The Michigan softball team bounced back in more than one way Saturday evening.
After struggling at the plate, the Wolverines notched more hits than in their first two regional games combined. They cranked out 10 hits, with at least one in every inning but the sixth.
Senior right-hander Megan Betsa recovered from her poor showing in the first inning against Washington to completely command the nightcap. Betsa tossed her third no-hitter of the season, marking the second time in history that Michigan has held an opponent to no hits during the NCAA tournament.
But most significant to the Wolverines’ postseason run, they stayed alive in the elimination game Saturday night, knocking Fresno State (35-24 overall) out of the Regional in a 4-0 shutout. Michigan (43-12-1) still faces an uphill battle — they will have to power past No. 6-seed Washington twice Sunday in order to advance to the Super Regional against 11th-seed Utah.
The Wolverines took advantage of an early lead that was then sustained by Betsa’s dominance in the circle.
The ace threw 13 strikeouts over seven innings of work, matching her total from Friday night and marking the 21st time she has tossed double-digit Ks this season. In the game she also surpassed 400 strikeouts on the season, becoming the second Michigan pitcher with that accomplishment to her name.
Junior right-fielder Aidan Falk — who has been key to Michigan’s offensive efforts all weekend — took on a crucial role once again. Falk drove in three of the Wolverines’ four runs with two hits.
The Wolverines jumped to a quick lead in the first inning when, with two outs on the board, Falk blasted a two-run shot, marking her seventh home run of the season.
“In an elimination game, it’s always great to go ahead early, because there’s a lot at stake, and (Falk) put the other team on their heels,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “She is swinging with confidence … she did a nice job tonight.”
The next inning, senior centerfielder Kelly Christner widened the gap, punching an RBI single up the middle that increased Michigan’s lead to 3-0. Falk had a presence again in the third frame, smacking an RBI double to the right-center wall.
Though the Wolverines had hits in six of the seven innings, they were unable to plate runners after the third inning. Michigan stranded eight runners on the day, and four after the third frame.
Washington — who run-ruled the Wolverines Saturday afternoon — attacked the ball when they had runners in scoring position. The Huskies’ walk-off three-run home run was clear proof of that. As Michigan must defeat Washington twice to stay alive Sunday, it will be more important than ever that the Wolverines take advantage of every base runner and perform under pressure. Otherwise, Michigan will see its season end before the Super Regionals for the first time since 2011.