May 20, 2016
ANN ARBOR – One team finished as the national runner-up last year and is ranked No. 2 in the country.
The other started the season 0-11 and is No. 222 in the nation.
The difference between the two was obvious as Michigan (47-5) cruised to an 8-0 run-ruled, five inning win against Valparaiso (18-33) in a NCAA Tournament Regional opener Friday night in front of a sold out crowd at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor.
Megan Betsa (24-3), the two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, dominated the Crusaders while throwing a one-hitter. Betsa, who entered Friday’s game leading the nation in strikeouts per game at 11.5, walked one and struck out nine while facing just one batter over the minimum.
Michigan senior Sierra Romero, one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, finished 2-for-2 with a home run, walk and two RBIs. Her 301 career RBIs puts her alone in fourth place in NCAA history. Aidan Falk had a hit and drove in two in two runs.
Taylor Weissenhofer (10-13) took the loss after being charged with all eight runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. Ashlyn Montgomery entered with one out in the fifth but walked three and never recorded an out.
Michigan, which improved to 5-0 all-time against Valparaiso, will play at noon Saturday against Miami (Ohio), which defeated Notre Dame 3-2 in Friday’s first game of the double-elimination Regional.
Romero got the scoring started with a solo home run to right center field – her team-leading 18th blast of the season – in the first inning that was initially ruled a triple before being changed by the umpires.
In the second inning, Kelly Christner dropped a one-out double inside the right field line and scored on a double to center by Lindsay Montemarano, who came home one batter later on an RBI single by Abby Ramirez for a 3-0 lead.
Betsa’s no-hitter was broken up in the fourth inning on a leadoff single tapped down the first base line by Taylor Lawson, but Romero turned a 4-3 double play to end the threat.
Michigan added five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on an RBI single by Romero, a two-run single by Falk and a pair of bases-loaded walks.
Last year Michigan hosted both a Regional and Super Regional before advancing to the World Series in Oklahoma and finishing as the national runner-up by losing to Florida 2-1 in a best-of-three series. The Women’s College World Series will be June 2-8 in Oklahoma City. Michigan’s lone National Championship was in 2005.
The winner of the Ann Arbor Regional will advance to a Super Regional next weekend against the winner of a Regional at Missouri that includes Missouri, Nebraska, Louisville and BYU.
Friday, May 20
Game 1 – #3 seed Miami (Ohio) 3, #2 seed Notre Dame 2
Game 2 – #1 seed Michigan 8, #4 seed Valparaiso 0
Saturday, May 21
Game 3 – Miami (Ohio) vs. Michigan, Noon
Game 4 – Notre Dame vs. Valparaiso, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 – Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 22
Game 6 – Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary) – Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 4:30 p.m.
• This is Michigan’s 24th NCAA Tournament appearance and the 20th time the Wolverines have hosted a Regional. The Wolverines, who have appeared in the NCAA Tournament every year since 1995, improved to 62-18 all-time at Alumni Field in the tournament.
• Four of Michigan’s five losses this season are by one run with the lone exception being an 8-0 run-ruled loss to defending national champion and top-ranked Florida on Feb. 13.
• Valparaiso, which started the season 0-11, was the No. 6 seed in the Horizon League Championship but went 4-0 last weekend to win the title with an extra-innings walk-off win over Wright State.
• This marks Valparaiso’s third NCAA Tournament appearance. The Crusaders have been in the same Regional as Michigan each time.