By all rights, what happened last night at Hawkins Field in Nashville should have never occurred. A Michigan team which had slumped down the stretch, which had blown a golden opportunity to close out the national #1 seed Commodores the day before, and was now facing a raucous and hostile crowd of Tennesseans, looking for anything to be happy about in Nashville sports this spring, between PacMan Jones and the possible move of the Predators, they shouldn't have had a chance. But there they were, manufacturing runs early, getting an Eric Rose sac fly to go up 1-0, and then getting a moon shot by Regional MVP Nate Recknagel, who dropped a home run over the left field wall and onto the roof of Memorial Gymnasium to make it 2-0. (It should be clear, it wasn't Mantle-esque, because the gym is rather close to the field, but it was a heck of a home run). And even when the tide turned against them, when the heart of Vandy's order rallied the Commodores in the bottom of the eighth, well, it began to feel as if the Wolverines run was about to end.
It certainly felt that was in the top of the ninth when, after a lead off walk to Kevin Cislo, Vanderbilt brought in David Price, the best pitcher, perhaps the best player, in the country, a player off whom opposing hitters were hitting a mere .199 and who had 192 K's in 132 innings pitched. After getting the sac bunt to advance Cislo to second, Michigan's next two hitters were made to look silly by Price's heat and control. He blazed Vandy out of the ninth. Adam Abraham had come in from third to work in the eighth and there he was again, trying to get Michigan to hold fast against a rising tide. He held them and the game went to extras, with Michigan still facing the looming specter of Price.
The inning that followed would have to be considered improbable and unlikely at best, and downright absurd in most cases. Price, who looked so in control in the ninth, was now facing Alan Oaks, a little used freshman pinch hitter who was only batting because Michigan had lost the DH when Chris Fetter was pulled in the seventh, went yard against Price. It wasn't the same epic bomb that Recknagel hit, but it cleared the fence and put Michigan up 4-3. Every pitch was more intense now, every moment amplified in meaning and intensity. Vandy had one more chance in the bottom of the tenth facing Michael Powers, who came into pitch for Abraham, who returned to third base. Powers looked like a beaten man when Vandy's Pedro Alvarez hit a hard shot to left, only to be robbed by Derek Van Buskirk (a moment of conjecture here. Vandy's game write up seems to believe that Van Buskirk robbed a double, where as it looked like he saved a home run to me. The important thing is that he did it.) Two outs later, Michigan was through, Regional Champs.
An unlikely outcome, but, youneverknow. CDB