The Michigan baseball team won its third straight game at the College World Series on Friday, locking up the school's first-ever spot in the best-of-three championship series that begins Monday. (The CWS added the final round in 2003.) In all, this is Michigan's eighth appearance in the College World Series, with two titles. Let's take a look back at how the Wolverines have fared in their seven previous appearances:
Coach Ray Fisher, in his 33rd season coaching the U-M program, finally made the College World Series, then in its fourth season in Omaha using the eight-team, double-elimination format. The Wolverines, led by All-American shortstop Bruce Haynam, won their first three games — against Stanford, Boston College and Texas -- by a combined 22-7 score. But the Longhorns avenged their loss to the Wolverines the next day, leaving three teams left in the field with one loss: Michigan, Texas, and Lafayette. A drawing was held, and Michigan got a bye into the final, with Texas thumping Lafayette in the play-in game. Michigan then took its own revenge on the Longhorns with a 7-5 win on June 16. It was a tight finish, with sophomore Jack Ritter coming on in relief with the bases loaded in the ninth and getting the final two Texas batters -- on a strikeout and a groundout to first — for the title.
Detroit native Don Lund took over for Fisher as coach in 1959 and led the Wolverines to a 27-12 record entering the CWS. Three straight wins, over Texas, Holy Cross and Florida State, put the Wolverines in the final, though they then lost to Texas to keep the Longhorns' title hopes alive. But Santa Clara knocked off Texas to make the final. And then, things went long. Michigan ace Fritz Fisher and Santa Clara's duo of Charlie Marcenaro and Bob Garibaldi got the game into extra innings tied at 2. Fisher was replaced by Jim Bobel, while Garibaldi kept going, all the way to the 15th inning. Bobel drove in a go-ahead run on a triple in the top of the inning, and scored what would be the winning run on a wild pitch by Garibaldi, as the Wolverines won, 5-4, in the longest championship game in CWS history to date.
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1978: 5th (tie)
Moby Benedict, who took over for Lund in 1963 after he was hired to run the Tigers' farm system, finally made the CWS in his 16th season. The Wolverines, featuring two-sport star Rick Leach in the outfield and sophomore ace Steve Howe on the mound, opened with a 4-0 win over Baylor, but then fell to eventual champ Southern California, 11-4, two days later and were eliminated by North Carolina, 7-6, the day after that. The Wolverines trailed early in the game, 4-0, then rallied for a 6-4 lead entering the bottom of the eighth. Starter Tom Owens hit a batter and was pulled for Howe, who allowed a pinch-hit single, then gave up a three-run home run. The Wolverines finished the year with a 30-17 record.
1980: 5th (tie)
The Wolverines' opening victory, 9-8 over California, gave Michigan its winningest season to date, with 36 wins. But that would be it for the Wolverines, whose bats went cold in a twin-bill the next day. First up was a loss to Miami (Fla.), 3-2, in which the Wolverines managed just five hits. That dropped Michigan into the losers bracket and set up an elimination game against Arizona. Again, Michigan managed just five hits as future major leaguer Craig Lefferts baffled the Wolverines in an 8-0 victory for the Wildcats (who eventually won the title). The lone bright spot for Michigan was Jim Paciorek, who picked up five of the Wolverines' 10 hits in their final two games.
1981: 7th (tie)
The Wolverines' second straight CWS appearance under coach Bud Middaugh was their shortest yet, with two losses to open the series. First up, Mississippi State slammed the Wolverines into the losers bracket, 4-0, on a Mark Gillaspie home run off of Scott Elam in the fifth inning. The Wolverines had walked Gillaspie in each of his first two plate appearances. Two days later, the Wolverines' title hopes were ended by Texas, which scored four runs in the final two innings to eliminate Michigan, 6-5. All four of the runs came off reliever Steve Ontiveros, who had entered in the fourth inning. Ontiveros and Michigan actually had a 5-2 lead entering the fourth inning, but a rain delay paused the game for nearly two hours. Middaugh stuck with Ontiveros through the delay, and paid the price: "Steve was not throwing that bad and I felt we were better off with him in the game. He came back strong after the delay and only threw one bad pitch," Middaugh said after the game to the Free Press.
The Wolverines started off the CWS with a bang, as third baseman Chris Sabo homered in the fifth off future major leaguer Billy Swift in a 6-5 victory over Maine. The good feelings were drowned early in a Crimson Tide in the next game, as Alabama jumped out to a 6-0 lead in four innings and the Wolverines couldn't recover, falling 6-5. That set up an elimination game against Stanford the next day, which the Wolverines won, 11-4, with seven runs in the ninth inning, including a grand slam by freshman Casey Close. Michigan went on to face Texas for a spot in the championship game, two days later. For another time, the Wolverines' season was ended by one pitch -- this time, a delivery to Texas' Mike Brumley, who launched a grand slam off freshman starter Scott Kamieniecki in the fifth inning to give the Longhorns a 4-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. Texas went on to beat Alabama in the championship game.
1984: 7th (tie)
For just the second time in their eight visits to the College World Series, the Wolverines failed to win a game. First up, eventual champs Cal State Fullerton bled the Wolverines dry with aggressive baserunning, forcing three errors and scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on a squeeze bunt. In the elimination game two days later, little went well for the Wolverines. They struggled with New Orleans lefty David Lynch, who pitched into the ninth inning, and fell behind early as Kamieniecki, now a sophomore, allowed seven runs in just 3 1/3 innings. In all, Michigan used six pitchers in the 11-3 rout, and every position player. The Wolverines' parting gift from the tournament? Shortstop (and future Baseball Hall of Famer) Barry Larkin, who hit .369 as a sophomore, was named an All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
This article is written by Ryan Ford from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.