Big 10

Michigan softball handles Miami (Ohio), eyes another NCAA Regional championship

May 21, 2016

ANN ARBOR — Over 2,500 fans once again showed up at Alumni Field. Megan Betsa once again dominated from the circle. And Michigan softball once again rolled to a victory.

Now the Wolverines will go for an NCAA Regional Championship.

Once again.

On Saturday, No. 2-ranked Michigan (48-5) dismissed Miami (Ohio), 6-0, in the winner’s bracket of the four-team, double-elimination NCAA Tournament Ann Arbor Regional.

The Wolverines are now one win away from claiming the 18th regional title in program history. They’ll return to Alumni Field on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matchup (TV: BTN) against the second-seeded Notre Dame.

With a win, U-M will advance to the NCAA Super Regional. With a loss, the Wolverines will have a second chance to advance in an afternoon rematch at 4:30 p.m.

Michigan is 17-1 at home this season this season. The meeting will mark the first between U-M and Notre Dame since 2008. the Wolverines hold a 17-4 lead in the all-time series.

Coming off a one-hit, one-walk, nine-strikeout showing in a win over Valparasio on Friday night, Betsa (25-3) made a second straight start for the Wolverines on Saturday.

It was more of the same.

The junior pitcher allowed one hit and no walks in five innings, striking out six before being pulled with a 6-0 lead, perhaps to be rested for a third straight start on Sunday.

While Betsa was stellar throughout, it took some time for support to come.

The Wolverines’ potent offense was hindered by questionable swings and perhaps some timidity through the early goings. In the bottom of the third, U-M coach Carol Hutchins gathered the team, asking for some free-swinging and looser play.

That would ultimately come on RBI hits by Sierra Lawrence, Aidan Falk, Sierra Romero and Kelly Christner.

One inning after Hutchins called the team together, Michigan’s first hit came on a leadoff bunt single by Christner to start the fourth. Finding a spark, the Wolverines loaded the bases for Lawrence, one of the top hitters in the country. The senior delivered a bounding single over the shortstop to drive in two runs.

Michigan looked poised to break the game open. That would have to wait, though. The bases were left loaded on a fielder’s choice from Tera Blanco and a strikeout by Kelsey Susalla.

A four-run sixth inning finally gave the Wolverines the separation they were looking for.

With two runners on and one out, the RedHawks opted to pitch to Romero, a leading candidate for national player of the year, and paid the price. The senior blistered an RBI single down the third-base line to score Abby Ramirez.

Two batters later, Falks scored Lawrence and Romero with a two-RBI single through the right side.

Christner tacked on another RBI single to cap the inning.

That was more than enough for Betsa, who kept Miami batters uneasy with her changeup and rise ball before being replaced by Sara Driesenga, who closed out the final two innings. Betsa finished with 60 pitches throw, tossing 47 for strikes.

Upstart Miami, which entered as the MAC champion with a 35-21 overall record, entered Saturday following an upset win over No. 23 Notre Dame the night before.

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