Back-to-back seventh-inning homers lift Michigan into Super Regionals over ASU

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By Jake Lourim, Summer Managing Sports Editor
Published May 18, 2014

Arizona State may have thought it was in the clear when right-hander Dallas Escobedo struck out Michigan sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero to end the sixth inning with a 1-2 fastball on the outside part of the plate.

But the Sun Devils had one more Sierra to worry about. And that Sierra made them pay.

Sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence and senior designated player Taylor Hasselbach hit back-to-back seventh-inning home runs to rally the Michigan softball team past Arizona State in an elimination game Sunday night, 5-4.

But the drama wasn’t over then. With two outs and the potential game-tying run on first, Arizona State catcher Amber Freeman smashed a liner to center field that looked like it would go over the wall for the game-winning home run. Instead, Michigan senior outfielder Lyndsay Doyle leapt at the wall and made the catch to end the game and the tournament.

When Romero struck out to end the sixth inning, the Wolverines’ hopes dimmed to one inning with the 4-5-6 hitters coming up. Senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard grounded out to shortstop, but Lawrence, who also went deep in the fifth, answered the call.

Then it was up to Hasselbach, who twice this weekend was left out of the lineup. In her return to the No. 6 spot, she hammered a solo shot to center field to give Michigan its first lead of the day.

The game was the seventh of a long weekend for both teams. Michigan played five games, while Arizona State played four, and both teams’ aces went over 300 pitches during the late game.

After the Wolverines got to Escobedo for two two-run homers in the first game of the day, Michigan got on the board with two more in the first inning of the second game. Blanchard and senior outfielders Lyndsay Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield loaded the bases with singles, and though Romero and Lawrence each struck out, Hasselbach and junior catcher Lauren Sweet drew bases-loaded walks.

Michigan tried to keep chipping away the rest of the game, putting a runner in scoring position for each of the first five innings. But the Wolverines left two on in the third and had two on and one out for Romero in the fourth before Romero grounded into a double play.

In the meantime, the Sun Devils put Michigan into a hole. They scored once in the first on a bobbled force play at second before turning to the power bats in the third. Center fielder Alix Johnson led off with a solo shot, and third baseman Haley Steele broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run homer three batters later. The Wolverines chipped away with Lawrence’s solo home run in the fifth, but they again stranded Hasselbach at second.

In the seventh, the Wolverines didn’t strand anyone, securing their spot in the super regionals.