OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Jesse Franklin hit the second pitch of the game out of TD Ameritrade Park. With the performance Tommy Henry was about to give, that was all the offense Michigan needed.
Henry limited Florida State to three hits and Franklin’s homer stood up in a 2-0 win Monday night that put the Wolverines in control of Bracket 1 in their first appearance at the College WorldSeries since 1984. The Wolverines (48-20) are 2-0 for the first time in six appearances since 1962 and need one more win Friday to reach the best-of-three finals next week.
“In the biggest game in Michigan baseball history in a long, long time, we got the best pitching performance in Tommy Henry’s career,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “He was the entire story line tonight. He gave us something magical. I don’t know if there is an adjective to describe how good Tommy was, but he was better than that.”
Henry (11-5) was efficient in his second shutout of the season and Michigan’s ninth. The junior left-hander mixed a slider and changeup with his fastball and threw 100 pitches, including 24 first-pitch strikes against the 32 batters he faced. He struck out 10, walked none and went to three-ball counts just twice, both times in the first inning.
The defense also was outstanding, with Christan Bullock making big plays in left field and second baseman Ako Thomas diving to rob Robby Martin of a hit in the ninth inning.
“Pure joy,” Henry said, describing his feeling after the last out. “I’m sure everyone was feeling the exact same way. And so whether you were in the bunker all game or you hit a home run the second at-bat of the game, everyone is feeling that pure joy just because it’s a special team. We’re playing for each other, and we’re playing for the block ‘M’ on our hat.”
The Seminoles (42-22), trying to win retiring coach Mike Martin’s first national championship in his 17th trip to Omaha, have scored only two runs in their last 26 innings, although they managed a 1-0 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. They failed to win their first two games at a CWS for a 13th straight time since opening 2-0 in 1989.
Of the last 29 national champions, 24 won their first two games.
Mike Salvatore had two of the three hits against Henry, the No. 74 overall draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks last month.
“I can see why Tommy Henry was a second-round draft pick,” Martin said. “That was beautiful. That was a masterpiece. He really made it tough on us. They kicked our fanny and Tommy Henry, if I was playing Michigan next year, I’d be real glad because I know he will be gone.”
The Seminoles’ best chance to score was in the first, when Salvatore took third on a wild pitch. That’s when Henry started a streak of 12 straight retired batters that ended when he hit J.C. Flowers to start the fifth.
FSU starter CJ Van Eyk (10-4) lasted 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing in six starts since May 4. He struck out nine, allowed six singles and walked two after Franklin’s home run. But his pitch count went over 100 in the fifth inning, when he allowed three hits in four at-bats to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
The Wolverines, like Florida State, were among the last four teams selected on Memorial Day for the 64-team national tournament that has now been pared to seven. They had lost five of seven to end the regular season and didn’t make the Big Ten Tournament title game. Then they won the regional played at Oregon State, then knocked off No. 1 national seed UCLA in super regionals.
“We just figured out that we were pressing and worried about just trying to win or trying not to lose,” Franklin said, “and now we’re just playing loose and having fun at TD ‘AmeriPlayground.’”
Michigan’s Jordan Nwogu gashed his forehead when, advancing on a hit-and-run in the fifth inning, he made an awkward headfirst slide into third base. Nwogu landed on his hands, and his helmet flew off as he propelled forward. His forehead scraped the dirt as he neared the bag. An athletic trainer tended to him, and he stayed in the game.
Michigan plays Friday against Texas Tech or Florida State.
Florida State plays an elimination game against Texas Tech on Wednesday. Tech stayed alive with a 5-4 win over Arkansas on Monday.