All eyes were on junior outfielder Clark Elliott.
After the Michigan baseball team was down all game against bitter rival Ohio State, the Wolverines’ best hitter had a Hollywood opportunity to get his team even. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Elliott fought to a full count, but a soft groundout fizzled all momentum and the Buckeyes kept a two-run lead going into the ninth.
The game was not over.
Michigan forced extra innings with a late home run and ended up winning in the tenth. Even after a blown opportunity like Elliott’s, it kept its composure.
“We’re never out of it,” Elliott said. “No matter the deficit, no matter what, our guys fight. We’re gonna scratch and claw and do our best to do everything we can to win, so nobody really got down.”
That fight seemed daunting earlier in the game. In a rare disaster of a second inning, sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran gave up six hits, committed an error and let five runs score to give Ohio State a 5-0 lead.
The Wolverines stayed calm and slowly grinded down the Buckeyes’ lead. But it seemed like all that effort was for naught when Michigan couldn’t capitalize on Elliott’s opportunity, but junior catcher Jimmy Obertop had other ideas. With two outs and one man on, he went to the plate with the game on his bat.
Obertop bombed the ball deep over the left field wall for his second homer of the day. Despite all hope looking lost, he stayed tough and changed the game with one swing. The Wolverines didn’t just win on a few big plays; they won on the kind of grit that players like Obertop showed.
“If you were to describe the Michigan baseball team, how would you describe their performance today?” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “You’d start, you’d use words like those guys are tough, they’re gritty, gutsy (at bats) and it wasn’t always pretty, but (we’d) rather be gritty than pretty.”
The Wolverines showed that mentality in their first extra inning of the season. Junior right-hander Noah Rennard put up a 1-2-3 inning, meanwhile all three of the first Michigan batters immediately reached base. The bases were loaded again to give Michigan a chance to ice the game.
And just like before, all eyes were on Elliott.
He smacked the ball to right center and walked off the 9-8 win in spectacular fashion. The Wolverines completed their biggest comeback of the season.
“Well I know they’re tough and I know they’re gritty and we’ve been on the other side of that enough this season,” Bakich said. “So it’s good to see it be turned in the game and come back around to us.”
Friday was by no means perfect for Michigan. It gave up three home runs, left men on base in critical moments and was one out away from losing.
But it didn’t. The Wolverines showed toughness and mental fortitude to start its series with a victory.