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Michigan blows out Bruins’ perfect record

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 6, 2014

If the Michigan softball team has learned anything from the past two days, it’s how to make adjustments.

After four of their games at the Louisville Slugger Invitational last weekend in California were rained out, the Wolverines scheduled a matchup against No. 4 UCLA (17-1) for Tuesday in addition to the already scheduled game on Wednesday.

After it dropped the first game to the Bruins in eight innings, 4-1, the fifth-ranked Wolverines were able to adapt to UCLA’s offense in order to come out victorious on Wednesday, 9-4. .

“(Tuesday) was a tough loss, but we put it behind us,” sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero told MGoBlue.com Wednesday. “I didn't have my best hitting game (Tuesday), so today was all about adjustments and putting the ball in play to get on base for my team.”

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said that the main difference between Tuesday and Wednesday was due to Romero.

“When Romo rolls, the rest of us follow suit,” Hutchins said. “She’s definitely our leader on the field. Our team’s confidence soars when Romo’s on her game.”

Romero only reached base once throughout the entire game on Tuesday, after she was walked.

After being shut out for the first six innings, sophomore utility player Kelsey Susalla led off the seventh with a double. Then, senior outfielder Brandi Virgil acted as a pinch runner and reached third on a sacrifice bunt. Michigan scored for the first time when pinch hitter senior Taylor Hasselbach hit one against the centerfield wall, allowing Virgil to run home to tie up the game 1-1.

The game went to an eighth inning after freshman right-handed pitcher Megan Betsa shut down the Bruins 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.

The Wolverines ultimately fell in the bottom of the eighth 4-1 when Michigan allowed a three-run, walk-off homer.

On Wednesday, Michigan returned to Easton Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. after making adjustments to its pitching staff. Junior left-handed pitcher Haylie Wagner started the game.

“We had one advantage over UCLA, and that was that they hadn’t seen our other pitchers,” said Hutchins. “We had thrown Betsa the whole game, so we had two pitchers they hadn’t seen.”

Michigan fell behind early on Wednesday after UCLA hit a solo home run at its second at-bat. Michigan didn’t start off until the third when Romero hit a two-run double that allowed freshman third baseman Lindsey Montemarano and senior outfielder Nicole Sappingfield to cross home plate. Senior outfielder Lyndsay Doyle also scored later in the inning when senior first baseman and catcher Caitlin Blanchard grounded out to first base.

Romero did it again in the fifth when she hit a three-run homer to give the Wolverines a 6-2 lead.

“I think the kids realized that we just needed to swing,” said Hutchins. “(On Wednesday) we were much more aggressive in our cuts, we swung earlier in the column, and we just swung to hit. We swung fearless.”

Junior catcher Lauren Sweet added another run from a double in the sixth. The Bruins tried to come back in the bottom of the sixth when they loaded the bases up, but junior right-handed pitcher Sara Driesenga came in to relieve Wagner. Driesenga gave up two runs initially before she struck out her next batter.

The Wolverines entered the seventh with a 7-4 lead before Blanchard hit a two-run homer to right field to ensure that Michigan win the game 9-4.

“Our kids really showed up to play against UCLA, but I don’t want them to be about the opponent,” Hutchins said. “I want them to recognize that we came to play our game and to be our best selves and that’s all I’m going to ask for.”