Wolverines top Fresno State in NCAA Regionals
Megan Betsa knows how to rebound.
Last week, the senior right-hander gave up three runs in a seventh-inning collapse during the Big Ten Tournament — a shocking turn for one of the country’s best pitchers.
Friday’s contest against Fresno State in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament's Seattle Regional had the potential to provide a similar twist for Betsa. With a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning, she walked the first batter and threw three consecutive balls to the next Bulldog.
But Betsa bounced back thanks to two key pitch-types — a microcosm of her performance the entire evening — to retire the final three batters and lead the Michigan softball team (42-11-1 overall, 1-0 postseason) to a 3-1 victory over Fresno State (34-22, 0-1).
“My (rise-ball) and changeup were working really well,” Betsa said. “It was nice to see my rise ball back jumping like it normally does. I was pleased with that.”
Though the Wolverines' offense struggled — Michigan collected just four hits — it garnered key at-bats at opportune times with runners in scoring position.
Junior right fielder Aidan Falk was the epitome of that timeliness. She gave the Wolverines a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, pulling a base-knock with the bases loaded to score two in the fifth inning.
"I was just thinking 'see the back of the ball, hit the ball of the ball,' ” Falk said. “I was praying that it would drop in."
Bulldog pitcher Kamalani Dung experienced control issues throughout the game, including walking the bases loaded in the second inning. And just as Falk did to give Michigan its final lead, sophomore left fielder Natalie Peters capitalized with a single that plated the Wolverines’ first run of the postseason.
Fresno State wouldn't roll over, however.
With Bulldogs on the corners in the fifth inning, Betsa couldn’t capture the magic that helped her manuever through other jams. Thanks to aggressive baserunning on a pop-fly, Fresno State tied the game at 1, as sophomore second baseman Faith Canfield was unable to muster a strong throw to home after making the catch in shallow right field.
But Betsa then escaped the Bulldogs’ remaining chance to pile on with a strikeout that ended the frame.
With the victory, the Wolverines will play either Washington or Montana Saturday at 5 p.m. EST for a trip to the regional finals.
Regardless of the opponent, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins hopes the Wolverines can improve on Friday’s four-hit effort by relaxing at the plate.
“I'd like to see them a little looser and free swinging,” Hutchins said. “I thought we were a little tight, which probably had a lot to do with opening night. I'd like to see us go up there and swing free.”