It was a dark day in Iowa City for Michigan’s softball team on Friday, as it fell for the third time this season to rival Michigan State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. The loss dashed any hopes the Wolverines had at advancing to yesterday’s championship game. Apart from its final loss to the Spartans, Michigan (13-5 Big Ten, 40-14 overall) lost its first game of the tournament to Northwestern 8-6 in extra innings, but defeated Minnesota in game two, 3-2. This was the first time the Wolverines have appeared in the tournament and not advanced to the final round of competition.

Though Michigan out-hit the Spartans nine to four, the Wolverines had trouble capitalizing on their opportunities. In contrast, Michigan State was able to make the most of its few hits. The Spartans scored their only two runs in the first inning, when Michigan State’s Natalie Furrow hit a double, bringing Sandy Lewis home. Furrow then advanced to third when leftfielder Melinda Moulden bobbled the ball, and scored when Janette Hurtado hit a single to left field.

Although Michigan spotted the Spartans two runs, the Wolverines attempted to fight back. Michigan outfielder Meghan Doe went 4-4, while others including freshman Tiffany Haas, sophomore Nicole Motycka and junior Monica Schock got hits at critical points.

In the third inning, Motycka came in to replace starting pitcher Marissa Young, and kept the Spartans from scoring for the remaining innings. Her efforts were in vain, however, and the Wolverines spent the day playing an unsuccessful game of catch-up.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, though not thrilled with the weekend’s results, expressed admiration for her intrepid Wolverines.

“They were all great games,” she said. “We didn’t focus on the negative, or play badly; we just didn’t come out on the winning end.”

Instead of focusing on all of the negative factors from this weekend, Hutchins chose to help her team move past a disappointing weekend and focus on the upcoming NCAA Regional Tournament at Alumni Field.

“We’re a pretty tired team right now,” Hutchins said. “It’s been an intense couple of weeks. We’re going to go back to fundamentals, and try to get to a good place mentally. The girls need to give up their fears, and it’s my job to help them to do that.”

On a higher note, several Wolverines were honored as All-Big Ten performers. Young and Schock received first-team honors. Sophomore shortstop Jessica Merchant was named to the second team, while Doe and Motycka earned third-team honors. Young was also awarded Big Ten Player of the Year, chosen by a vote including every Big Ten coach.

“Marissa certainly got my vote,” Hutchins said. “She contributed in every aspect of play, and it’s a tremendous honor for her.”

Hutchins is looking forward to the Regional Championships, which begin later this week. Michigan will face Western Michigan in the first round on Thursday afternoon at Alumni Field.

“We’re very excited about Ann Arbor hosting one of the regional sites,” she said.

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