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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Catchers have an unparalleled role in a baseball game: They hit, they field and they direct the game.

Michigan junior catcher Jimmy Obertop did all three on Friday against Oregon — and it made all the difference.

Obertop came through on both ends. He mashed two two-run home runs, exhibiting his power, and he made tough plays behind the plate, chasing down pop flys and throwing out baserunners.

Both with his bat and behind the plate, Obertop led the Wolverines.

“He’s a very skilled player,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “He’s had a very good year.”

In the third, he came to the plate with two outs and drove the ball deep to right field to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 3-0. And after the Ducks drew blood against sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran in the fourth, Obertop came to his pitcher’s aid in the next half inning by belting the ball to the deepest part of the park to re-establish the three-run lead.

All season, Obertop has been a stalwart presence behind the plate for Michigan, and while doing so, he’s contributed significantly — Friday was no different.

After rough pitching for the majority of the season bolstered by an unreliable bullpen, the Wolverines have seen a change in the past few weeks. Michigan has begun to find its footing on the mound, and Obertop has played a crucial role in encouraging that growth.

Oregon has a powerful offense — one to match the Wolverines’. Against a team like that the pitching had to remain composed, and Obertop was the man responsible for making sure that happened.

“He’s the general out there,” Bakich said. “He’s taken a much more vocal role with the pitching staff and he’ll direct traffic a whole lot more (with) … the location that they need to pitch to or how to mix their pitches.” 

He kept the pitchers steady and guided them through tough stretches against the Ducks’ bats by calling a mixed pitch selection and calming down the pitchers when they found themselves in tough spots. Because of this, the pitchers didn’t allow the opponent to steal the momentum even when the score tightened. And by doing so,  he proved to be Michigan’s rock.

The Wolverines have remained focused and Obertop stepping up has contributed to that shift significantly. 

“That’s probably his biggest evolution,” Bakich said. “A kid who’s just out there playing to now a kid who’s taking on a leadership role and a vocal leadership role.”

Despite Oregon’s rally in the later innings, Michigan didn’t crumble. 

Junior right-handers Chase Allen and Cameron Weston managed to stay on top of the opposing offense with Obertop behind the plate to keep them focused. Although Obertop and the Wolverine pitchers contained the Ducks’ hitters , the game was far from a pitchers duel. 

And because of that, Michigan’s offense carried the weight, namely Obertop who’s impressive performance behind the plate extended past his defense. His four-RBI game contributed half of the Wolverines’  runs.

On Friday, he showed the impact he can bring with both his bat and his glove.

In addition to his production in the box, Obertop made multiple plays behind the plate. This included capitalizing on a seeming miss play by quickly collecting a ball bouncing away from him, and gunning down a runner trying to steal second. 

Michigan needed everyone to step up for its first regional win since 2019, and Obertop did more than that, he led.