Ann Arbor — Michigan pitcher Megan Betsa knew something was not quite right from her pregame warm-up.
Betsa wasn’t her sharpest in the Wolverines’ first game of the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional, but buoyed by the team’s defense and two productive offensive innings, she remained resilient as Michigan defeated Missouri, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon.
The Wolverines are one win from returning to the College World Series, where they were national runner-up last season. They face Missouri Sunday at noon. A third game, if needed, is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Alumni Field.
“Megan really had a gutsy performance for us,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “It’s not always easy out there, and she just had to gut through inning after inning. Very proud of her.”
Betsa took a silver lining from the outing, in which she had six strikeouts and three walks. Three tough defensive plays in the seventh sealed the victory.
“I had a rough warm-up and my balls weren’t moving how they were moving all week in practice,” Betsa said. “I guess it’s good news Missouri still hasn’t seen me. They didn’t see me in March, and they didn’t see me today. It was just something I had to work through.”
In a 13-0 victory against Missouri in March, Betsa had seven strikeouts and allowed three hits in the five-inning game, but suggested that wasn’t a stellar outing. She entered this game leading the nation with 11.3 strikeouts per seven innings.
Tigers coach Ehren Earleywine was asked about Betsa’s comment that his team hasn’t really seen her yet.
“I would trust her,” Earleywine said. “She knows her stuff better than I do. I wasn’t enamored or disappointed, either one. I thought we kinda got what we thought we were going to get. But if she feels she’s better than that, then I’m sure she knows better than I do.”
Michigan second baseman Sierra Romero paid a visit to Betsa in the circle during the game to help get her settled.
“I’ve just played with her so long now I can read her like a book,” Romero said. “I can tell with the facial expression or how she walks back to the back of the circle. Sometimes she needs a reminder how good she is because I think sometimes she tries to do too much. I just remind (her), ‘You spin the ball, you’re good.’ She doesn’t need to try any harder. She’s a good pitcher, so she needs to make sure she remembers that.”
Betsa said she knew from the start of the game she would have to fight her way inning to inning. She said she went to her off-speed more.
Kirsten Mack, who homered off Betsa, said the goal was to get up early in the count.
“You don’t want to be left sitting on a change-up or having to see that change-up,” Mack said.
Hutchins said Betsa will learn from the experience on Saturday.
“Megan continues to grow every week, really,” Hutchins said. “She’s grown up a lot since she’s been here. She’s learned a lot. She’s worked so well with our pitching coach Jen Brundage. She really believes in what Jen has taught her.
“You don’t have to have your best stuff. If you have to have your best stuff all the time you wouldn’t pitch but 10-15 games a year. She believes she can get it done with what she’s got and if she just gives us her best effort, that’s always good enough.”
Looking for replay
Earleywine suggested college softball could benefit from replay review after a key call in the game that went against Missouri.
Regan Nash, on a television replay, appeared to beat out a throw from Michigan shortstop Abby Ramirez, who briefly bobbled the ball before throwing to first. Nash was called out. Missouri’s next batter, Kirsten Mack, then hit a home run to pull the Tigers within 5-3.
“Pretty big,” Earleywine said when asked how big the call was. “That’s not a two-out single, that’s a lead-off single for a kid who can really run. I thought it was a difference-maker. It’s unfortunate we don’t have instant replay in college softball.”
The 300 Club
Michigan’s Sierra Romero, one of three finalists for National Player of the Year and the three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, entered the game with 300 hits, 303 RBIs and 299 runs. She scored in the first inning for her 300th run to become the first player to hit the 300 mark in all three categories.