- Ruby Wallau/Daily
By Max Bultman, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 22, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Going into this weekend’s NCAA Super Regional, there were plenty of matchups for fans to be excited for — if only they had gotten to see them.
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Florida State right-handed pitcher Lacey Waldrop versus Michigan sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero was one, especially after both were named to the list of three finalists for NFCA Player of the Year. Romero vs. Florida State shortstop Maddie O’Brien, who leads the nation in RBI, was another. Even junior left-hander Haylie Wagner vs. Waldrop was a compelling pairing.
But with Waldrop and Wagner both pulled before the fourth inning and O’Brien and Romero walking a combined six times, the script was flipped early in game one of the best-of-three series.
Instead, the crowd at JoAnne Graf Field was treated to Jessica Burroughs versus Megan Betsa.
Both freshman pitchers out of Georgia and both contenders for National Freshman of the Year, the two filled in for their veteran starters in a wild game that ended in a 17-3 run-rule Michigan victory.
Betsa pitched 4.1 scoreless innings for the Wolverines in relief of Wagner to earn the win, striking out seven along the way, while Romero went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a stolen base.
After quick outs by senior outfielders Lyndsay Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield, the Wolverines got to Waldrop quickly in the top of the first. Romero reached on an infield single off Waldrop’s glove and came around to score after singles by senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard and sophomore left fielder Sierra Lawrence.
“Our goal was to see the ball,” Hutchins said. “We worked on it the last few days — just staying locked in and seeing the ball.”
Waldrop loaded the bases with a walk but induced a lineout from junior catcher Lauren Sweet to end the inning. Sweet’s lineout looked like a big missed opportunity at the time, with Waldrop giving up on average less than one base runner per inning this season.
The Seminoles looked poised to make the Wolverines pay for not tacking on more, as leadoff hitter Tiffani Brown reached second base on a throwing error by freshman third baseman Lindsay Montemarano. Sappingfield limited the damage, though, throwing out Brown at home. The throw came with no outs, and had Brown stayed at third, the Seminoles would have had two runners on base and O’Brien coming up.
Instead, Wagner intentionally walked O’Brien but allowed a run to score anyway on an RBI single by the next batter. She quickly recovered, striking out the next two Seminoles to prevent any further damage in the first.
Wagner didn’t last much longer, though, as Florida State tacked on two more runs on three singles. That’s when Betsa came on in relief, inducing a groundout to end the inning.
“Whether I start or whether I come in, it’s my job to give my team a chance to win,” Betsa said. “Haylie had my back all weekend last weekend, and Sara has had my back all year. That’s my job. We’re a pitching staff, and we pick each other up when we’re down.”
Looking to make up for a missed chance in the first inning, the Wolverines came out swinging in the third. Michigan’s first eight batters reached base successfully before Florida State even recorded an out. In fact, the Wolverines plated five runs before the first out, enough to chase Waldrop from the game.
The rally started with back-to-back walks to Sappingfield and Romero and an error that allowed Blanchard to reach and Sappingfield to score. Lawrence then singled to score Romero, which knotted the game at three.
Three runs off Waldrop is a fairly impressive feat on its own. She had only given up three earned runs once in the past month coming into Thursday. But Michigan was far from done, adding runs on singles by Sweet and pinch-hitter Kelly Christner to show Waldrop an early exit.
“We weren’t trying to put the ball over the fence,” Romero said. “We were looking for the gaps, and we found them.”
So in came Burroughs to try to stop the bleeding. For her part, Burroughs retired the first two batters she faced before a two-run single by Romero made it 8-3 in the third.
“We knew they were a scrappy team,” said Florida State coach Lonni Alameda. “We got to a point where we could save some arms and get after it tomorrow and be a little smarter about it.”
Michigan tacked on eight more runs in the sixth inning on two singles, two illegal pitches and a bases-loaded walk to put the Seminoles out of their misery in their worst loss — by both margin of defeat and runs allowed — in program history.