LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The University of Michigan baseball team advanced to the NCAA College World Series on Sunday night (June 9) after the Wolverines stunned No. 1-ranked UCLA, 4-2, in the winner-take-all game of the Super Regional series at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Michigan (46-20) returns to the College World Series for the eighth time in program history. Owners of two national championships (1953, 1962), the Wolverines also advanced to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1978 (fifth place), 1980 (fifth), 1981 (seventh), 1983 (third) and 1984 (seventh).
Michigan struck first and took an early lead in the second inning. Senior third baseman Blake Nelson walked with one out and moved to third when a hit-and-run turned into a double after junior left fielder Christan Bullock ripped a ball over the first-base bag. Sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren then drove home Michigan’s first run of the day with a groundout up the middle for a 1-0 advantage.
UCLA’s Jake Pries tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the second with a leadoff home run over the left-center field wall. The Bruins then took a 2-1 lead in the third inning. With one out, Garrett Mitchell tripled when junior right fielder Jordan Brewer slipped and fell tracking a fly ball. One pitch later, Mitchell scored on a fielder’s choice.
Following a quiet fourth inning, Michigan answered in the fifth. Bullock walked to lead off the frame and stole second, then moved to third on a line-drive single by Blomgren, who swiped second base. With two runners in scoring position, senior second baseman Ako Thomas singled up the middle and brought both runners around for a 3-2 Wolverine lead.
UCLA threatened in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, UCLA moved runners to second and third after a base hit to left field, a bunt single and a wild pitch. Three-hole hitter Chase Strumpf worked a full count but junior starting pitcher Tommy Henry threw a changeup for his sixth strikeout and ended the inning.
Michigan’s offense was stifled in the sixth and seventh innings, and UCLA threatened again in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff double quickly put Noah Cardenas in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt moved Cardenas to third, but Henry worked out of the inning with back-to-back groundouts to strand Cardenas and preserved Michigan’s one-run lead.
The Wolverines added insurance late, as Brewer sent a 1-1 pitch to right field for a two-out single in the eighth. He stole second base and was originally called out on the play, but a Michigan challenge reversed the call. Senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr was then intentionally walked before UCLA brought in reliever Nathan Hadley, who earned a quick strikeout to end the rally and stranded both baserunners.
Redshirt junior Benjamin Keizer tossed a 1-2-3 eighth, and Michigan held the momentum headed into the ninth. Bullock led off with a triple deep to the left-center field gap and a walk to Blomgren put runners on the corners with no outs. Sophomore catcher Joe Donovan brought Bullock home with a sacrifice fly to left field, giving Michigan a two-run cushion.
A one-out single from Jeremy Ydens followed by a wild pitch put a runner scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, and a hit batsman put the tying run on base. A fly ball to deep center field advanced Ydens and pinch-runner Jordan Prendiz one base, but a 6-3 groundout ended the game.
Despite missing Friday’s Super Regional opener game due to illness, Henry earned the win — his 10th of the year — on Sunday after he tossed seven innings and scattered seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Keizer held UCLA at bay through the eighth and ninth innings to earn the save.
The Wolverines will face off against No. 8-ranked Texas Tech on Saturday, June 15 in the opener of the College World Series. First pitch from TD Ameritrade Park will take place at noon or 5 p.m. CDT.