Seven teams reached their destiny and earned a place in the
Women’s College World Series this weekend, but it seems the
Region VI Tournament in Ann Arbor is destined to never end. Rain
delays have slowed almost every game of the double-elimination
tournament. Top-seeded Michigan squandered an early scoring
opportunity and a phenomenal pitching effort before an Oregon State
walk-off home run forced a deciding game. Torrential rains and
lightning suspended that game until today.

After Oregon State knocked off Illinois-Chicago to narrow the
field to two teams, they were matched up against previously
unbeaten Michigan, who only needed to win one of two games to
advance. The Wolverines got off to a quick start with infield
singles by second baseman Tiffany Haas and center fielder Megan
Doe. After junior Nicole Motycka struck out, Oregon State pitcher
Monica Hoffman loaded the bases by hitting Wolverines’
shortstop Jessica Merchant with a pitch.

Michigan was unable to capitalize. When first baseman Jennifer
Olds came up, she reached first on a fielder’s choice as Haas
was thrown out at the plate. Catcher Monica Schock, who had sparked
rallies with several key hits throughout the tournament, flew out
to end the inning.

Wolverines’ coach Carol Hutchins was disappointed in her
squad’s inability to take advantage of their early success at
the plate.

“It hurt us,” Hutchins said. “Obviously we had
a chance to jump on them. You cannot underestimate the demeanor
that goes on in a game.”

The next six innings were a classic pitcher’s duel;
neither team could muster more than a few weak singles. Ritter gave
up only two hits in the game, striking out 10. In a game when
Hutchins did not have much to compliment, she praised
Ritter’s performance and gave her the start in the final game
as well.

“Through the first game she was pitching so well,”
Hutchins said. “We had to pitch another game. We’ll
pitch (Ritter) as long as she’ll hold out.”

Oregon State’s Hoffman settled down after her rocky start,
giving up only two hits once she escaped the first inning. After
pitching a complete game against Michigan the night before, and
toughing it out through five and two-thirds innings in their
victory over Illinois Chicago, she was undoubtedly tired, but
according to Hutchins, Michigan’s weak bats aided her in her
complete-game shutout.

“I did not think that we had good at-bats,” Hutchins
said. “I think Hoffman threw some great pitches when she
needed to, but I also think that we allowed her to play her game. I
think our offense let us down.”

Michigan third baseman Grace Leutele and Merchant connected on
near home runs in the second and fifth innings, respectively, but
both were just foul down the left field line.

Beavers’ catcher Lisa Allen reached first on a base hit to
the gap in right-center in the second, but Oregon State was down to
its last out before anyone got a solid piece of a Jennie Ritter
pitch. First baseman Vanessa Iapala broke the scoreless tie with a
game-ending home run over the center-field fence.

After Ritter had pitched so well for so long, a single slip-up
extended the double-elimination tournament one more game.

“It was a curveball,” Hutchins said. “But I
don’t think it had the best curve on it. (Ritter) has thrown
some great ones, but that wasn’t one of them.”

The tournament’s final game began with Oregon State taking
a one-run lead on a home run from the previously struggling Kelly
Peterson. Peterson had struck out twice against Ritter in the
previous game, but finally got her number in the top of the first
during final game.

After a single by Iapala, the game was stopped and postponed.
The game will be continued today at 11 a.m.

Michigan edged out Oregon State in a 3-2 thriller on Saturday
night when Tiffany Haas hit a three-run home run to erase a 2-0
deficit in the fifth inning. After the Wolverines’ maintained
a perfect tournament record with their come from behind victory
over his team on Saturday, Oregon State Coach Kirk Walker suspected
Michigan might have had the edge going into yesterday’s game.
But he feels today will be a different story.

“I think we came into this game today with Michigan having
the edge,” Walker said. “After we ended up pulling out
the first game, I think we’re kind of on even playing
ground.”

Hutchins neglected to give a prediction on the conclusion of the
championship game, leaving it to her players to decide the
outcome.

“We’ll find out,” Hutchins said. “How
they react is their destiny.”

The winner of today’s contest will join the other seven
regional champions in next weekend’s Women’s College
World Series at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The winning team will face Louisiana State at 11 a.m. on
Thursday.

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