Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Carol Hutchins is in her 32nd season as the Wolverines’ coach and she recalls twice having victory-induced tears.
After Michigan overcame a 4-1 deficit with four-runs in the top of the seventh inning and held on to beat Missouri, 5-4, on Sunday to clinch a spot in the College World Series for the second straight year, Hutchins said she cried. It was the first time she has shed a tear since leading the Wolverines to the 2005 national championship.
“I just think I’m getting older,” Hutchins joked when asked why the tears flowed Sunday. “I was just very proud of them. That’s a tough scenario. That’s a really good team we were facing, and they were sensing it. I was really happy for them.
“It’s really special to go to the World Series. For all those people out there who think we’re supposed to go, if it was so easy, everybody would go. It’s really hard to do. It’s hard to win a Super Regional. It’s hard to beat a really good team twice and it would have been hard for them to beat us twice, but it’s really hard to get your team up when you lose a really tough ballgame and you have 30 minutes to recover. They just really believe in each other. They make Michigan so proud. They represent this university every day better than anybody. And they don’t take it for granted. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m really proud of.”
Hutchins called it “one of the very greatest victories ever in the history of Michigan softball.”
Starting pitcher Megan Betsa (28-3) admitted she didn’t have her strongest stuff in Saturday’s first Super Regional game and relied on the Wolverines’ defense to preserve a 5-3 victory. And in the second game on Sunday, a back issue that slowed her early this season returned and gave her trouble.
Betsa left the game briefly when Hutchins thought Michigan needed to generate more ground balls from Missouri, and returned in the seventh to get Michigan out of the inning and preserve the victory. She pitched 61/3 innings and had three strikeouts, including one in the final inning.
“I can’t say enough about the gutsy performance of Megan Betsa,” Hutchins said. “Her guts along with all the teammates I told them their hearts are so blue and the reason we’re still playing is because of their heart.”
Early in the season, Betsa said her back problem set her back about a month. She is now devoted to yoga and plenty of stretching. She said the problem recurred during Saturday’s game.
“I was pitching in a hole and just jamming into that part of my body,” Betsa said. “It was very uncomfortable. I had to work through that today.”
In the fifth inning, she appeared to be stretching her back when she was met in the circle by her coaches and medical trainer.
Hutchins eventually pulled her for Sara Driesenga and told Betsa to be ready to go back in the game in the bottom of the seventh if Michigan tied the game.
“I was actually in the cold tub in the locker room watching on the TV,” Betsa said. “She told me I wasn’t going back unless the game got tied. As soon as we got that run, I jumped out of the cold tub and put my clothes on and ran back out on the field.”
Never giving up
Michigan’s big seventh inning got started when Missouri shortstop Sami Fagan lost Lindsay Montemarano’s popup in the sun. The ball hit Fagan in the face and Montemarano reached first.
“After I hit I was pretty disappointed because I thought it was a pitch that I could have done something better with,” Montemarano said. “You have to run it out, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I was just thinking, ‘Get to first base, run it out.’ That’s what you practice and practice every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and luckily I did run it out, I didn’t put my head down, I didn’t sulk and walk off the field. I ran to first place. She dropped it.”
Montemarano gave Michigan the early 1-0 lead on a solo home run to center in the second inning. In the fourth inning, she was hit in the back by a pitch and almost celebrated. She threw her bat down and screamed “Let’s go!” to her teammates in the dugout.
She also homered in the first Super Regional game.
“I play with a lot of emotion and that’s something I’m proud of,” Montemarano said of her response to being hit by the pitch. “I like staying up, I like being energetic, because this is really fun and I’m really blessed to be at Michigan, and I’m really blessed to be representing the Block M for Hutch, to be representing my sisters in the dugout, every person who ever believed in me. Every game I go out there with as much energy as possible.”