Bases loaded, no outs, No. 4 Vanderbilt looking to do some serious damage.
That was the situation the Michigan baseball team was put in during the fourth inning on Tuesday night. After a dropped pop fly, a wild pitch, a walk, and a single, senior right-hander Walker Cleveland was in a pickle. Instead of letting Cleveland pitch himself out of this jam, Michigan coach Erik Bakich turned to junior right hander Noah Rennard.
“He’s got a changeup that he can throw anytime,” Bakich said. “We needed soft contact to escape that type of a jam, pop ups or strikeouts, and we just felt like he was gonna throw strikes and he could force weak contact.”
With a 2-0 count, Rennard dug deep into his arsenal and got to work. Commodores outfielder Jaview Vaz tapped a ground ball right back to Rennard who fired it to junior catcher Jimmy Obertop for the first out without giving up a run. The next batter did the same, sending a routine ground ball toward Rennard, who underhand tossed it to Obertop for the second out. Suddenly, the Wolverines had life again. One more change up forced a ground ball to graduate second baseman Alex Fedje-Johnson to get the third punch out without squandering a run.
“The momentum from escaping a bases loaded jam (was high), guys were feeling confident going into that next half inning,” Bakich said. “We were just able to capitalize and string quality at bats together.”
During the next inning, Rennard got to work again, striking out two and forcing a weak ground ball after giving up a lead off double. The inning after that, Rennard got the side out in order.
The bullpen for Michigan has struggled heavily this season. Aside from Rennard, only right-hander Ahmad Harajli holds less than a 3.00 ERA. Even against Vanderbilt, the Wolverines blew another lead to lose in the final inning to a quality opponent.
If Michigan wants to reach its goals for the season and make it to Omaha for the NCAA tournament, guys like Rennard need to step up even more, and others need to follow suit.