On Sunday night, things looked bleak for the Michigan baseball team. After winning the first two games of the Louisville Regional, the Wolverines were blown out by Louisville to force a third and final game between the two teams.
In a back and forth affair on Monday, Michigan (34-28) came up just short, losing 11-9 to the Cardinals (42-19-1) and ending its season.
“If we had a few more innings there, we could’ve gotten a few more runs,” graduate center fielder Joe Stewart said. “Unfortunately the game is only nine.”
After recording only three hits in the entirety of Sunday’s game, the Wolverines needed just 10 pitches to match that total, hitting back-to-back-to-back doubles to start the Regional Final and take a 2-0 lead.
Michigan looked primed to add another run to the score after a two-out pickoff attempt went wild, but a flyout by senior shortstop Riley Bertram ended the inning.
Just as soon as the momentum looked to be with the Wolverines, the Cardinals ripped it right back to their side.
Despite sitting down two of his first four batters, sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran fell apart in the first inning, hitting two batters and allowing three base hits — including a double.
As the top of the Louisville lineup returned to the plate, O’Halloran was pulled from the game, leaving with the bases loaded and the Wolverines staring at a sudden two-run deficit.
The Cardinals weren’t done yet.
Taking advantage of sophomore right-hander Chase Allen’s premature entry into the game, Louisville shortstop Christian Knapcyzk laid down a surprise bunt on the first pitch he saw, catching the Michigan infield by surprise and scoring a run.
Allen then walked in a sixth run on four straight balls, before allowing the Cardinals’ seventh and final run of the first inning on a fielding error.
Despite striking out the next batter, the damage had already been done — seven runs, all on two outs.
“We couldn’t really put a stop on it,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It seemed like it was spiraling very fast, and we just couldn’t get Chase ready quick enough. It’s a credit to a really good offense.”
Following the first inning fireworks, Louisville starter Garrett Schmeltz made easy work of the Wolverines’ lineup through his next two innings of work — striking out four of seven batters with the only exception being a solo home run by graduate third baseman Matt Frey.
As Allen appeared to be settling into the game, his day was suddenly cut short by the presence of lightning in the area, forcing a lengthy weather delay that ended up requiring both coaches to go to the bullpen.
While neither team immediately capitalized on the pitching change, momentum trickled in Michigan’s direction after junior outfielder Clark Elliott smashed a solo home run with two outs to keep the top of the sixth alive.
After a pair of singles by graduate center fielder Joe Stewart and graduate third baseman Matt Frey, junior catcher Jimmy Obertop turned the trickle into a flood, tying the game at 7-7 on a three-run missile sent over the right-field wall.
“We regrouped during that break,” Obertop said. “We’ve scored more than seven runs before so we knew if we did it together we’d be able to come back.”
The comeback bid was completed in the next inning by junior second baseman Ted Burton, who blasted the Wolverines’ fourth home run of the game to break the tie. A chopper single by Stewart put the score at 9-7, putting his team in the driver’s seat heading into the home stretch.
With the shift in momentum, Michigan turned to junior right-hander Cameron Weston to hold the fragile lead through the final innings. Weston started to do just that, retiring eight straight batters to start his outing.
But after walking the ninth batter he faced, Weston allowed a base hit to Jack Payton. Attempting to stretch it into a double, a play at second base was ruled safe by the umpire.
Burton and the Michigan infield called for an immediate review, but the play stood.
“I haven’t seen the review yet, but the rule is very clear,” Bakich said. “It has to be clear and conclusive evidence, and I’m sure that’s what was said. Had (the second base umpire) called him out and Louisville challenged it, it probably would’ve stood.”
With one last chance, the Cardinals flipped the script on the Wolverines, hitting a double, single and ultimately a two-run home run — scoring four runs and taking the lead.
Michigan could not find an equalizer in the top of the ninth, putting a stop to the Wolverines’ comeback — and with it, an end to a shot at the Super Regional.