BASEBALL: Michigan Defeats Vanderbilt 7-4, One win away from National Title

Photo By NCAA

For the fourth time in four games, the 50-20 Michigan Wolverines baseball team scored in the first inning of the college baseball championship game.  Michigan is one game short of winning the school’s third National Championship title and the first one since 1962. With pep talks prior to the game from former Wolverines John Kerr (Jim Kerr’s grandfather) and Dick Honig, the current team jumped out to a first inning 2-0 lead.


Jesse Franklin singled in the first and scored on a double by the Big Ten Player of the Year, Jordan Brewer, to open the first inning.  Brewer then scored to make it 2-0 on a Blake Nelson two-out single which put the second-ranked Commodores (57-12) in a hole prior to batting.  


With the score 2-0,  the second inning started off as the first inning for Michigan.  Ako Thomas doubled down the left field line to score Jack Blomgren and catcher Joe Donovan followed Blomgren in scoring on a ground out by Jesse Franklin.  Vanderbilt was now facing a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the second inning.  


Vanderbilt picked away at Tommy Henry’s pitches as they had three singles to score Phillip Clarke.  Harrison Ray scored on one of the two passed balls given up by Michigan. Both teams settled down with pitcher, Drake Fellows (13-2) finding the range in the next four innings keeping the Wolverines off the board.  However, with Fellows throwing so many pitches in the first two innings, his pitch count was twice the number of pitches for Michigan’s Tommy Henry.


Home run threat JJ Bleday (1st pick Miami Marlins) touched Henry for a single home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a 4-3 game and the Commodores were in the game until the seventh when Michigan piled on the hits.  Jordan Brewer singled and was called safe at first after an umpire review. This came back to haunt Vanderbilt, as series star Jimmy Kerr sent Zack King’s slider into the left field fence to give Michigan a 6-3 lead.  Kerr’s home run was his 15th this season, third in the College World Series an 8th in the tournament.


Kerr’s feats are amazing when considering his past three years only amounted to just two home runs total.  This season he has 15 home runs and 64 RBI’s. A solo home run for catcher Joe Donovan ended Michigan’s scoring and with a 7-3 lead.  A defensive play in the late innings by Jordan Brewer was also a key factor. On a single to left field, Brewer threw a strike to the third baseman, Blake Nelson to cut down Austin Martin and shut down any potential scoring by Vanderbilt.


The night belonged to Tommy Henry who spread out seven hits in 8 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and only one base on balls.  Jeff Criswell pitched 2/3 of closeout baseball to secure the game. Michigan can win the championship with one more victory. They will have two chances to win and 69.8 % of teams that win the first game in the double-elimination game go on to win the title.


Tonight’s game will feature Vanderbilt’s hard-throwing freshman Kumar Rocker, who already has thrown a no-hitter in the tournament.  Michigan’s starting pitcher as yet to be determined.