June 4, 2016
OKLAHOMA CITY — In facing No. 3-seeded Oklahoma just 20 minutes north of its comfortable campus in Norman, Michigan needed to be darn-near perfect on Saturday night.
It wasn’t. And now things get complicated.
Behind an up-an-down pitching performance by starter Megan Betsa, the No. 2-seeded Wolverines fell 7-5 to the Sooners at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The loss was Michigan’s first in the double-elimination Women’s College World Series.
Now the Wolverines (52-6) have no room for error in their hunt to return to the WCWS championship round. U-M will face No. 7 Florida State (54-9) on Saturday at 1 p.m. back at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in an elimination game.
If they survive, the Wolverines will then turn around and immediately face No. 4 Auburn in the WCWS semifinals at 6 p.m.
Florida State stayed alive in the tournament by beating No. 14 UCLA, 8-4, in a elimination game earlier on Saturday.
While Michigan will face a quick turnaround for the afternoon matchup, Florida State spent Saturday night at the hotel as the Wolverines worked under the lights in Oklahoma City.
The evening started as a major trial for Betsa, who allowed three-run innings. The junior settled a bit, but couldn’t find a rhythm and was tagged with four additional runs through the night.
Betsa (28-4) ended the night with seven runs allowed (five earned) on six hits and six walks. She struck out seven.
The Wolverines’ offense, meanwhile, — the nation’s best with an average of over eight runs per game — couldn’t manage the same against Oklahoma star pitch Paige Parker (35-3).
Michigan picked up a pair of RBI singles by Aidan Falk and Lidsay Montemarano in the seventh inning to threaten, but couldn’t finish the job. Abby Ramirez grounded out with two runners on for the final out.
Parker allowed 12 hits and five runs, but it was Oklahoma who capitalized on more timely hitting and better base running.
Michigan, meanwhile, was caught looking on four strikeouts.
The Sooners (54-7) won their 29th straight game win the victory. They’ll play the winner of an afternoon elimination game between LSU-Georgia on Sunday.
The Sooners’ win also awarded Sydney Romero some bragging rights over her sister, Michigan star Sierra Romero, the national player of the year. Sydney Romero, the younger of the two, not only earned the win, but also connected on a solo home run.
It marked the ninth homer of the freshman’s career, leaving her only 73 behind her three-time All-American sister.
Michigan couldn’t generate such power, other than a fourth-run burst.
Falk sliced her seventh home run of the season over the right-field foul pole to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The Wolverines looked for more. The bottom of the lineup helped load the bases on a double by Amanda Vargas and walk by Abby Ramirez before Sierra Lawrence added an infield single.
Up came Sierra Romero with the bases loaded and a crowd of 8,964 stirring. The game was going by the script, pitting the two talented sisters against each other.
Romero drew a full count before taking a mighty swing. Only managing to tap a dribbler, she hauled down the first-base line as her sister charged from third. Sierra Romero beat the throw by a step to earn an RBI and cut the deficit to 4-3.
The play evened the score between the sister. Earlier in the night, Sydney Romero roped a home run to left, giving Oklahoma a 4-0 lead.
As the two Romero traded punches, their parents switched side. Mike and Melissa Romero went back and forth between their seats with the Michigan parents and Oklahoma parents, pacing behind home plate between innings.
The Sooners jumped all over Betsa early, offering some deja-vu in OKC. A year ago, after throwing a complete-game shutout to open the WCWS against Alabama, Betsa didn’t make it out of the first inning the following day against UCLA. She gave up three runs on three hits and was pulled after recording two outs.
Betsa hoped for a better start on Saturday. Instead, she plunked the leadoff hitter on the first pitch. After a bloop single but two runners on, Oklahoma All-American Shay Knighten poked a two-run singled up the middle.
Knighten scored soon after on a heads up dash from third base. As teammate Sydney Romero stole second, Knighten, who advanced to third on a Betsa wild pitch, cheated down the line and took home after a throwing error by Falk, U-M catcher, bounced low into second.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins didn’t give Betsa the quick hook this time, though.
Betsa remained in the game, but never found her form.
In the second inning, she put two runners on with a pair of walks. In the third, she gave up the home run to Sydney Romero and allowed another runner to reach third.
In the third, Sydney Romero tagged her home run to stretch the Sooners’ lead.
Then, though, Betsa eased into a groove. She retired eight straight batters after Romero’s blast.
A leadoff homer by Nicole Pendley in the sixth ended the streak.
Betsa found trouble again in the seventh. She loaded the bases and plated a sixth run of the night on a walk.
Betsa was replaced by Sara Driesenga, who allowed another run on an infield single.
Asked after the game if Betsa will start Sunday’s first game, Hutchins declined to answer and said both pitchers will probably be needed over the course of the day.
— Download the Michigan football on MLive app for iPhone and Android
— Download the Michigan basketball on MLive app for iPhone and Android
— Follow MLive’s Michigan coverage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
— Subscribe to “The Wolverine Beat” podcast on iTunes