SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The ball pinged off the aluminum bat of Matthew Schmidt and soared through the brisk night air, before landing well over the left-field wall at Salt River Fields. Michigan players spilled out of the dugout onto the field, erupting in cheers for the redshirt senior first baseman.
Opening Day rust? Not on Friday night at the MLB4 Tournament.
In a rematch of last year’s College World Series final, Schmidt belted a go-ahead, two-run home run in the ninth inning, the decisive blow in a thrilling, back-and-forth game that lifted the Wolverines to a season-opening 4-3 win over Vanderbilt.
The stakes weren’t as high as last June, but the mid-February action was just as exciting. And for Michigan, it ended with a bit of revenge against the defending national champions.
“It’s a good way to start, especially against a good Vandy team like that who took the title from us last year, so we wanted to get back at them a little,” Schmidt said. “To get a win like this is special.”
It took some resilience along the way. After the Wolverines took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh, the Commodores answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Parker Noland and an RBI safety squeeze by Harrison Ray.
Vanderbilt was two outs away from winning when Clark Elliott ripped a single to left field in the ninth. Then, Schmidt’s homer off right-hander Tyler Brown again shifted the momentum in Michigan’s favor.
After the Commodores loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Wolverines right-hander Isaiah Paige got Isaiah Thomas to fly out to center to end the eventful contest.
“We always talk about, ‘never out of the fight, fight and compete,’ that’s what this team’s all about,” Schmidt said. “Game One against a good Vandy team, you really can’t write it any better.”
It was certainly an exciting way to cap the first day of the second annual MLB4 Tournament.
“An emotional game, back-and-forth game, lead changes, tight game,” Michigan head coach Erik Bakich said. “Just couldn’t be more proud of the way our guys fought.”
Cal Poly opens tournament with win over UConn
This season, Cal Poly junior right-hander Taylor Dollard has made the transition from reliever to starter.
Consider the first test a success.
Dollard tossed seven scoreless innings on Friday afternoon, lifting the Mustangs to a 5-0 season-opening win over UConn in the first game of this year’s MLB4 Tournament at Salt River Fields. The righty allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out 10.
“You have more of an impact on the game early on, and I think putting up seven shutout is a really big thing to do for a team, in terms of success in the long run,” Dollard said. “I think it’s one of those things where no matter what inning I was pitching in or whatever situation, it’s just about being competitive and doing the most that you can to help the team win.”
Over Dollard’s first two seasons at Cal Poly, he went 8-0 with a 2.67 ERA and seven saves in 38 games, all relief appearances. In his first start, Dollard relied on strong fastball command and an effective slider to keep the Huskies off-balance for most of the day.
The Mustangs gave Dollard an early lead to work with, scoring a pair of third-inning runs, the second coming on an RBI single by Tate Samuelson. After Dollard’s exit, they tacked on three runs over the final two innings, with Blake Wagenseller and Bradlee Beesley contributing RBI singles.