Sierra Romero stepped up to the plate in the first inning of Sunday’s game against Maryland with a runner on first and nobody out.
Hundreds of fans in the bleachers of Alumni Field held up cardboard cutouts of the senior second baseman. After four years as the cornerstone of the No. 2 Michigan softball team’s offense, Sunday was finally her senior day.
And Romero did not disappoint. She took the second pitch she saw to deep right-center field for a two-run homer, her first since April 3. It was the beginning of what would ultimately become an 8-0 victory for the Wolverines (15-2 Big Ten, 37-4 overall).
Junior right-hander Megan Betsa held the Terrapins (3-14, 11-35) in check throughout the game, striking out eight batters and allowing only one hit.
Betsa’s performance continued a recent streak of commanding opposing lineups. She pitched her fifth consecutive complete game and second straight one-hitter. In her two appearances against Maryland, she combined for 16 strikeouts. Still, Hutchins found areas for Betsa to improve.
“We need Megan to do her part,” Hutchins said. “I’d like to see her be ahead of the count a little better. She did struggle a little bit with that this weekend, and I expect she’s not always gonna be on her best game. I thought she got through it without her best game.”
While Betsa was mowing down Terrapins, Michigan’s lineup initially struggled to bring home runners in scoring position.
Through four innings, the Wolverines left six players stranded on the basepaths.
“I thought perhaps we were caught up in trying to kill (the ball),” Hutchins said. “I didn’t think we were in our process.”
Michigan tallied another run in the fourth after freshman designated player Faith Canfield ran home on an error by Maryland rightfielder Hannah Dewey, who mishandled a hit by senior center fielder Sierra Lawrence.
But it took until the fifth inning for Michigan’s offense to capitalize on its many baserunners. Senior right fielder Kelsey Susalla hit a leadoff double before advancing to third on a groundout. After a walk by sophomore infielder Amanda Vargas and a stolen base by Vargas’ pinch-runner, sophomore outfielder Nikki Wald, the Wolverines had runners on second and third for sophomore catcher Aidan Falk to drive in.
Falk took advantage of the situation, doubling to deep right field to score Susalla and Wald and extend Michigan’s lead to 5-0.
Later, the Wolverines scored two more runs on a double by Lawrence to increase their lead to seven.
In the bottom of the sixth, Susalla again led off with a double as Michigan loaded the bases for the second straight inning. Then Falk hit a walk-off single to deep left field — her third RBI of the game — to give the Wolverines the run-rule win.
Michigan tallied its fourth consecutive run-rule victory and is now on a 10-game winning streak.
“For things to happen, we have high goals,” Hutchins said. “We can’t be afraid of (opponents).”