Down 3-2 after a grueling third and fourth inning for the Wolverines, all momentum was in Illinois’s favor. The Illini, after being down 2-0, went on to score one run in the third and two in the fourth while holding Michigan in the bottom of the third. The game began to slip from the Wolverines, until sophomore first baseman Jimmy Obertop stepped up to the plate.
Obertop stood confidently at home plate and bombed the ball 439 feet centerfield for his second home run of the game. The home run not only tied the game at 3-3 but rejuvenated the entire team after an uncharacteristic performance in the first four innings.
Obertop successfully got his team back into the game, but in the top of the eighth inning, Illinois scored four runs and the game was practically over. Michigan lost 7-4, and he was responsible for 2 out of the 4 runs.
“(I’m just trying) to put the ball in play, get on base, so that teammates can get some runs,” Obertop said. “I’m just doing whatever I can to help the team by putting the ball in play.”
His first home run, coming at the bottom of the second, flew over the rightfield and squeezed in right next to the foul pole. After hitting two home-runs, Obertop comes back and hits a double in the seventh. He put on a batting clinic, and, even though it did not result in a win, he was the Wolverines’s silver lining.
“He’s a good hitter, and he’s got good play discipline and makes good decisions in the box” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “Too bad that we didn’t get much offensive output today to help.”
Today’s game was not the first time Obertop set the tone and brought the energy for the Wolverines. Against Purdue on Mar. 13, he started the game with a grand-slam in the first inning. On the fourteenth, Obertop drove in two runs against the Boilermakers.
Obertop leads the team in home-runs with four, as one of two players on the team with more than one on the season. He’s second on the team in RBI with ten and is batting .260. However, just like most big home-run hitters, he leads the team in strikeouts with 12.
Obertop is also one of a few players with lots of Michigan experience in the starting lineup. He started 10 out of the 15 games in the 2020 season and hit .265 while getting on base at a .375 clip. He came into the season with high expectations for his second year, and he has, so far, delivered.
“He’s extremely physical and strong,” Bakich said. “He’s got a lot of speed, uses his legs and his lower half really well. … He’s a guy that could be a middle order hitter on any team. So we’re glad he’s sitting in the middle of ours.”
In the first three weeks of the season, and especially today, Obertop has proven to be a big hitter and a leader on and off the field for the Wolverines. In many times when they need a hit, he’s, literally and figuratively, “stepped up to the plate.”
In his first game at Ray Fisher Stadium, even though the Wolverines lost, he still put on a show.