Jimmy Kerr’s first triple in two years helped Michigan build an early lead, Karl Kauffmann pitched seven strong innings and the Wolverines opened their first College World Series appearance since 1984 with a 5-3 win over Texas Tech on Saturday.
The last time Michigan made it this far, a team led by future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin went 0-2. The Wolverines had lost four straight in the CWS since winning their first game in 1983.
These Wolverines (47-20) were swept in a three-game series at Texas Tech in March and were winless in seven all-time meetings. But they built a 4-0 lead in the third and Kauffmann and Jeff Criswell worked out of trouble when the Red Raiders (44-19) threatened.
Michigan scored on a sacrifice fly in the first and broke things open in the third when Kerr drove a ball just inside the right-field line into the corner for a two-out, two-run triple. The triple was Kerr’s first in 112 games since April 2017, and he came home on Blake Nelson’s single to make it 4-0.
Brian Klein’s second homer of the season, and first since March 10, cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom half, and the Red Raiders were within a run in the sixth on an RBI groundout after Josh Jung’s infield single and Cameron Warren’s double.
Michigan got that run back when a wild pitch and Jung’s throwing error from shortstop allowed Jesse Franklin to score.
Kauffman (11-6), the Colorado Rockies’ second-round draft pick earlier this month, allowed three runs and eight hits and won his third straight start. He got out of potential trouble in the fifth, thanks to second baseman Ako Thomas, who robbed Dylan Neuse with a diving catch of a line drive up the middle.
Criswell, who made his first career relief appearance in super regionals, took over in the eighth and earned his second save. Texas Tech, the Big 12 champion and No. 8 national seed, had runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth when Criswell struck out Brian Klein to end the game.
Texas Tech freshman Micah Dallas’ three-inning start was his shortest of the season. Dallas (7-1) allowed four runs, three earned.
The Red Raiders played their second game without leadoff man and right fielder Gabe Holt, who had surgery Monday for a left thumb injury.
Michigan’s Jordan Brewer was called out for batter’s interference when Franklin attempted to steal second base in the seventh. Brewer swung at an inside fastball that handcuffed him and caused him to fall down as catcher Braxton Fulford threw to second. It didn’t appear Brewer landed outside the batter’s box. But when Michigan coach Erik Bakich came out to discuss the call, plate umpire Perry Costello told him Brewer accidentally made contact with Fulford’s leg.
“If you wouldn’t have called that, they wouldn’t have said a word,” Bakich was picked up saying on an ESPN microphone.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Costello replied.
Michigan, a No. 3 regional seed and one of the last four teams awarded at-large bids for the 64-team NCAA Tournament, plays a Bracket 1 winners’ game Monday night against the winner of the Saturday night game between Florida State and Arkansas.
Texas Tech meets the Florida State-Arkansas loser on Monday afternoon.