As the pitch bounced away from junior catcher Jimmy Obertop, Vanderbilt second baseman Tate Kolwyck began a mad dash home. He slid in safely and sprang up to a walk-off welcome from his ecstatic teammates.
The Michigan baseball team’s (8-8 overall) 5-4 loss against the fourth-ranked Commodores (14-2) was a battle. The Wolverines dug out of numerous jams, but in the end, Michigan got buried.
The Wolverines’ pitching staff repeatedly found itself in tough situations against a solid Vanderbilt squad. They did not survive unscathed, and even though they did manage to persevere and keep the team ahead going into the ninth inning, they couldn’t finish the job.
Michigan’s starting pitcher, senior left-hander Walker Cleveland, got off to a rough start from the first pitch. Vanderbilt’s lead-off man bunted his way to first base and a follow-up walk put a man in scoring position with no outs.
But Cleveland didn’t panic. He struck out the next batter, then managed to get a double-play groundout to end the inning scoreless. After stranding another two in the second inning, the Commodores finally managed to draw blood against Cleveland with a lead-off homerun in the third.
But that was all they could muster, and the game went to the fourth 1-0.
In the fourth, after sophomore right-hander Ahmad Harajli loaded the bases, junior right-hander Noah Rennard was brought in with no outs to get out of the jam.
He did so swiftly, and with no damage dealt.
“We needed soft contact to escape that kind of jam,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We just felt like he was gonna throw strikes and maybe he could get some weak contact.”
Two grounders back to the mound, which Rennard both promptly returned to his catcher for the forceout at home, and a groundout to graduate second baseman Alex Fedje-Johnson took the game to the fifth, where the Wolverine offense would finally offer a response.
Junior left fielder Tito Flores was the first man home for Michigan. Following his leadoff double, a single from senior shortstop Riley Bertram drew the score even. Then, junior right fielder Clark Elliott snuck a ball through the infield to score Bertram, bringing the score to 2-1.
Following an uneventful sixth inning, both teams got something rolling in the seventh. The Wolverines managed to drive in an additional two runs, with a sac bunt from junior outfielder Jake Marti and RBI single from Fedje-Johnson.
In the bottom of the inning, the Commodores put together a two-out rally to get one run back, but sophomore right-hander Chase Allen came in and worked out of yet another Vanderbilt threat.
The Commadores had been struggling to get into a rhythm all game, but they found that rhythm in the ninth.
With men on the corners, Kolwyck smacked the ball to left, landing just under the diving glove of Flores. An inaccurate throw to the plate allowed both baserunners to score, tying the game, and allowed Kolwyck to advance to third.
He would not stay there long.
The very next pitch was a passed ball, allowing Kolwyck to sprint home to end the game 5-4.
The Vanderbilt offense was a tide that the Michigan defense kept managing to break.
But in the end, the dam broke.