U-M Splits Walk-Off Decisions to Get Runner-Up in B1G Tourney

May 11, 2014

Postgame Notes
• Wisconsin: Boxscore | Photo Gallery | Highlights video icon
• Minnesota: Boxscore | Photo Gallery | Highlights video icon

Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
Event: Big Ten Tournament (Semifinals/Final)
Score: #10 Michigan 4, Wisconsin 3; #15 Minnesota 3, #10 Michigan 2
Records: U-M (42-12), UW (34-18, 15-7 B1G), MINN (41-9, 16-6 B1G)
Next U-M Event: Sunday, May 11 -- NCAA Selection Show (ESPNU), 10 p.m.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- A two-out, seventh-inning walk-off single by Minnesota's Sam Macken handed a 3-2 loss to the No. 10-ranked University of Michigan softball team Saturday (May 10) in the Big Ten Championship game at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. It was a seventh-inning Michigan walk-off in the semifinals earlier in the day from senior Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield) against Wisconsin that carried Michigan to a 4-3 win and into the final game.

In the championship game, the matchup was extremely even, with each team picking up five hits and each team leaving six on base. It came down to the last inning when Minnesota leadoff hitter Erica Meyer walked. Pitcher Haylie Wagner (Orange, Calif./El Modena) got the next two hitters on a pop-out and strikeout. With the game knotted 2-2, Meyer stole second, and then moved to third on a wild pitch.

After an intentional walk to Tyler Walker, Macken fell behind 1-2 before sending a high chopper through the right side, and Meyer home with the winning run.

Through three innings, each side had only mustered one hit, and it looked like a pitcher's duel between Michigan starter Sara Driesenga (Hudsonville, Mich./Hudsonville) and Minnesota starter Sara Groenewegen was unfolding.

Driesenga needed only four pitches to get through the third inning, and had induced seven ground ball outs through three.

Both offenses did their damage in the fourth. Following a double from Blanchard and a Minnesota error that put sophomore Sierra Lawrence (Snellville, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian) on, junior Lauren Sweet (Corona, Calif./Santiago) drilled a Groenewegen offering into right field scoring both runners.

The Golden Gophers got both runs back in their half of the fourth on solo homers from Kaitlyn Richardson and Groenewegen.

Wagner replaced Driesenga in the fourth after the pair of long balls and got out of the inning. She pitched the final three and a third innings, yielding just two hits but walking four. The southpaw suffered the loss, dropping her record to 21-3.

Senior Lyndsay Doyle (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community) hit a two-out double in the seventh to put the potential winning run 120 feet from scoring. But Minnesota's Walker made a diving grab on a liner off the bat of senior Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco) to douse any rally. The defensive effort set the stage for Macken in the bottom half of the inning.

In the semifinal against Wisconsin, Michigan rallied from a one-run deficit in the seventh to advance, with Blanchard playing the hero for the second night in a row. Her grand slam against Illinois turned a tight game into a runaway in Friday's (May 9) quarterfinal.

The game was deadlocked at 2-2 after six innings. Wisconsin's leadoff hitter in the seventh, Chloe Miller, pounded a solo shot to deep center, giving Wisconsin a 3-2 lead. Starting pitcher Megan Betsa (McDonough, Ga./Union Grove) got the next three batters in order to stem the tide.

The Maize and Blue sent its top of the order up in the home half of the seventh. Doyle started with a line drive single to center. Sappingfield pounded a double off the wall in right that brought Doyle all the way around from first with the game's tying run. Wisconsin gave Romero nothing to hit and she walked on four straight pitches.

Blanchard initially showed bunt -- she leads Michigan with 12 sacrifice bunts -- and the Michigan baserunners caught the Wisconsin defense off-guard. Sappingfield and Romero both stole, and Sappingfield wound up 60 feet from home, representing the winning run.

With the sacrifice bunt option no longer needed, Blanchard popped a single into left field, scoring Sappingfield easily from third.

Through six innings, Michigan and Wisconsin traded two-run homers. Wisconsin drew first blood, with a two-run homer three batters into the game. Mary Massei, who typically bats leadoff for the Badgers, batted in the three hole and drove the first pitch she saw out of the park to give Wisconsin a 2-0 lead.

Then in the third, sophomore Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) launched a towering fly ball into the left field bleachers to even the score. U-M loaded the bases following Romero's 16th homer of the year but was not able to push another run across.

Betsa escaped a first-and-third jam in the fifth unscathed and then got some help from Romero in an identical situation in the sixth. Facing runners at the corners again, Wisconsin's Ashley Van Zeeland broke toward second looking to get in a pickle and score Michelle Mueller from third. Sweet threw down to Romero at second, and Romero chased Van Zeeland down, tagging her out before the runner from third could come home to score, preserving the 2-2 tie.

Sweet threw out two other would-be base stealers in the game. She was part of the reason Betsa held the Badgers down. The freshman hurler went the distance, yielding six hits. She struck out six and walked three and won her 16th game of the season.

Blanchard and Sappingfield each picked up two hits, highlighted by their run-scoring hits in the decisive seventh inning.

The Wolverines will await the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday (May 11) to determine where they will open play in the NCAA Tournament. The Selection Show will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 10 p.m. CDT.

Contact: Michael Kasiborski (mkasibor@umich.edu)

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