'Outmatched': Michigan softball downed by Washington outburst in NCAA Regional decider

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
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The Michigan softball team, one win from reaching the NCAA Super Regionals, were overpowered by Washington, which relied on strong pitching throughout and then hot bats in the second, to sweep the Wolverines.

FILE — Washington took the lead in the first inning on a solo home run off Meghan Beaubien, pictured here in a game earlier this season, and never looked back, getting their must-win, 2-0.

Michigan had beaten Washington Saturday in the double-elimination regional and needed one win to advance to Super Regionals. But Gabbie Plain, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, who started both games, led the Huskies in a 2-0 victory in the first game. 

In the second game, Michigan built a 5-1 lead after two innings, but the Huskies scored two runs in the third inning and then blew open the game with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth, winning 10-5, at Husky Softball Stadium. That was a season-high runs allowed by Michigan. Plain had nine strikeouts.

“I don’t know what to say," Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said after the sweep. "You’ve got a bunch of fifth-year seniors, they’re a strong, powerful team. They were pretty formidable. We had our chances in the first game. We kept it to a 2-0 game, but we needed to execute an offensive game plan better against Gabbie Plain. You can’t say enough about her."

Michigan, which finished the season 38-8, last made a Super Regional appearance in 2016, also the last year the Wolverines advanced to the College World Series.

Washington, the No. 16 overall seed, will face Oklahoma, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and winner of the Norman Regional in the Super Regional. Oklahoma (48-2) defeated Wichita State, 24-7, on Sunday to advance. 

In the deciding game, the Wolverines took the early lead, 1-0, in the top of the first inning on Lou Allan’s RBI single that scored Lexie Blair, but Washington tied the game in the bottom of the inning, on a sacrifice fly that scored Baylee Klingler.

Michigan right field Lexi Voss was injured in the inning when she went diving to field a fly ball hit by Morganne Flores. Voss’ face slammed into turf and she was tended to by the medical staff and walked off under her own power. She didn't return to the game. Sierra Kersten replaced her, and the outfield made some adjustments, with Kersten going to left, Blair from left to center, and Haley Hoogenraad taking over in right field from center.

Michigan, which had only two hits against Plain in the first game, scored four runs in the second inning. Hannah Carson started the inning with a single, followed by Keke Tholl with a pinch-hit double. Hoogenraad walked to load the bases and Blair reached first on an error, scoring Carson. Allan got another RBI single scoring Tholl, Taylor Bump walked and Hoogenraad scored, and on a fielder’s choice, Blair scored the fourth run.

At 5-1, Michigan looked to be in the driver's seat. But the Huskies came right back and got a boost from Kelley Lynch’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the third that pulled them to 5-3. 

But the Wolverines, who were retired in order in the third, again were retired in order in the fourth.That's when the Huskies went full throttle on the offensive.

Washington binged on runs in the bottom of the fourth, scoring seven to take a commanding 10-5 lead. The Huskies got things going when Jadelyn Allchin took the first pitch from Storako for a home run to cut Michigan’s lead to 5-4. Meghan Beaubien, who pitched the first game Sunday, relieved Storako, who gave up seven hits and four runs. 

But it didn’t get better for the Wolverines, as Washington scored six more runs.

"The second game, we jumped out, but you could feel it when they started coming at us," Hutchins said. "In that seven-run inning, we gave them too many outs, outs that needed to be made. You can’t do that, and they just ate it up."

Hutchins said she and her staff tried to calm down her team at that point. She described them as overanxious. 

"We need to make the plays. That’s what big-time players do — they make the plays," she said. "We saw them do that, and unfortunately, we didn’t do it enough. When they hit the ball, boy, they didn’t miss it. They didn’t miss it."

Michigan led the nation in ERA heading into the NCAA Tournament, but Hutchins said her pitchers weren't spinning the ball as well as they had during Saturday's win over Washington when Storako had 13 strikeouts.

In the first game, Washington took the lead in the first inning on a solo home run off Beaubien and never looked back, getting their must-win, 2-0. Beaubien, who had a no-hitter in Michigan’s first regional game against Seattle University, gave up five hits and had three strikeouts. 

Hutchins was succinct in her comments after the sweep.

"Today, we were outmatched," she said.

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