The Michigan Wolverines (42-12) softball team will begin its march toward the Women’s College World Series Friday when they play in the Tempe, Arizona regional against San Diego State (39-17). Game time is 3:30 pm E.T. for the start of the double-elimination tournament. It will be the Wolverines’ 20th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
U-M, which shared the Big Ten regular season crown with Nebraska, lost the conference tournament title game to Minnesota Saturday night, 3-2.
The disappointing loss was the fifth in Michigan’s last 11 games, which is uncharacteristic for a team that rarely loses two in a row. The Wolverines, who have been a member of softball’s elite for many years, aren’t quite ready to toss in the towel just yet.
A freshman surprise
If there’s been a bright spot for Michigan during the recent slump, it’s freshman pitcher Megan Betsa, who quickly earned a spot in the rare three-pitcher rotation.
In fact, Michigan has gone with basically two pitchers the last five seasons.
Going into the 2014, it looked like a pair of juniors, Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga, would handle the majority of the mound duties, but head coach Carol Hutchins had other ideas.
After Betsa got her feet wet by facing two-batters in the season opening loss to Florida, Hutchins called on her to start the following game against then No. 23 South Florida.
Like a veteran
Betsa looked like a seasoned veteran against South Florida, allowing just four hits in a 3-2 complete-game victory. She later pitched the 38th no-hitter in U-M history when she shut down the Detroit Titans in a five-inning run-rule decision on April 2.
With a season mark of 16-3 and an ERA of 1.97, Betsa has been Michigan’s hottest pitcher during the mini-slump. She has a 5-0 record, while Wagner is 1-3 and Driesenga is 0-3. It shouldn’t be a huge concern since Wagner has 40 victories over the last two seasons while Driesenga has 36.
Betsa has already been rewarded for her improbable freshman season by being nominated as a finalist for the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award.
Under Coach Hutchins, Michigan advanced to the College World Series 10 times, winning the national title in 2005.
Selection Process (Details provided by ncaa.com)
The Division I Softball Committee will conduct selections for the 2014 NCAA Division I Softball Championship May 11. The 64-team field will be selected from 283 NCAA Division I institutions sponsoring the sport of softball. Of the 64 teams, 32 teams will receive automatic qualification with the remaining best 32 teams selected on an at-large basis. Sixteen teams will be seeded and each of the seeded teams will be placed at one of the regional sites.
Regionals for the NCAA Division I Softball Championship will be held May 16-18 on 16 campus sites. At each campus site, a four-team, double-elimination tournament will be conducted and the 16 winning teams advance to the Super Regionals.
Super Regionals (non-predetermined)
Super Regionals for the NCAA Division I Softball Championship will be held May 22-25 on eight campus sites. At each site, two teams play in a best-of-three tournament format. The winners from each site advance to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.
The 2014 NCAA Women’s College World Series will be held at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, May 29 to June 4. This is the 33rd annual NCAA Division I Softball Championship and the 24th time that Oklahoma City and ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field will host this premier college softball championship event. ♦