After a rocky beginning of the season, the Michigan softball team has reached the Women”s College World Series for the first time since 1998 by defeating South Florida yesterday in the regional final, 12-5.

Paul Wong
Michigan celebrates in a previous game against Western Michigan. The Wolverines are happy now that they”re headed to the Women”s College World Series<br><br>MARJORIE MARSHALL/Daily

“We”re thrilled the kids are very excited,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “I”ve always said, “It”s not about where you start, but where you finish.” (The win) is great for the program.”

Michigan was led by pitcher Marie Barda, who pitched 18.2 innings over the four games and did not allow a single run earned or otherwise. She picked up three of Michigan”s four wins at the regional.

“Marie Barda picked us up and carried us on her shoulders she was terrific,” Hutchins said.

Yesterday”s win was the Wolverines” second against the Bulls at the regional, but the championship victory came much easier than in their first meeting a four-hour, 13-inning marathon, which Michigan won 6-2. Barda pitched 8.1 scoreless innings in relief of fellow second-team all-Big Ten member Marissa Young.

The Wolverines also defeated Chattanooga and host, top-seededed Alabama en route to the WCWS berth.

The win gives the Wolverines the No. 4 seed in the WCWS and the opportunity to face fifth-seed Oklahoma on Thursday, May 24 in Oklahoma City.

If the Wolverines were to win the WCWS, it would become the first women”s team at Michigan to win a national championship.

Also advancing to the WCWS is Big Ten-rival Iowa, which clinched a berth by winning the regional it hosted.

“I think it is great for the Big Ten (to have two teams advance),” Hutchins said. “I called up (Iowa) coach Gayle (Blevins) yesterday to wish her luck.”

The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament and finished second to Michigan in the Big Ten regular season standings.

In Michigan”s last appearance in the WCWS in 1998, it went 1-2 with losses to Oklahoma State and Fresno State.

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