Ann Arbor — Michigan had a big sixth inning and held off a late-game threat from Miami (Ohio) to win its second NCAA Regional game.
The second-ranked Wolverines defeated Miami, 6-0, their second straight shutout in Regional play — they defeated Valparaiso, 8-0, Friday night. Sierra Lawrence and Aidan Falk each had two RBIs for the Wolverines in the victory.
Michigan (48-5) plays Notre Dame in Sunday's game at 2 p.m. (BTN). With a victory, the Wolverines will advance to the NCAA Super Regional next weekend.
BOX SCORE: Michigan 6, Miami (Ohio) 0
“I thought (Miami’s) Amber (Logemann) pitched very well,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “I give her a lot of credit. I told my team, credit to (Michigan pitcher) Megan Betsa. Really, the pitcher has to be tough as nails when the offense is sputtering around and we were sputtering around. They can start doubting.
“Megan just stayed in the moment and did her part. I give her a lot of credit for that. We finally got some things going. It was a tough game, it was a tight game, and good for us we pulled through it. I told them we have to do better at remembering what we’re good at and enjoying our moment and can’t be caught up in what we want so bad. We’ve got to have discipline, and the discipline starts in our minds.”
Betsa remained mentally strong early in the game while Michigan struggled to get its offensive going the first three innings.
“I thought Megan worked very hard this week to stay in control of what she can control,” Hutchins said. “She can’t control if her offense scores runs, but she can control what she does out there. It’s a mental discipline.”
During practice last week, assistant coach Jennifer Brundage, who coaches the pitchers, had Betsa pitch to a strike zone shrunk in half. This drill forced Betsa to groove her spin.
Meanwhile, Betsa, who entered the regional weekend leading the nation with 11.5 strikeouts per seven innings, would occasionally speak to herself to help maintain her poise. She had nine strikeouts Friday night against Valparaiso and six against Miami.
“I gave myself verbal cues when I found myself struggling behind in the count or on the verge of walking someone,” Betsa said. “I told myself to throw the ball like I’m in the bullpen. I was actually saying that out loud to myself. I think that’s a good reminder because every day I pretty much have a good workout.
"My ball’s moving really well and you put a hitter in there sometimes and I start thinking too much. If I can just keep throwing the ball like I do in the bullpen, my ball moves pretty well.”
Through the Wolverines’ first three scoreless innings, they found themselves playing tight and thinking too hard about the pitches Logemann was throwing.
“I think she was mainly going in, out, and we were trying to figure out which one she was trying to throw and we were just overthinking instead of just seeing it,” Kelly Christner said. “We’d get jammed. We really have to not focus on that and just stay low and be short to the ball and do our own thing and not worry about the spots she’s throwing in.”
The Wolverines finally stopped overthinking and gave Betsa some offensive help. Christner led things off with a bunt single. The Wolverines took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when, with bases loaded, Sierra Lawrence hit a high hopper that bounced over the short stop and scored Christner and Lindsay Montemarano. The inning ended with Kelsey Susalla striking out with the bases full.
In the top of the sixth, on a 1-2 count with one out, Big Ten Player of the Year Sierra Romero ripped a single to left, scoring Abby Ramirez and expanding Michigan’s lead to 3-0.
With two out in the inning, Falk gave the Wolverines a 5-0 lead after a two-run single to right. Miami made a pitching change, bringing in Kelsey Fredericks to replace starter Logemann, who gave up five runs on five hits and walked eight while only striking out two. Christner promptly swelled the Michigan lead to 6-0, doubling in a run.
Sara Driesenga entered the game to pitch for Michigan in the bottom of the sixth, replacing starter Megan Betsa, who had six strikeouts. Driesenga gave up a single and double to her first two batters, before finally getting Michaela Schlattman to ground out for the first out of the inning. She managed to work her way out of the inning to preserve the shutout.
ANN ARBOR REGIONAL
Where: Alumni Field, Wilpon Complex
Tickets: The weekend is sold out.
Parking: Free parking is available in several lots near the Wilpon Complex.
Game 1: Miami 3, Notre Dame 2
Game 2: Michigan 8, Valparaiso 0 (5 innings)
Game 3: Michigan 6, Miami 0
Game 4: Notre Dame 8, Valparaiso 0 (5 innings), Valparaiso eliminated
Game 5: Notre Dame 5, Miami 0, Miami eliminated
Game 6: Michigan vs. Notre Dame, 2 p.m. (BTN)
Game 7 (if necessary): Michigan vs. Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m. (BTN)