'He battled': Wolverines' Tommy Henry closes collegiate career with command performance
Omaha Neb. — When Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich went to the mound in the ninth inning, he spent time speaking to pitcher Tommy Henry. They both smiled, sharing words of appreciation as they spoke with his teammates around him.
Henry’s pitching career with the Wolverines ended with their 7-4 victory in the first game of a best-of-three championship series against Vanderbilt in the College World Series. Michigan is one win away from its first baseball national championship since 1962. After pitching a complete-game shutout a week earlier, Henry went eight and a third innings, gave up seven hits and four runs and had eight strikeouts.
“Tommy’s a great captain, a great leader,” Bakich said. “He has those types of performances these last three starting with what he did in Los Angeles (in the Super Regional). That’s when everybody got to see what’s inside of him. He opened up his chest. There’s a kid on the mound who’s got the flu, he’s got a touch of pneumonia, but he’s emptying the tank and then some for his team, and that’s who he is. He’s a guy who puts the team ahead of how he feels, ahead of personal interests, ahead of himself.
“To have a truly selfless kid like that as a captain and as a leader is an inspiration to all younger kids. You can work to try to achieve his level of greatness and his level of performance, but everyone has seen what it takes. Everyone wants to be good, but not everybody is willing to put in the work. Tommy’s put in the work. To know he’s inspired a bunch of young pitchers that are coming up in the wings behind him and that have all seen first hand just how much he puts into it and the 100 percent effort he puts into it and the total team-first attitude that goes behind, that’s worth its weight in gold. We’re not even talking baseball. That’s what fuels his performance on the field because he knows he’s got the total trust of his teammates behind him and in the dugout.”
Bakich said he told Henry all of that before he left the game and then some.
Henry said he and pitching coach Chris Fetter studied the Vanderbilt lineup and know what he would be facing in the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.
“That's a really talented lineup, one through nine, as good as it gets, so there's no breaks, no lapses throughout that entire lineup,” Henry said. “And we just tried to do our best to keep them as off-balance as we possibly could, kind of throw the kitchen sink at them and see what happens. And the defense made a lot of good plays tonight on hard-hit balls, so it worked out a little bit.”
Jeff Criswell, who wants to start Game 2, finished the game throwing nine pitches.
“Words can’t describe it,” Criswell said of Henry’s performance. “On this kind of stage, go out there Game 1 and throw eight-and-a-third innings and to battle all day. He battled his butt off. Gave us a chance to win, which is exactly what you need out of that first guy on that first day. I can’t say I’m surprised. Tommy Henry, second-round draft pick (Arizona). He’s got all the talent in the world. It’s just like Tommy. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
Michigan vs. Vanderbilt
Michigan leads 1-0
What: Game 2 of best-of-three College World Series championship.
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, would be Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Where: TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
TV: All games on ESPN.