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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Florida State gets hot in fifth inning to force game three

Ruby Wallau/Daily
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By Jake Lourim, Summer Managing Sports Editor
Published May 23, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State made Thursday’s Super Regional opener easy on the Michigan softball team. But in a best-of-three series, the Seminoles weren’t giving away anything else.

With three quick home runs in the fifth inning, Florida State opened up a 5-0 lead and never let up, winning 6-0 to force a winner-take-all game three later Friday night.

After pitching 4.1 innings of scoreless relief Thursday, freshman right-hander Megan Betsa got the start for the Wolverines in game two. She kept rolling, retiring 11 straight after giving up a walk and single in the first three hitters. Florida State got the bat on the ball, hitting five flyouts in four innings and one to the warning track, but Betsa kept the Seminoles at bay for more than half the game.

Then, Florida State started to expose her. When she left a couple of pitches up in the zone during her fourth full time through the lineup of the weekend, the Seminoles capitalized.

With a runner at first and one out in the fifth, No. 8 hitter Celeste Gomez hammered a two-run bomb to left field. Right fielder Alex Kossoff followed with a single, and shortstop Maddie O’Brien — the nation’s leader in slugging percentage — blasted a 2-1 pitch from Betsa to right.

Center fielder Courtney Senas added the final dagger with a solo shot just out of sophomore left fielder Sierra Lawrence’s reach. After a strong start, Betsa couldn’t match zeroes with Florida State right-hander Lacey Waldrop for long enough.

Following one of her worst starts of the season the night before, Waldrop was on top of her game. She also allowed two base runners in the first three hitters of the first inning, but she induced lineouts from senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard and sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence to strand them at second and third.

After that inning, Betsa and Waldrop settled into a pitchers’ duel for most of the afternoon, with Waldrop showing off the arsenal that earned her a sub-1.00 earned-run average heading into the series.

She retired 13 of the next 14 hitters before giving up back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth. A sharp liner from senior outfielder Nicole Sappingfield right at first base ended the threat.

With the shutout intact, the Seminoles extended their lead to 6-0 with another solo shot by first baseman Victoria East. That brought in junior right-hander Sara Driesenga with one out for her second appearance of the NCAA Tournament.

Driesenga ended the top of the sixth with a strikeout and groundout, bringing up the heart of Michigan’s order in a six-run game. But the Wolverines couldn’t put anything together after Romero led off the inning with a flyout to left.

Driesenga then sent down the top of Florida State’s lineup 1-2-3 with two strikeouts and a groundout, but Michigan again couldn’t get anything going off Waldrop in the seventh.

They now have another chance, this time with a Women’s College World Series berth on the line.