Omaha stake: Michigan upsets top-seeded UCLA, advances to CWS for first time in 35 years
Los Angeles — Michigan is headed to the College World Series for the first time in 35 years after eliminating the nation's top program.
Ako Thomas drove in two runs with a single and Tommy Henry pitched seven solid innings to propel the Wolverines to a 4-2 victory over UCLA on Sunday night in the deciding game of the Los Angeles Super Regional.
It will be the 46-20 Wolverines' eighth CWS appearance but their first since 1984. It is also the first time since Indiana in 2013 that the Big Ten has had a team advance to Omaha.
"You could see the last couple of weeks after we started to play loose, you could see what our potential could be," Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. "Every team wants to catch lightning in a bottle, play their best baseball at the end of the year and we have done it."
UCLA (52-11) is the seventh national top seed since the current format started in 1999 to not make it to the College World Series. The last time it happened was 2015 when the Bruins were eliminated in regional play.
The Bruins had 13 players selected in last week's MLB draft, including seven every day players and the top two starting pitchers. This was the first weekend series they had dropped this season.
"This is a tough one to take," UCLA coach John Savage said. "They were all tight games. We made a few mistakes and they didn't leave us any room to be able to rebound from them. It's disappointing for sure."
Henry (10-5) — who was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round of last week's MLB draft — was battling a virus for most of the week but wasn't going to miss the deciding game. The junior left-hander allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out six.
It was Henry's second win this year over the Bruins. He struck out 10 in a 7-5 victory on March 8 at Dodger Stadium.
"We knew how good this team was. No one expected us to win and it shows the belief in ourselves and how we have to grit our way to wins," Henry said.
Thomas' one-out single up the middle off Kyle Mora (3-3) in the fifth inning drove in the deciding runs. Christian Bullock added two hits and scored two runs for Michigan. The junior left fielder tripled to left center to lead off the ninth and added an insurance run when he scored on Joe Donovan's sacrifice fly.
The Wolverines struck first in the second. Blake Nelson walked with one out, advanced to third on Bullock's double and scored on a fielder's choice by Jack Blomgren. The Bruins tied it in the second when Jake Pries homered to left-center off Henry.
UCLA took a 2-1 lead in the third when Garrett Mitchell tripled to right and came home on Ryan Kreidler's groundout.
Jeremy Ydens had three hits for UCLA. Nick Nastrini started for the Bruins and yielded two runs on one hit.
Michigan will take on Texas Tech in its first College World Series game. The day and time will be determined after the rest of the field is finalized on Monday.
"It's definitely special for the conference. It's hard to do for anybody," Bakich said. "Seeing the process of how these guys have come together, it has been a long time coming. We felt like this could be a championship-caliber club. We have great leaders within the group."
College World Series
When: Saturday through Wednesday, June 26
Where: TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Format: Bracket play (double elimination) from this Saturday through Saturday, June 22. Best-of-three championship series June 24-26.
Teams: Super Regionals conclude Monday. Teams that already advanced to the CWS include Michigan, Texas Tech, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Louisville and Mississippi State. The winner of Monday’s North Carolina vs. Auburn game (1 p.m., ESPN2) and Ole Miss vs. Arkansas game (4 p.m., ESPN2) also will advance.