ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Michigan baseball team will play for a national championship at the College World Series after a 15-3 victory Friday against No. 8 Texas Tech.
Michigan improved to 3-0 in Omaha on the back of a gutsy performance from starting pitcher Karl Kauffmann, the powerful bat of Jimmy Kerr and an all-around relentless effort by the offense.
The Wolverines, facing a starting pitcher who had been undefeated this year before losing to Michigan last weekend, scored two runs in each of the first three innings and never stopped tacking on.
Texas Tech couldn't come up with enough big hits against Kauffmann, as he beat the Red Raiders for the second time in a week to send Michigan into the championship series.
Michigan's offense catches fire
It didn't take long for Michigan to get on the board. Jimmy Kerr, who's been one of the most clutch players in Omaha this week, came through with two outs once again. Kerr stroked a double into the right field corner to score Jess Franklin for the game's first run.
Blake Nelson tacked on another run in the next at-bat, lacing an RBI single to left field.
Texas Tech responded with three runs in the top of the second inning, but as they have the entire NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines responded. Jack Blomgren reached on a leadoff single and advanced to third on an error. Joe Donovan walked, Ako Thomas hit an RBI single, Jordan Nwogu walked and Jordan Brewer got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Franklin came through with a huge at-bat in the bottom of the fourth. He fell behind 0-2 before working the count even and then smacking a two-run double into left-center field.
Michigan is the first team to score in each of the first three innings of a College World Series game since Vanderbilt in 2011. But the Wolverines weren't done.
Blake Nelson reached on a one-out single in the fourth and Christian Bullock worked a walk. Blomgren reached on an error and Nelson scored on a wild pitch by Hunter Dobbins.
It was the first time a team scored in each of the first four innings of a CWS game since South Carolina in 2010.
After a pair of scoreless innings, Michigan tacked on more runs in the sixth. Kerr led off with a bunt single to beat the shift down the third base line and scored on a trio of walks from Bullock, Donovan and Thomas.
Then, Nwogu delivered what felt like the fatal blow: a two-out, two-run double to give Michigan a 10-3 lead. Two pitches later, Franklin singled home two more runs for good measure.
Kerr wasn't bunting to lead off the seventh inning, instead blasting a no-doubt home run into the right field bullpen. His homer gave Michigan 13 runs, a new school record for runs scored in a CWS game.
A Nelson hit-by-pitch, Bullock single, Thomas walk and Nwogu walk brought in the 14th run.
Kerr struck again the following inning, blasting the second pitch he saw for another home run to right field.
Kauffmann's gutsy performance
Kauffmann got off to a rocky start, allowing three runs in the second inning and working around multiple base runners nearly every inning. He allowed the leadoff man to reach in five of his six innings and gave up six hits and four walks while striking out only two batters.
Michigan's starter battled, though, finding a way to get through six innings on 100 pitches.
Kauffmann was helped out by some excellent defense up the middle. Blomgren and Thomas were stellar at shortstop and second base, respectively, stealing at least three hits from the Red Raiders.
Thomas turned a critical double play on a lineout to end the sixth inning, and in the end, Kauffmann left the game on a streak of four consecutive scoreless innings.
He handed a 12-3 lead to Michigan's No. 3 starting pitcher, Jeff Criswell, who slammed the door on Texas Tech in the first CWS matchup.
Criswell cruised through three no-stress innings, throwing 36 pitches and facing the minimum number of batters. He allowed just one single, which was later erased on a double play, and struck out six of 10 batters.
Michigan made it through the first three games of the College World Series using only three pitchers: Kauffmann, Criswell and Tommy Henry.
Michigan's journey to the championship series
Michigan has been the best story of the NCAA Tournament, starting as one of the last four teams to make the field and ending up in the championship series.
The Wolverines won the Corvallis Regional hosted by defending national champion Oregon State, only to earn a best-of-three matchup against No. 1 UCLA.
Michigan controlled the series in UCLA's home park, winning Game 1 and bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss in Game 2 to take the decisive Game 3 and advance to Omaha.
This week has been all Michigan. Eric Bakich's team knocked off Texas Tech in the first game of the CWS before moving to 2-0 with a shutout win over Florida State. Friday's victory brought the Wolverines within two wins of a national championship.
It's being called an underdog story, but Michigan has looked like the best team on the field every step of the way.
Now Michigan will await the winner of No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 7 Louisville, who will square off Friday night. Vanderbilt already defeated Louisville earlier in the CWS, so the Cardinals will need to win twice over the highest-ranked team left in the field to advance.
If Vanderbilt advances, Michigan will have to knock off another college baseball powerhouse to win the title.
Regardless of the opponent, Michigan will play the first game of the championship series at 7 p.m. ET Monday. The second game will be at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday.
If the teams split the first two games, the national championship will be decided Wednesday, with first pitch once again at 7 p.m. ET.
All three games are set to be televised on ESPN.
Henry should be ready to start Game 1 for Michigan after a masterful performance -- a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts -- his last outing against Florida State.
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