One week ago yesterday, the Michigan softball team bowed out to Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Today, it will play No. 6 Washington in hopes of moving one large step closer to a Super Regional bid.
Friday night, the Wolverines dispatched Fresno State behind a 13-strikeout performance from senior right-hander Megan Betsa.
Junior right-fielder Aidan Falk broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, with a two-out, two- strike, two-run single down the right field line, grabbing Michigan a lead it would keep.
But Saturday's matchup brings a much taller task.
The Huskies — the Regional host — come in as the presumptive favorite to advance to a Super Regional next weekend. Washington defeated Montana in its Regional opener Friday night with ease, winning 8-0 in five innings.
The Huskies traversed a difficult Pac-12 conference this season — which has four teams hosting a regional this weekend — with a 16-8 conference record. Of note to the Wolverines, Washington went 11-0 this season against Big Ten foes, including two statement wins over Big Ten Champion Minnesota.
The Huskies are led by a balanced lineup, with five hitters hitting at least .338 on the year, and three with double-digit home run totals.
Right-hander Taran Alvelo, fresh off her first career no-hitter Friday night, will likely get the start in the circle for Washington. Alvelo boasts a 29-6 record on the season.
As for Michigan, it will likely be Betsa yet again in the circle, though it would not be surprising to see junior right-hander Tera Blanco in some capacity if the game gets lopsided one way or another, as Betsa will likely be counted upon later in the day and/or tomorrow.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins is hoping to see a remedy to an offense she deemed “a little tight” in the Regional opener. The Wolverines managed just four hits Friday, and will be facing stiffer competition in Alvelo Saturday.
A win would put Michigan on the brink of advancing to a Super Regional for the sixth consecutive season. In this double-elimination tournament, a loss would not eliminate the Wolverines, though it would require them to win out in order to advance. In the event of a loss, Michigan would play a second game later in the day against the winner of Montana/Fresno State in an elimination game. The last time the Wolverines failed to advance past the Regional round was 2011.
As the region host, the game will be played in front of Washington’s home fans in Seattle. It can be seen on ESPN at 5pm ET.