'We didn't get it done': UM softball falls in Big Ten tournament final in extras
East Lansing — Michigan will be in the NCAA softball tournament field but not as Big Ten tournament champions.
The No. 4-seeded Wolverines lost, 3-1, to Nebraska, the No. 2 seed, Saturday in extra innings of the title game at Secchia Stadium on the Michigan State campus. The Cornhuskers scored twice off starting pitcher Alex Storako in the top of the eighth inning to snap the tie.
This was the second extra-inning title game in Big Ten tournament history and first since 2016 when Minnesota defeated Michigan.
The Wolverines, ranked No. 23 nationally, had three hits against the Huskers and stranded eight runners.
“I thought Rocko kept us in the game the whole way,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We needed to get one out of the infield. Period. That’s what we needed, and we didn’t get it done.
“Our kids were great. They’ve been playing great ball, and we’re not gonna let one day, one moment define us or turn us around. We’re headed in a great postseason direction. We just need to stay with it.”
The Wolverines had won seven straight heading into the championship game and upended top-seed Northwestern in the semifinals. Nebraska (40-14), which has won five straight, has earned one of the 32 automatic berths in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is Sunday night.
Taylor Bump, Annabelle Widra and Storako were named to the All-Tournament team for Michigan. This was the first Big Ten softball tournament since Michigan won in 2019 and after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michigan had runners at first and second with no out in the bottom of the seventh but Audrey LeClair hit into a double play. Hutchins believed it was an incorrect call saying Kristina Burkhardt, who had reached on a walk, was not tagged on her way to second. The umpire chose to review and the call was upheld.
First base coach Bonnie Tholl told Hutchins she did not think Burkhardt was tagged. Hutchins clearly was not pleased with outcome but also indicated the lack of camera angles was an issue.
“They have to have indisputable evidence, and I don’t think they had the full set of cameras out here because (the Big Ten) wouldn’t want to spend all that money,” Hutchins said. “Burkhardt didn’t think she got tagged, either. But they have to have indisputable evidence.”
Nebraska broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth by scoring two runs with two outs. Cam Ybarra, who homered to give the Huskers a 1-0 led in the first inning, had an RBI double to right for the 2-1 lead. Sydney Gray’s single to left then scored Ybarra for the two-run lead.
Storako was then relieved by Lauren Derkowski. Storako completed 7⅔ innings and gave up three runs on four hits. She struck out four.
The Wolverines were retired in order in the bottom of the eighth.
Nebraska had led 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning on an RBI double to left center by LeClair with two outs. Widra, who reached first after being hit by a pitch, scored. The Wolverines left the bases loaded and had stranded six runners through five innings.
Hutchins, who was looking for another Big Ten title, said this tournament did not have more meaning because it was played at Michigan State, where she starred in college.
“I’ve had a great time being in East Lansing, being on this field and looking at that sign that I helped win,” said Hutchins, referring to the sign commemorating MSU’s AIAW national championship in 1976. “But today I wanted to win the game.”
She preaches to her players a one-pitch focus, not looking back and not looking ahead. Hutchins said she will review what she could have done differently to help the Wolverines win the championship game, but it’s time to move on.
“The bottom line is we know we’ve got to get the ball out of the infield, that’s the key,” Hutchins said. “Credit to their pitcher (Olivia Ferrell), credit to their team, they got it done. We’ve got to put it behind us, just like when (with) a win, you’ve got to put it behind you because that’s yesterday. Tomorrow this will be yesterday, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing what the NCAA has in store for us.”
Oakland softball to NCAAs
The Oakland softball team came from behind to defeat Robert Morris, 5-4, for the Horizon League championship. The Grizzlies have earned an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Oakland scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead. This was the program’s first tournament title since 2015.