It was a familiar scenario for Michigan baseball in its NCAA Tournament Regional Final against 13-seeded Louisville on Sunday: hitting the ball early, challenging outfielders with speed on bases and forcing the opponent to swing more often in the hope of a comeback.
The only problem was that it was the Cardinals who struck and the Wolverines left behind. Louisville put six of its first eight batters on base en route to a four-run first inning and scored in six of nine innings. The Wolverines had no answers at home plate, however, losing 20-1 to force a win-win Monday game for a berth in the super regional against Texas A&M.
The regional final between the Wolverines and the Cardinals was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Louisville, but weather issues moved it to noon. The game will be streamed online only on ESPN+.
INGE COACH:Brandon Inge was frustrated with baseball politics, then joining Michigan made it fun again
SATURDAY VICTORY:Michigan Baseball continues to win 7-3, 1 NCAA Super Regional Tournament victory
FRIDAY OPENING:Michigan baseball opens NCAA Tournament with 8-6 win over Oregon
“It was a good old-fashioned whiplash, but we’re just going to wash it down,” said Michigan shortstop Riley Bertram, who went 0 for 3 with one strikeout on Sunday. “Three weeks ago, if you told the Michigan 156 baseball team that we were going to have a winning game for the super regional (opportunity), I think everyone would jump on it.”
Angelo Smith, making his 16th appearance of the season for Michigan, struggled to open first, walking leadoff batter Christian Knapczyk on four pitches and diving No. 3 hitter Dalton Rushing. After a steal of third by Knapczyk, Smith walked DH Jack Payton on six pitches to load the bases. That was enough for Michigan coach Erik Bakich, who called up rookie Avery Goldensoph from the bullpen.
But while every bullpen move Bakich made in Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Cardinals worked, this one backfired. Levi Usher picked center to drive in two runs and, after a walk from Goldensoph to charge again and a home defenseman pick for the second out, second baseman Logan Beard picked center for two more points. Goldensoph retired No. 9 hitter Ben Bianco to end the inning, but the Wolverines were working from behind.
Louisville starter Riley Phillips had no such problems, mowing down the Wolverines in order with three strikeouts on 14 total pitches.
With the top of the lineup back in the second, the Cardinals piled up; Knapczyk scored a single and Ben Metzinger hit through the middle to make it 6-0 and end Goldensoph’s outing. (Metzinger added a second home run later, hitting a two-run left blast in the ninth inning.) Then came John Torroella, who got a single before walking Payton. After a fielder was chosen for the second out and an error on an out attempt to put another runner in scoring position, Cameron Masterman doubled to make it 7-0.
The Wolverines still had few answers at home plate, with only a Joey Velazquez home run with one out in the third and a Joe Stewart first single in the fourth tarnishing Phillips’ dominance. The second struck out 11 in five innings, with two hits and no walks allowed.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals fired two more runs in the fourth, on a Masterman homer to left, and three more in the fifth as six straight Cardinals reached an out of fourth pitcher of the day for UM, Brandon Lawrence. Only Jake Keaser, who came in to start the sixth, could stop the bleeding, pitching two scoreless innings. Keaton Carattini allowed six more runs in the eighth, and Ben Zimmer allowed two in the ninth, though both teams mustered their resources after five innings for Monday’s game-winning or go-home game.
The good news for the Wolverines: Standout reliever Willie Weiss, who played in the Big Ten tournament before being suspended for four games by the conference for pitching with a foreign substance, is eligible to pitch again on Monday.
The offensive breakdown for Michigan was only the third time this season the Wolverines have been held to a point or less. The others: a 6-1 loss to Oklahoma on Feb. 20 and a 13-1 loss to Louisville on March 13 (in which Phillips struck out nine over six innings).
“Those two days, I guess I just felt like my best, and obviously I had my curveball that worked both times,” Phillips said. “It helps to have the change mixed in between.”
Sunday’s result also stood in contrast to UM’s last 21 games, in which the Wolverines averaged nine points per game with a 12-9 record.
Louisville Courier Journal sportswriter Brett Dawson contributed to this report.
Contact Ryan Ford at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.