Michigan Wolverine Softball: Game 1 WCWS Recap


Michigan Softball Posted at 8:20pm — -6/2/2015

Michigan Wolverine Softball: Game 1 WCWS Recap

Why Sierra, Why?

The comeback was nearly complete.

The fog had lifted. The Michigan Wolverine softball players that fidgeted, fussed and worried their way into a 3-0 fifth-inning deficit in game 1 of the Women’s College World Series final had been replaced by the team we knew so well, the squad that had won 28 straight games to get to this national championship, best-of-three round.

Abby Ramirez atoned for her first-inning error on a routine grounder that led to a two-run home run by Florida’s all-everything Lauren Haeger, by smacking in two runs of her own with a bases-loaded slapper over the middle. Haylie Wagner replaced a tightly wound Megan Betsa in the third and shut down the #1-ranked Gators the rest of the way.

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The Wolverines transformed from a group of wide-eyed teenagers in awe of their superior opponent, to an aggressive, opportunistic bunch who suddenly discovered that beyond Haeger, Florida is a team that can be beaten. By them.

In their final at-bat, the rally they had been yearning for was taking shape. Sierra Romero walked, advanced to second on a passed ball, and moved to third on a single to short right field by Kelly Christner. Romero rounded third but thought better of it with nobody out and held up, sixty feet from tying the game.

Then Kelsey Susalla drilled a one-strike pitch on a hop to Florida shortstop Kathlyn Medina. A rare double play in her grasp, she followed the strategy of surrendering the run in return for a bases-empty, two out, rally extinguishing situation. Her throw to first was a half step late on catching Susalla. But when the dust settled, to her surprise, the score was still 3-2.

Why Sierra, why?

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Michigan Wolverines

It’s no overstatement to say that the Wolverines wouldn’t be in the state of Oklahoma right now without Sierra Romero. Voted ESPNW’s National Player of the Year, the explosive junior came into the game with a .472 average and 21 home runs, leading the team who leads the nation in that category. Last year’s first-team All-America shortstop even moved over to second base nine games into the season to make room for the normally sure-handed Ramirez (who committed two errors against the Gators).

With a season of eligibility still remaining, Romero already owns school records for home runs, RBIs, and grand slams, you name it pretty much. In short, she will end her career as the best player to ever wear a Michigan softball uniform. The young lady is the embodiment of confidence. Which makes her decision to hold up at third all the more puzzling.

Why Sierra, why?

Perhaps she wasn’t sure whether Medina was coming home. I wasn’t at the time either. Even then, with a three-step lead off of third, she could have tested Medina with enough time to dive back to third base if need be, and enough time to reach the plate before a throw could come back down from first base.

But upon watching Susalla’s grounder a second time and focusing on Medina, it’s clear there was no hesitation in her action, not even the slightest thought to bring the ball home for an attempt to tag Romero out. It was all about the double play. Three steps out, then a break for home. Money.

Nothing underscored the certainty of Romero’s potential tying run like the look of exasperation on Coach Hutchins’ face. Normally as animated as any 57-year-old coach you’ll ever see, Hutch seemed to ask the question every Michigan fan at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium and tuning in all over the nation were asking.

Why Sierra, why?

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  • As the woman with the second most wins in NCAA softball history spoke to the media after the game, she was clear about her immediate reaction, and also the fact that Romero had to act immediately. Once the junior sensation hesitated, all was lost.

    Given all of this, she still stood 60 feet from tying the game with one out in the inning, and the ever-dependable, oh-so-clutch senior catcher Lauren Sweet stepping into the batter’s box. But the timidity couldn’t help but summon the tentative the Wolverines thought they’d shaken two innings earlier. Sweet bit on a change up, then struck out swinging, and Lindsay Montemarano continued Michigan’s early tendency to swing at the first pitch, rolling a grounder that Medina easily handled to shut the door on the Wolverines.

    In effect, Michigan may have shut the door on their chances to win Hutchins a second national championship. Only one Gator will throw a pitch from here on in, and it happens to be the woman who won softball’s Heisman Trophy. Lauren Haeger accounted for all three runs in Game 1, and now the woman who has thrown five shutouts in seven postseason appearances can silence the bats of the nation’s most productive offense.

    Looks like it’s game over. But, as Keith Jackson once said (and I continuously reference), when all is said and done, they’re just a bunch of teenagers out there. After all, Michigan had been studying Haeger’s style up until Aleshia Ocasio was announced as the Florida starter for Game 1. Maybe they’ve figured out a way to crack the foundation and blow her game wide open. Hutch hasn’t won 1,450 games without a reason. And her previous best team, the 2005 national champs, lost the first game of their final series before winning two straight against UCLA.

    Two teams with 59 wins. One will reach 60. For Michigan to reach 61, they have to regain the aggressiveness that got them to the grand stage. It’s time to let go of anything tentative.

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    Written by GBMWolverine Writer — Chris Hill

    Go Blue — Wear Maize!