Sharpe hits a walk-off single in comeback win
A closer look at Grosse-Pointe, Michigan, 5-4 win over Des Moines, Iowa, Monday at Lamade Stadium.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Reggie Sharpe’s walk-off single — Michigan erased a late 4-0 deficit for a second time at the Series and Sharp capped this furious comeback with the hit of his life. He had been robbed of hits in two previous at-bats, but Sharpe would not be denied this time, ripping a 3-2 pitch into right field and scoring Oliver Service with the winning run. Sharpe, who put together an excellent seven-pitch at-bat, rose his finger in the air as he sprinted toward first base and Michigan continued displaying its resiliency as it reached the U.S. Final Four.
IOWA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alex Stewart — Few pitchers this summer have tamed the Michigan offense, but Stewart did, throwing four brilliant innings. Stewart surrendered just one hit and one run in those four innings. He also struck out seven and added a single offensively.
MICHIGAN PLAYER OF THE GAME: Preston Barr — A defensive whiz at shortstop, Barr delivered a fantastic relief pitching performance and also provided some of the game’s best at-bats. Barr entered in the first inning with Michigan trailing 3-0 and threw 5 1/3 innings of stellar baseball. He allowed just four hits and one run while striking out nine. Barr also was an offensive spark, hitting a sacrifice fly that made it 4-1 in the fourth inning and belting a clutch two-out, game-tying RBI single in the fifth.
BIG INNING: Michigan fifth — The Great Lakes champions scored the winning run in the sixth before an out was recorded, taking advantage of an error, Chase Mazey’s beautiful bunt single and a Marwynn Matthews walk. It was the three-run fifth, however, that paved the way to victory. Michigan scored three times and erased a 4-1 deficit as Matthews and Jarren Purify ignited the rally with well-placed bunt singles. Brennan Hill made it 4-2 with an RBI grounder and Purify used his blazing speed to make it a one-run game. Barr then tied it with a two-out RBI single.
BEST EFFORT: Cameron Schafer’s sky-high leaping catch — Both teams deserve a lot of credit, making a series of fantastic, highlight-reel plays in this super clash. Schafer, though, earns the honor after defying the odds, soaring high into the sky and catching a Stewart liner in shallow right field. Stewart smoked the two-out ball that might have moved the lead runner to third in the sixth. Schafer, though, stepped back from the second-base dirt, leaped high and somehow caught the ball, conjuring up images of Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship game. Schafer’s play stifled a potential Iowa rally and Michigan one less than 10 minutes later.
FLASHING LEATHER: All Michigan second baseman Reggie Sharpe could do was salute Iowa right fielder Brayden Shutt after he made a spectacular first-inning catch. Sharpe drove a flyball to deep right field, but Shutt hustled back, reached back and made the catch as he fell down. Just as impressive as the catch was how Shutt still held on as he hit the ground. Michigan third baseman has played defense like few before him have at the Series. For a second time in three games, he made a Spider Man-like diving stop, turning a potential two-run double into an inning-ending out. Purify did that against Idaho Friday and again yesterday. This time he took a two-run double away from Stewart, making the stop down the line, then sprinting to third for the forceout.
Poor Sharp was robbed again in the third inning when he scorched a ball toward right field that looked like a sure single. Instead, Iowa second baseman Connor Duong full extended himself, making a brilliant diving stop. He rose quick to his feet and his throw beat the speedy Sharp by a split second. Iowa shortstop made a huge and outstanding play in the bottom of the fifth, going up the middle to prevent Schafer from delivering a go-ahead RBI single. O’Connor showed his range by fielding the ball behind the second-base bag and rifling a throw to first that ended the inning, keeping it, 4-4.
WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “I hate to say this because I don’t want this to ever happen again, but this is our fourth comeback and it’s starting to feel normal,” Michigan manager Kurt Barr said. “The high wasn’t as high today, that was the only difference from my perspective. The boys stepped up and took care of business.”
WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “Everything was going through my mind, but it was just stay calm,” Sharp said of his walk-off hit. “The guy on the mound was a great pitcher, so I had to stay calm. I fouled off a 3-2 pitch and then had to do what I could with the last pitch and hit it through the second-base gap.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Grosse-Pointe became the first team from its league in four Series appearances to win a non-consolation game Friday and now it is the first to reach the U.S. Final Four. Michigan plays again Tuesday night against the Georgia-Texas winner. Iowa finishes a fantastic postseason, rallying to win the Midwest championship and then winning a Series game while looking good in all three Series games.