May 14, 2016
The Michigan softball team has owned the Big Ten regular season for almost a decade but, once again, the conference tournament title proved elusive.
No. 2 seed Minnesota (41-12) upset top-seeded Michigan (46-5), 4-3, in 10 innings in the Big Ten Tournament Championship early Sunday morning on a rain-delayed day at Penn State. It was the first Big Ten Tournament Championship to go to extra innings and ended Michigan’s 19-game winning streak.
Michigan, ranked No. 2 in the nation, committed four errors in the championship, including one on the final play when Danielle Parlich hit a chopper to short that was misplayed and Sydney Fabian scored for the walk-off win for No. 22 Minnesota.
Michigan has won nine straight Big Ten regular season titles. The Wolverines won the conference tournament championship last year – their first since 2006 – after there was a four-year hiatus in the tournament from 2009-12.
Minnesota, which didn’t play Michigan in the regular season, earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Michigan will almost surely get an at-large big and host a regional round next week.
Megan Betsa, the two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, received a no-decision for Michigan after allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts over nine innings. Sara Driesenga took the loss after allowing one unearned run on one hit with one strikeout while recording two outs.
Sara Groenewegen recorded the win after allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts.
Rain resulted in multiple delays Saturday and the championship didn’t start until after 9 p.m. Michigan struck first with a solo home run by Sierra Romero, the three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, in the first inning for a 1-0 lead and Minnesota tied the score in the bottom of the inning on a wild pitch. Both teams added a run in the third inning.
Michigan took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo home run by Tera Blanco but Minnesota tied the game in the bottom of the inning on a two-out single by Parlich. That score stood until the Golden Gophers broke through in the 10th inning.
The NCAA Tournament selection show will take place at 10 p.m. on Sunday on ESPNU. The 64 teams will be split into regionals of 16 four-team, double-elimination tournaments with each winner moving on to the super regionals.
Michigan advanced to the Big Ten Tournament title game with a 6-1 win over host Penn State earlier Saturday evening. The Wolverines jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning – highlighted by two-run home run by Blanco and a solo shot by Aidan Falk. Michigan out-hit Penn State 10-3 and Sierra Lawrence finished 3-for-3 with an RBI to lead the Wolverines.
Betsa started in the circle for Michigan and allowed one run on no hits and five walks with two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings. Driesenga earned the win in relief after tossing 4 1/3 shutout innings with three hits and one strikeout.