Freshman Oaks lifts Wolverines past top ranked Vanderbilt, 4-3
It was the stuff of legend. It's the tenth inning. Scored tied, 3-3. Vanderbilt has their ace pitcher on the mound. David Price, All-America and probable first pick in the Major League Baseball draft, has come out of the bullpen an inning earlier. With an out recorded in the tenth, Michigan head coach Rich Maloney calls for a pinch hitter.
The righthanded bat Maloney summons is that of freshman Alan Oaks. Oaks enters the game hitting .188. What can you expect from a .188 hitting first-year player against the top ranked team, in their home ballpark, with a chance to advance to a super-regional on the line? Did I mention Price, the undefeated lefty is still on the hill? Did I mention Oaks is pinch hitting for Zach Putnam, Michigan's first team All-Big Ten pitcher and DH? (I'm still waiting word on why that switch occurred.)
Oaks hangs tough and works the count to 3-1. Price then throws what appears to be a fastball. Oaks swings and .......... the ball is still sailing. The light hitting, barely used freshman clears the left-centerfield wall, sends Price to the showers, ends Vanderbilt's season and lifts Michigan into the Super Regionals. The final from Nashville, Michigan 4 Vanderbilt 3.
I'm still stunned. Thrilled, but stunned.
I figured Michigan could hang with the 'Dores, as so many Big Ten teams have played well against college baseball's big boys, but win the regional in such convincing fashion? In Nashville to boot? Incredible.
The difference was starting pitching. Michigan's starters shutdown the Vandy lineup twice. Today, it was Chris Fetter's turn. Fetter was nothing short of terrific. The sophomore righthander gave up seven hits over seven innings, walked two and allowed only two earned runs. Adam Abraham relieved Fetter and got the win. Michael Powers came in to take over for Abraham and got a well deserved save.
Pedro Alvarez, a good a college baseball player as their is, took Fetter deep over the centerfield fence to give Vanderbilt their first run. Nate Recknagel countered with a monster solo shot of his own for the Wolverines. Recknagel had three hits in the game to lead Michigan. (Here's the box score.)
I'm sure the national media will explain away the Michigan triumph. The Commodores stopped hitting. They didn't have enough arms to play in this kind of event. Winning the powerful SEC took too much out of them. Vandy really should have won all three games versus Michigan. Yada, yada, yada.
Yeah, well, what happened to the easy regional, boys?
Seriously, Michigan could have just as easily won all three games against Vandy. In front of a hostile crowd, Mike Wilson and Fetter plain baffled the 'Dores and Michigan lost a slugfest by three runs in Nashville when Vandy had to win to survive. Michigan was the better team this weekend. How about we give the young men in Maize and Blue some credit? (And, yes, I'm a Big Ten homer.)
Michigan now awaits the winner of the Virginia/Oregon State game to see whom they will play in the Supers.
Congratulations to Rich Maloney and the University of Michigan on their regional championship.