World Series keeps home run balls in the family

Greg Echlin
Special to The Detroit News
Michigan's Sierra Lawrence makes a diving catch in center field during the sixth inning.

Oklahoma City — Think this would happen in the big leagues? The home run balls at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium during the Women's College World Series are retrieved and handed over to family members.

When Wolverines No. 3 hitter Kelly Christner opened the scoring with a solo home run over the right-field fence on Thursday night against Alabama, her parents, Randy and Julie Christner, were surprised at: 1. the ball being retrieved and given to them in the first place, and 2. how quickly it was handed over.

"Someone was handing us the ball and they're like, 'Yeah, this is the home run ball,' so we were all just looking at it," said Julie Christner.

It will remain in their possession with their daughter's blessing until after the Women's College World Series.

According to Darryl Quigley, who is one of four outfield ushers assigned to retrieve the home run balls, the practice has been ongoing for about seven or eight years. Quigley himself recovered the grand slam ball hit by Lauren Sweet in the fourth inning and gave it to Lauren's parents, Troy and Carol Sweet.

Quigley added that the fans who catch the home run balls are not left empty-handed.

"We give them a souvenir-type ball. It's the same ball that they're playing with. It's just different," Quigley said.

Is there any reluctance among the outfield fans to give up the ball?

"They all know the routine. They know where the ball's going. It's going to their family," Quigley said.

The Wolverines didn't hit any homers in Friday night's game against UCLA.

Parental multitasking

The parents of Megan Betsa, Howard Betsa and Chandra Duncan, watched Megan make her World Series debut with a complete game shutout over Alabama Thursday night, but missed Friday night's victory over UCLA. They returned to Georgia to attend the high school graduation of their son, Brandon Betsa.

They plan to return to Oklahoma City in time for UM's Sunday afternoon semifinal.

Friday night's game against UCLA wasn't the first time coach Carol Hutchins yanked Betsa early. Betsa was also lifted after two-thirds of an inning in the series-deciding second game of the super regional against Georgia in Ann Arbor. She re-entered in the seventh to record the final out.

Highs on mound and in stands

Haylie Wagner (23-2) picked up the win with 6-1/3 innings of relief, setting a season-high in relief work. She came out of the pen for six innings on Feb. 20 against Lipscomb before matching that in the super regional against the Bulldogs. Only Michigan and Central Florida had a pair of 20-game winners this year. Betsa has won 31 this season.

... The Friday evening crowd of 9,425 was the third-largest crowd of all time at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. In 2013, the Wolverines played in front of the largest when they defeated Arizona State, 2-0. Attendance for the Wolverines deciding national title game against UCLA in 2005 was 4,032; that was before the outfield seating capacity was expanded.

Greg Echlin is a freelance writer.