OKLAHOMA CITY — After its most successful season in four years, after coming from behind in seven of its 17 conference wins, one swing of the bat left the Michigan’s softball team’s latest comeback just short.
Down 6-3 heading into the final three innings, Michigan rallied back to cut the deficit to one. An inning later, Georgia’s Brianna Hesson sent a ball to right field and assured Michigan would be traveling back to Ann Arbor without a second title, downing the Wolverines, 7-5.
The Michigan team that gave its program the first World Series appearance since their magical 2005 national championship run was eliminated..
“We got behind … it’s hard to beat a team when you’re down,” Hutchins said. “Then we got right back up … We had a lot of well-hit balls that didn’t find their way, and it’s a different game if they do. But I thought that our kids battled back and that is all you can ask for.”
Michigan won its 13th Big Ten title and made the program’s ninth World Series appearance. For a team that jumped on its opportunities all year, coming from behind in seven of the team’s 17 conference wins, it was their missed opportunity that sent them back to Ann Arbor.
Down 6-5 in the sixth inning senior Teddi Ewing hit a line drive down the line with a runner on first. Senior pinch runner Megan Gregory tried to go from first to third but was gunned down by left fielder Megan Wiggins to end the inning and the threat.
“I read the ball, I don’t think I even looked at Hutch,” Gregory said. “Do I wish I could take it back for Teddi Ewing and for the other teammates and my coach? Yes, but I went for it … They made a great play on it and I can’t take it back.”
Michigan had a glimmer of hope in the seventh when a ball hit by freshman Amanda Chidester found its way to the outfield grass. One hitter later, junior Roya St. Clair hit a slow grounder and it was all over.
Gregory is one of two seniors who made her final appearance in a Wolverine jersey tonight. The other, Teddi Ewing, leaves a hole at shortstop that hasn’t been there in four years.
“Unless you win the last game you can never feel so good about it,” Hutchins said. “We have a lot to reflect on, a lot to build on and I’m really proud of our group this year. I thought they were once of the best softball team’s I’ve ever had.”
Hutchins doesn’t want to think about next year yet. But with eight-of-nine starters coming back it is no doubt Michigan will reload.
Whether they will have the grit to get back to Oklahoma City is yet to be determined.