Softball explodes in seventh to complete rout, sweep

Luna Anna-Archey
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By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 13, 2014

EAST LANSING — All weekend, it seemed the Michigan softball team had held back. Two runs in one inning, one run the next. The result was two mercy victories, but the runs never poured on.

Until the seventh inning of the final game — the last chance to erase all doubt.

In that frame, the Wolverines (12-0 Big Ten, 33-6 overall) scored 10 runs and hit three home runs, finishing off a 14-0 victory at Michigan State (2-12, 9-28) for their 19th straight win.

The bats had been fairly sluggish in the first six innings Sunday, managing just three runs on six hits. Sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero went 1-for-3, and sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence’s three-run homer in the third inning stood as the team’s only earned runs.

Four innings later, it was Lawrence who got the ball rolling once again, and it didn’t stop rolling until Michigan State had nothing left.

“Our hits were feeding off each other, we were feeding off each other’s energy,” Lawrence said. “It was a lot of fun.”

After Lawrence’s RBI single, junior catcher Lauren Sweet and freshman third baseman Lindsay Montemarano hit back-to-back home runs. Romero followed four batters later with a two-run single.

Then, with the bases loaded and the game long since decided, junior right-handed pitcher Sara Driesenga stepped up for her 21st at-bat of the season. She drilled a grand slam to right-center field, adding insult to injury.

“They were all loosened up and swinging well,” Hutchins said. “It’s good to see we know the game is seven innings, not five. … We weren’t in it the whole game — early in the game, I didn’t think we were.”

In one inning, the series finale had gone from competitive pitcher’s duel to blowout. The Wolverines won the series by a total score of 31-1 — and it wasn’t their most lopsided Big Ten series of the season.

After the game, Hutchins was pleased with the seventh-inning outburst because Michigan played a complete game, which hasn’t happened much in the past month.

While the bats took time to get going, freshman right-hander Megan Betsa kept the lead comfortable with a six-inning, four-hit shutout.

“I don’t think I had my best performance today, but it’s giving the best that I have, and that’s what I did,” Betsa said. “My defense was there to work behind me.”

For the second straight weekend, the freshman got the nod in the series finale. She scattered seven baserunners over six shutout innings, lowering her season earned-run average to 1.89.

Betsa did, however, struggle early for the third straight weekend. After retiring the first two batters, she gave up a single to Michigan State third baseman Sara Gutknecht and walked designated player Stephanie Sanders to bring Hutchins out to the circle.

“She looks like she tries too hard, or maybe she gets nervous that the hitter is going to hit it, I don’t know,” Hutchins said. “But it’s not sharp. Her change-up is her best pitch, and it bounces in too often for me.”

But after that, she struck out catcher Lindsey Besson and retired nine of the next 10 as well, finishing with a six-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth inning.

Betsa negated Michigan State’s strong defense and pitching early in the game. Senior outfielder Nicole Sappingfield was thrown out at home in the first, and senior designated player Taylor Hasselbach was robbed of a home run at the right-field wall in the second. The Wolverines let Michigan State hang around and play all seven innings for the first time of the weekend.

But in the seventh, the Wolverines kept piling on, leaving no doubt.