Bloomington, Ind. — As the rain started to pour harder in Bloomington, Indiana, the chants of “Go Blue” from the Michigan faithful at Andy Mohr Field grew louder.
The energy on the Michigan side started to rise as sophomore infielder Lou Allan doubled in a run in the top of the fifth inning, pounding her chest and hyping up the Wolverine dugout as she reached second base.
Allan’s hit along with sophomore ace Meghan Beaubien’s outstanding effort in the circle proved to be the final piece in Michigan’s championship puzzle as the top-seeded Wolverines (43-11) won their first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2015 with a 3-2 win over No. 3 Minnesota (41-12).
“(Lou Allan) was huge,” junior third baseman Madison Uden said. “We’re always looking for her to get a nice hit, even put the ball in play hard. She’s been doing that a lot in her pinch at-bats and I knew she was going to get the job done, you just get that gut feeling. That was incredible.”
Minnesota completed its semifinal win over No. 2 Northwestern, a 4-0 Minnesota victory, roughly 35 minutes before the beginning of the championship.
After Minnesota ace and 2019 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Amber Fiser pitched a complete game, the Golden Gophers turned to Sydney Smith to start Saturday’s championship.
Michigan struggled through the first three innings but broke through in the fourth when Uden doubled to left field to drive in senior outfielder Natalie Peters who singled to lead off the inning.
Allan and Peters added runs batted in during the fifth inning to give Michigan and Beaubien a comfortable lead before the rain started to hit.
After a 22-minute rain delay halted action, Minnesota started to crawl back into the game. Hope Brandner homered to right field in the bottom of the sixth, one of the few hard hit balls off of Beaubien.
But as soon as Minnesota looked like it was going to tie it up, Michigan freshman outfielder Lexie Blair played hero again with a diving catch in left field to save a run and preserve the lead.
“I had a good jump to the ball,” Blair said. “It was tailing away from me so it was going to just take me to the ground so I just kind of dove. I was confident and knew it was going to get by. The energy was up. It was a game changer.”
Freshman pitcher Alex Storako, who was lifted after three batters in Saturday’s semifinal against Wisconsin, came on in relief in the sixth inning and shut the door on a Minnesota rally.
Michigan’s win broke Minnesota’s three-year streak of conference tournament titles and propelled the Wolverines into consideration for a potential regional host spot. Michigan completed the Big Ten double by winning the regular season and tournament title.
“It’s a huge honor,” Blair said. “We worked hard all season. We kind of struggled in the beginning but found ourselves as a team and what we’re about. Every day in practice you see everybody working hard and proving their roles. I think this has helped this become very successful.”
The Wolverines will find out their postseason fate on Sunday night at 9 p.m. during the NCAA Selection Show.
Big Ten tournament
At Bloomington, Indiana; all games on Big Ten Network
►No. 5 Wisconsin 7, No. 12 Iowa 4
►No. 9 Illinois 6, No. 8 Nebraska 4
►No. 7 Indiana 4, No. 10 Penn State 2
►No. 11 Purdue 4, No. 6 Rutgers 3
►Wisconsin 10, No. 4 Ohio State 1
►No. 1 Michigan 1, Illinois 0
►No. 2 Northwestern 2, Indiana 0
►No. 3 Minnesota 4, Purdue 3
►Semifinal: Michigan 8, Wisconsin 3
►Semifinal: Minnesota 4, Northwestern 0
►Championship: Michigan 3, Minnesota 2
Jared Rigdon is a freelance writer.