Instead of dropping on the far side of ASA Hall of Fame
Stadium’s fence for a home run like it would in
Stanford’s storybook endings, Cardinal second baseman Meghan
Sickler’s fly ball landed in Michigan left fielder Rebekah
Milian’s glove. It was, however, just what No. 7 Stanford
needed to knock No. 6 Michigan out of the eight-team Women’s
College World Series in Oklahoma City on Saturday.

As Milian caught the ball, Stanford pinch-runner Shoney Hixson
took off for home. Milian’s throw was almost perfect, but a
bad hop took Wolverines’ catcher Monica Schock off of the
base path. The slight misfortune ensured that Hixson would score,
gave Stanford a 5-4 victory and sent Michigan home from the double
elimination tournament.

“Rebekah Milian is a freshman, and I thought she made an
outstanding throw to the plate,” Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said. “It just took a bounce slightly away from
(Schock), which took her out of position to be able to block the
plate. (Hixson) really got home and made sure she got around the
tag. It was a great play, and it just didn’t happen for
us.”

It was Michigan’s second heartbreaking loss of the
tournament. The Wolverines were defeated 3-2 in a 13-inning contest
against No. 3 Louisiana State on Thursday. The game was a scoreless
tie until both teams scored twice in the twelfth inning. After
junior Jessica Merchant tripled to open the inning, third baseman
Grace Leutele hit a home run to give the Wolverines the advantage,
2-0. The Tigers countered with two unearned runs in the bottom of
the twelfth inning and won two Wolverines committed throwing errors
on the same play in the bottom of the thirteenth.

“It was a hard fought game for both,” Michigan
Junior Nicole Motycka said. “There is a lot of ‘coulda,
shoulda, woulda’ in a game like that, but there is nothing we
could do.”

Motycka pitched 11 and two-thirds scoreless innings in the game,
an incredible effort squandered errors in the 12th and 13th
innings.

That the Wolverines bounced back to compete with a team of
Stanford’s caliber was quite an achievement. Losing such a
close game against the Tigers was taxing on their morale.

“I can’t think of too many more devastating things
that can happen in a softball game,” Merchant said.

Hutchins was happy with her team’s ability to bounce back
after the shocking loss.

“I’m really proud of how we handled that,”
Hutchins said. “That was a very difficult loss. When you have
the game in your hand like that, you really have no one to blame
but yourselves. I really thought they handled themselves very
well.”

For the majority of the tournament, Michigan was performing at
its best, and question marks from the Big Ten and Regional
Tournaments were erased.

Merchant, one of the team’s leading hitters throughout the
regular season, went 1-for-3 in the Wolverines’ first-round
loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, and 2-for-12 in
the regional tournament. She bounced back in time for the World
Series, going 4-for-7 with a double and a triple. Merchant was more
relaxed this weekend, making for an easier time at the plate.

“I’ve never really felt bad at the plate,”
said Merchant of the Regional tournament. “(Oregon State
pitcher Monica Hoffman) got in my head a little. This weekend I
just tried to make the best situation for myself.”

Motycka was bounced from the opening game of the Big Ten
tournament against Michigan State after giving up five runs on five
hits but bounced back nicely in the Regional Tournament and the
World Series.

The appearance in the Women’s College World Series was
Michigan’s seventh and third in four seasons. Next spring
Merchant fully expects the team to contend for another trip to
Oklahoma City.

“I definitely think we have a chance (to return to the
Women’s College World Series) next spring,” Merchant
said. “We have a lot of people willing to step up. (Second
Baseman Tiffany Haas) was an All-American at second, (Grace
Leutele) is returning at third and (Rebekah Milian) is back in left
field.”

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