Baseball

Van Remortel walk-off home run caps Michigan comeback


Michigan baseball’s graduate first baseman Jack Van Remortel is an opposite-field hitter. 

The right-hander utilizes the right side of the diamond with such frequency that it’s become a topic of conversation among coaches — even when he was at the plate during a tied game against Central Michigan in the bottom of the 10th inning. 

“I was sitting here talking to (director of data analytics Hunter) Satterthwaite, and I said, ‘Does Jack ever pull the ball?’ ” Michigan coach Tracy Smith said. “(Satterthwaite) says, ‘No he never pulls the ball’ and before we finish the sentence he pulls it out of the park. So we don’t know anything.”

The solo shot from the right-handed hitting Van Remortel broke the 5-5 stalemate, walking off the Chippewas and expanding the Wolverines’ win streak to four games.  

“Going into the at bat I was sitting on a slider,” Van Remortel said. “Got a couple, took them (for a ball). … I was lucky enough to get another one.” 

But the Gatorade dousing and elated cheering that encircled home plate postgame didn’t look likely for the majority of the afternoon. Central Michigan took the lead in the top of the fifth inning and held onto it for the bulk of the contest — putting Michigan against the ropes in the bottom of the ninth, down to its last two outs with no runners on base. 

Then freshman center fielder Johnathan Kim blooped a single into shallow right, graduate shortstop Cody Jefferis added to his team-leading fourteen walks and a wild pitch advanced the two into scoring position — and suddenly Michigan threatened to reclaim the lead. 

“We felt we were in a pretty good spot in the lineup to potentially make a run at it there in the ninth,” Smith said. “… When (Kim) got that hit, we’re like ‘OK, we’re still alive’ — and then Teddy hit the big one.”

That “big one” was senior second baseman Ted Burton’s game-altering double off the left-field wall, scoring both Kim and Jefferis to knot the game at five apiece. But then an inning-ending double play occurred, stealing Burton’s chance to score the winning run and leaving someone else the opportunity to play hero. 

And after a scoreless top half of the 10th inning by freshman right-hander Mitch Voit, that’s exactly what Van Remortel did, completing the Wolverines’ comeback by launching a 1-2 slider over the left-field fence. 

But Van Remortel would not have been the most probable character to assume that role. While he has been a consistent presence — appearing in 20 games and starting the majority at first base — he has often found himself hitting near the bottom of the order. In that unflashy spot, Van Remortel has shown power similar to the display on Tuesday, slugging .462 and driving home seven runs.

And as a graduate student, Van Remortel has overseen all the turnover of Michigan between the 2022 and 2023 seasons. 

“It’s always an interesting situation when you get a new coach,” Van Remortel said. “I was able to play for (former coach Erik) Bakich and now (Smith), both very different coaches. … We are always looking at it as we’re standing on the shoulders of those that came before us. Every year we are trying to add a little bit to the culture, to the program.”

Van Remortel certainly added to the excitement with his walk off home run — and cemented a marquee moment of the 2023 season.

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