cushion.
And the inning wasn’t over yet.
A single and a walk brought Velasquez up and he brought in Michigan’s sixth run with a base hit to the outfield wall.
“It’s a mentality we’ve had all year, we’re just starting to see it a little bit,” graduate third baseman Matt Frey said. “We’ve taken our punches and it’s nice to finally hit back.”
From the next half-inning on though, the momentum began to creep towards Oregon’s favor. After recording RBI doubles in each of the next two innings, designated hitter Brennan Milone made a statement for the Ducks by blasting a solo home run over the left field wall to cut the Wolverines’ lead to just one run.
The comeback was completed with back-to-back doubles that tied the game, 6-6 entering the eighth inning.
But that tie wouldn’t last long.
With junior right fielder Clark Elliot at first base, Frey needed just one pitch to break the game back open for Michigan, sending a two-run homer over the fence to give the Wolverines an 8-6 advantage they would never relinquish.
“It was so much fun,” Frey said. “It’s nice to be with my friends and just battle. That was a tough win, and it was really, really cool to be a part of that.”
Frey’s home run would ultimately prove to be the difference maker. Junior right-hander Cameron Weston pitched 2.1 innings to close the game out and earn Michigan a place in the winner’s bracket semifinals against one-seeded Louisville.
Even bigger for the Wolverines, though, is the continuation to what they showed in the Big Ten Tournament: A win-at-all-costs mentality that will be vital in postseason play.