OKLAHOMA CITY — After dropping Game One last night, the No. 3 Michigan softball team is at it again in the Women’s College World Series Championship. Taking on No. 1 Florida, the Wolverines (21-2 Big Ten, 59-7 overall) look to rebound Tuesday night.
In addition to the usual postgame coverage, The Daily aims to bring you full coverage during the game. Follow along as our softball beat writers, Tyler Scott, Kevin Santo, Ted Janes and Chris Crowder bring you tweets from start to finish, in addition to written updates every half inning.
For the first time in 28 games, the Michigan softball team suffered a defeat. The No. 1 Florida Gators downed the Wolverines, 3-2, in seven innings. The tying run was left stranded on third base in the bottom of the seventh inning, but junior second baseman Sierra Romero never felt she had enough space to make it safely to home. A fielder’s choice, strikeout and groundout closed out the game.
Sophomore right-hander Megan Betsa exited the game early in her third consecutive start after giving up three earned runs to hits by Florida designated player Lauren Haeger. Senior left-hander Haylie Wagner replaced Betsa in the circle and pitched 3.1 hitless innings for the Wolverines, but Michigan fell short in its rally.
Down 1-0 in the best-of-three WCWS championship series, the Wolverines are in a win-or-go-home scenario as they set to square off again against the Gators, who are now looking to beat Michigan for the fourth time this year.
Wagner will get her first start in the WCWS in game two. She has yet to allow an earned run in Oklahoma City. Opposite Wagner in the circle will be Florida right-hander and NFCA player of the year Lauren Haeger, who hit a home run with 3 total RBI against the Wolverines last night. She has started all but one game for the Gators in the World Series.
Top of the first
Wagner got the first batter swinging for out number one, and followed up with a line out and groundout to get the Gators 1-2-3 in just 13 pitches. Michigan’s infield defense didn’t have to do much, but was solid in getting momentum back in Michigan’s favor.
Bottom of the first
A leadoff single from junior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence got things going right away for the Wolverines offense. Batting .348 with 14 home runs and one of Michigan’s fastest base runners, Lawrence has been a terrific leadoff batter all season. Florida’s shortstop threw to second following after junior second baseman Sierra Romero hit the ball into the infield, but Lawrence’s speed kept everyone safe.
Junior right-fielder Kelsey Susalla has been hot all series, and delivered a one-out single just far enough into the outfield to give Lawrence time to score from second — who just beat out the play at the plate. The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead on the play.
Top of the second
Sophomore third baseman Lindsay Montemarano couldn’t handle a hard-hit ball to third, giving Florida its first hit of the day. It was Haeger again who hit it. Other than once against Wagner yesterday, Haeger has been all over Michigan pitching, she’s 3-for-4 so far in the Series.
A second strikeout for Wagner and sac bunt gave Florida two outs before another hard-hit ball toward sophomore shortstop Abby Ramirez — she had two fielding errors in game one — but this time she made the diving stop. She had to throw off her feet, not in time for the out at first, but it kept Haeger from coming home.
Wagner gets Aubree Munro swinging for the third out of the inning. It’s not Wagner’s style to be racking up strikeouts, usually she’s much more of a pitch-to-contact hurler. So far half of her recorded outs have been strikeouts, all of them swinging.
Bottom of the second
Hitting just .189 before tonight’s game, Wagner singled to left field in the first pitch of her first at bat. right now she’s making plays on both sides of the ball. But three ensuing outs from the Wolverines left her stranded at first. She also has power, she hit a home run against Georgia in the Super Regionals and against Minnesota back in April.
Top of the third
Nice clean inning from the circle for Michigan again as Florida goes 1-2-3 once more. They’re making contact now, but struggling to put the ball out of reach of Wolverine fielders that had several players named to the Big Ten all-defensive team.
Bottom of the third
Romero went down swinging hard and fast at nearly every pitch she saw as Haeger earned her first strikeout of the night.
Montemarano went down without a hit as well, but Susalla kept Michigan alive in the inning by working an eight-pitch at bat for a walk to make room for senior catcher Lauren Sweet at the plate.
Sweet smacked a deep fly nearly to the warning track for Michigan’s third out and Susalla was left stranded at first. Sweet hits a lot of balls into play, but sometimes it takes her awhile to find open space.
Top of the fourth
Sweet came back with a clutch defensive play to catch a topped foul ball for the first out of the inning. However once again Haeger proved why she’s one of the best players in the country with another single to right-centerfield.
Following an ensuing Taylore Fuller single, defensive outs from Romero and Ramirez capped off the inning. A big change from earlier in the series, where the both members of the shortstop-second baseman tandem committed defensive miscues, Ramirez and Romero both looked zoned in with the glove.
Bottom of the fourth
Michigan went down 1-2-3. Haeger seemed to really be settling into a comfortable groove as she retired her second, third and fourth batters in a row to send the Wolverines back out onto the field for another defensive stint. Though Wagner has typically only gotten better as games progressed, it would be tough to hold off florida with just a one-run lead.
Top of the fifth
Ramirez keeps putting on a defensive clinic at shortstop. After a leadoff single for the Gators Ramirez turned a 6-3 double play after catching a line drive off the bat of Florida right fielder Justine McClean.
Sophomore right-fielder Kelly Christner secured the fly-out, and the superb pitching and defensive matchup that this second game has become continued.
Bottom of the fifth
After a Ramirez pop-up, Lawrence doubled to put a Michigan baserunner into scoring position for the first time in innings, but was out on a controversial double-play call where Florida third baseman fuller appeared to be obstructing the base path. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins immediately went to argue with the umpire, but the call stood.
Top of the sixth
Freshman first baseman Tera Blanco and Sweet both called to field a bunted ball with one out and Haeger coming up to bat. The miscommunication resulted in center fielder Kirsti Merrit safely reaching first. It was a rare defensive miscue for a pair of players who have worked so well in similar situations all year long.
A huge out came for the Wolverines when Haeger popped up into Romero’s glove for the second out. With just two full innings remaining it meant Wagner may not have to see the first-team all-American again if she managed her remaining outs well. Merrit stole second, but Ramirez snagged another line-out to end the threat.
Bottom of the sixth
Three up, three down for Michigan in the sixth again. Haeger stands strong despite the Wolverines’ dedication to swinging early in the pitch count — much in the way of Sweet, who grounded out to end the inning and is still looking for her first hit of the ballgame.
Top of the seventh
It was extremely fortuitous for Wagner to come to her last three outs of the day facing the six through eight batters in the gator lineup.
She got the first one, a popup back to the circle.
She got the second one, another swinging strikeout.
Wagner took the first chance she got to start and rode it all the way to Michigan’s first win in the WCWS championship. She got the last pinch-batter swinging on strikes to seal a 1-0 victory for the Wolverines. Wagner was lights out all-night, out-dueling her counterpart Haeger to force a third and final championship game.