Michigan softball in NCAA action. "Photo by Michael Barera CC-BY-SA)"

Michigan softball one win away from College World Series berth

The No. 13 Michigan softball team moved one step closer to a WCWS berth Thursday night (May 22) by crushing No. 3 Florida State 17-3 in six innings (8-run rule). The Wolverines drew first blood in the best-of-three Super Regional at Tallahassee, FL, and can advance to the World Series  for the 11th time.

A huge amount of Michigan’s success can be placed on the shoulders of head coach Carol Hutchins, who is completing 30 years as Michigan’s mentor.  She’s led the team to 16 Big Ten regular-season titles, 15 NCAA Regional crowns, one NCAA crown ( in 2005) and eight Big Ten tournament championships.

Despite the glowing resume, Michigan (47-13)  was almost sent home last week from the regional in Tempe, AZ.

Had to win twice

The Wolverines slid into the losers’ bracket by dropping Saturday’s game to Arizona State, 4-1. To advance Michigan would have to beat San Diego State Saturday night before winning both games (with No.4 Arizona State) on Sunday.

The Wolverines came through with a 9-1 (6 inning win) Saturday and the battle with Arizona State was on.

In the (nothing to lose) opener, reliable starting pitcher Megan Betsa was relieved after giving up a two-run-homer in the top of the first.  Haylie Wagner, who’s been struggling of late, turned in a gutsy 6.2 innings of one-run relief.

Offensively Sierra Romero and Caitlin Blanchard each hit two-run homers, Michigan had a 4-3 win and Wagner had her 23rd win of the season.

Michigan had made it to the (if necessary) game with Arizona State, but needed a near miracle to advance.

In Miracles?

The Wolverines trailed 4-3 going into the top of the seventh, and to make matters worse, they were facing Arizona State’s top pitcher, Dallas Escobedo, who started 33 of the Sun Devils’ 37 games, had 336 K’s and an ERA of 1.95.

That didn’t faze a Michigan team which unfortunately had several players suffering from the flu (including  shortstop Sierra Romero).

This time it was Michigan’s other Sierra, Sierra Lawrence who hit the tying homer to left. The shock had yet to wear off the Arizona faithful when Taylor Hasselbach made it back-to-back drives and Michigan led 5-4. Arizona State failed to score in its half of the inning, and Michigan was going to Florida.

Bats alive

In Friday’s Super Regional opener, the tables were turned as Betsa relieved Wagner in the second inning. The freshman right-hander gave up just three hits in 4.1 innings of work.  “I think that whether I start or whether I come in like I said, it’s my job to give my team a chance to win,” Betsa said.

 “Haylie (Wagner) had my back all weekend and Sara (Driesenga) has had my back all season. That’s my job. We are a pitching staff and we pick each other up when we’re down.”

Michigan pummeled the three Florida State (53-7) pitchers for seven runs in the sixth and eight more in the sixth, all without a home run. With three hits, Lawrence tallied her 19th multi-RBI game and 14th multi-hit game of the season.

Lauren Sweet also had three hits while Romero and Blanchard had two.

 “Tomorrow we’re coming at it like it’s the first game,” Romero said. “We have to win one more game and that’s our focus. We’re going to go at it the same way we went at it tonight, attacking every pitch. We can’t let up this post season.” ♦

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff – Joel Greer

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