The Michigan Wolverines are on the verge of winning the College World Series for the first time since 1962.
The Wolverines (50-20) earned a 7-4 victory Monday night over a powerful Vanderbilt Commodores (57-12) team as they built an early lead, withstood Vanderbilt's comeback effort and then added on insurance runs in the late innings.
Tommy Henry keyed the victory, pitching 8.1 innings for the Wolverines. He struck out eight while allowing seven hits.
Blake Nelson, Jordan Brewer, Ako Thomas and Jesse Franklin knocked in the early runs for the Wolverines, and that set the tone for the game.
Vanderbilt slugger JJ Bleday belted his 27th home run of the year and got the Commodores within one run at 4-3 in the sixth inning, but Jimmy Kerr followed with a two-run homer for the Wolverines and Henry shut the door after that.
The two teams will meet in Game 2 of the CWS Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday night.
2019 College World Series: Championship
Monday, June 24
Michigan 7, Vanderbilt 4, Michigan leads series, 1-0
Tuesday, June 25
Game 2, Michigan vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Wednesday, June 26
Game 3, Michigan vs. Vanderbilt, if necessary, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The CWS can be live-streamed at WatchESPN.
The Wolverines will send Jeff Criswell to the mound in an effort to clinch the title, while Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker will try to keep the Commodores' season alive. If Vanderbilt wins, the two teams will play in the decisive game Wednesday night.
Michigan head coach Erik Bakich said his team knows exactly what is at stake.
"They know what they're playing for," he said, per Eric Olson of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo.com). "They know the stakes. They know the stage. They're not acting like the stage and lights are too big. They're doing a good job of staying in the moment and having as much fun as they can."
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said there was no panic with his team after the loss, and he expressed confidence in his players.
"They've been in a hole before," he said, per Olson. "Not many times, but whether it's during the course of the season or during the course of games, they've been able to navigate their way out of these situations."
Vanderbilt will depend on Bleday, Austin Wilson and Stephen Scott to trigger the offense, and ask Rocker to close down Michigan's offense.
Criswell takes a 7-1 record to the mound in Game 2, with a 2.58 earned-run average and 109 strikeouts in 101.0 innings for the Wolverines.
Rocker is 11-5 with a 3.38 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 93.1 innings.
Statistics courtesy of team websites.