No. 1 seed against the No. 2 seed.
Big Ten Pitcher of the Year against the Big Ten Player of the Year.
2001 Big Ten Coach of the Year against the 2002 Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Michigan against Ohio State.
For the fourth time this season the Maize and Blue faced the Scarlet and Gray at Alumni Field. And for a fourth time, the Wolverines sent the Buckeyes packing with a loss. This time with the scoreboard reading 2-1.
But Saturday was much different from the teams’ previous meetings. With the Big Ten Tournament title on the line, there were no sloppy errors costing a team the game like the mistakes did the Buckeyes in their first meeting this year. There were no offensive surges like the Wolverines saw in their other two victories – including a 5-0 win on Friday.
In the final game of what was “the toughest (Big Ten) Tournament to date,” according to Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, it was fitting that the only three runs were scored in the beginning of the game, as both teams relied on their defenses to win the title.
Michigan – which played the role of the visiting team Saturday – began its offensive attack in the first inning with a Meghan Doe single. Catcher Monica Schock added another single to advance Doe to third and Schock proceeded to steal second to give Michigan runners in scoring position with two outs. Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Marissa Young walked, bringing up Melinda Moulden, who already had a game-winning hit in Thursday’s 4-3 victory over Penn State.
Moulden did not disappoint when given the same opportunity in the title game. Her two-RBI single to left field provided all the runs Michigan would need to clinch the conference title.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates to get on base I would have never gotten up that inning, so give credit to them for getting on base,” Moulden said.
Ohio State’s only score came on a Stacy Roth RBI-single, knocking in second baseman Jennifer Link in the bottom frame. But after the inning Young went to work, allowing just two hits with just one runner reaching second base.
“Marissa got stronger as the game went on,” Ohio State coach and Big Ten Coach of the Year Linda Kalafatis said. “It’s fair to say that she probably wasn’t on her game at the beginning, and she did a very nice job of stepping up like a leader should.”
Young held Ohio State’s Big Ten Player of the Year Wendy Allen and Kristine Himes – the Buckeyes’ home run leader – to a combined 0-for-4 hitting.
This victory was special because it was the first time for this senior class that the Wolverines won both the regular season and tournament titles.
“I challenged the seniors before this weekend,” Hutchins said. “Their class had won both this conference and this tournament, but they had never done both (in the same season). So I am very proud of them. They are our leaders.”
Home, sweet home
Michigan will open its postseason play Thursday at Alumni Field against Canisius. The Wolverines are the No. 2 seed in the sixth region of the NCAA Tournament – there are eight regions overall. The winner of region six will advance to the Women’s College World Series.
No. 1 seed: Washington
43-16, No. 4 in Pacific region
No. 2 seed: Michigan
46-9, Big Ten champion
No. 3 seed: Ohio State
53-12, No. 2 in Mideast region
No. 4 seed: Central Michigan
38-14, MAC champion
No. 5 seed: Canisius
33-14, MAAC champion
No. 6 seed: Oakland
24-35-1, Mid-Continental champion