After losing 12-4 to Washington Saturday afternoon, the Michigan softball team is one loss away from elimination.
The blowout loss sends the Wolverines (42-12-1 overall) to the loser’s bracket, now in need of three wins in two days to advance. With a loss in the nightcap against the winner of the game between Fresno State and Montana, they would be eliminated before the Super Regional for the first time since 2011.
For a fleeting moment, it appeared Michigan was primed to take the Region by the throat, as senior centerfielder Kelly Christner hit a leadoff home run to grab a quick 1-0 lead.
But that lead lasted barely five minutes and would never be reclaimed, as senior right-hander Megan Betsa allowed a leadoff home run of her own in the bottom half of the first to even the score. Four of the first five batters of the game knocked hits off Betsa, who was subsequently replaced by junior right-hander Tera Blanco after registering only one out.
“You know your pitchers, you know your players,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “And you know when they’re playing with confidence, when they’re swinging with confidence. It was our opinion she wasn’t. She’s better than that.”
From there, the rout was on. By the third inning, all nine Huskies starters had hits, eight of the nine starters had scored a run and the lead had been extended to seven runs.
Blanco tried to pull the Wolverines back into the game, smacking a three-run home run in the top of the fourth. But the deficit was too large to overcome, as Blanco and the Michigan defense struggled to keep the relentless Washington lineup at bay.
Washington finished the game off with a two-out three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to end the blowout, run-rule victory. The run-rule loss is the first such postseason loss for Michigan since a Super Regional loss against Baylor 10 years ago.
The Wolverines allowed 12 runs and 16 hits in the loss, both the highest such totals given up all season by a wide margin.
“Kudos to Washington. They were outstanding, and they were relentless,” Hutchins said. “They’re a fantastic team. We needed to be better in all aspects of our game to have a chance.”
Michigan scattered five hits over the seven-inning game, but simply couldn’t keep up with the red-hot Huskies lineup. Washington now has scored 55 runs in its last six games, and appears primed to advance to a Pac-12 rematch with Utah in the Super Regional.
Betsa — the game’s starter — threw just 20 pitches, and will presumably be ready to get the ball in the nightcap against the winner of Fresno State/Montana at 10pm ET.
If the Wolverines are able to beat either the Bulldogs or Grizzlies, they would get a rematch against the Huskies Sunday afternoon, needing to beat them twice in a row to advance to the Super Regional.