OMAHA – Jimmy Kerr homered for the third time in the College World Series, and Michigan beat Vanderbilt 7-4 in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals Monday night.
The Wolverines (50-20), who barely got into the NCAA tournament after a poor finish to the regular season, are seeking the school's first baseball championship since 1962. Ohio State is the last Big Ten school to take home the title, winning it all in 1966.
Game 2 is Tuesday night, when Vanderbilt will send freshman sensation Kumar Rocker to the mound.
"They know what they're playing for," Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. "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 (57-12) spotted Michigan a 4-0 lead. But it was 4-3 after JJ Bleday hit his nation-leading 27th homer on Tommy Henry's first pitch of the sixth.
Kerr then reached the right field bleachers in the seventh to make it 6-3. His two-run shot was followed by hugs all around for his family members. Among them were grandfather John Kerr, a member of the 1962 Wolverines, and dad Derek Kerr, who played on the 1984 team, the last one to make it to the CWS before this year.
Kerr has hit seven of his 15 homers over 11 NCAA tournament games and is batting .389 (7-for-18) in the CWS.
Henry (12-5) was unflappable for a second straight start, striking out eight while pitching 8 ⅓ innings of seven-hit ball. Jeff Criswell, who might get the start on Tuesday, got the last two outs.
New Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard was in attendance to watch the Wolverines, who came out in 1962 throwback uniforms and were serenaded by "Let's Go Blue" chants throughout the game.
Vanderbilt lost for the first time since May 11.
"They've been in a hole before," Commodores coach Tim Corbin said. "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."