Wolverines eliminated despite Betsa's 1-hitter

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Megan Betsa pitches to Florida State during the second inning Sunday.

Oklahoma City -- Michigan arrived at the Women’s College World Series with a high-potent offense and high hopes, but the Wolverines are headed home after an abbreviated stay.

The Wolverines fell 1-0 to Florida State in an elimination game at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday afternoon, despite a one-hitter by Megan Betsa. Michigan, which loses seven seniors from this team, was 52-7 this season.

Michigan defeated Florida State twice early this season, but the Seminoles worked behind a strong performance by ACC Pitcher of the Year Jessica Burroughs, who shut out the Wolverines for only the third time this season. The Wolverines managed just three hits.

“You have to congratulate what a great effort Florida State (had) and Jessica Burroughs was just outstanding. Outstanding effort,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, who has coached 32 seasons, said after the loss. “You know, they got it done, and they shut down a very good Michigan team, a very good hitting team.

“I've got a lot of heartbroken kids, a fantastic senior class that has to say goodbye, and I told them just to reflect on their careers, what they've meant to Michigan and what Michigan has meant to them. We'll hold our head high at the end of the day because they represent this institution and the sport of softball. They represent their families every day the way our institution asks them to do it. They're great Michigan women. As a coach, ultimately that's what I'm most proud of. I'll always be proud of Team 39. They've had a great season and we had a great run, and unfortunately we just ran out at the end.”

The second-ranked Wolverines, considered the favorite as the highest remaining seed in the eight-team World Series, played Sunday on little rest, 12 hours after losing to Oklahoma late Saturday despite two rallies.

Senior Sierra Romero, the three-time Big Ten Player of the Year and recently named National Player of the Year, said they had no issues with the lack of time to rest and recharge.

“We're college students, we stay up that late sometimes. We're fine,” Romero said. “You know, it's softball. We've conditioned all year for this, and it just didn't fall our way.”

Hutchins said the team was loose and convivial on the bus heading to the stadium. It just didn’t carry over into the dugout, and for that she has no explanation.

“We were slap-happy probably,” Hutchins said. “We were playing Romo’s (Romero) music on the bus, which really should be illegal. Her music should be illegal. I said, ‘Let it go, man, this is what we need.’”

Softball analysts thought Michigan’s experience in the World Series last year as national champion runner-up to Florida, would give the Wolverines the edge this season as they pursued the program’s first national championship since 2005.

They entered the Series leading the country in scoring, averaging 8.2 runs a game, but struggled to generate consistent offense in their three games. Hutchins had spoken last weekend in Ann Arbor after the Super Regional about the expectations this team has carried since last year’s World Series.

“This is a tough group,” Hutchins said. “We made them tough by what we do every day, and regardless of the final outcome here, they toughed through all those things. It's not when you're winning 12-0 when you have to be tough. It's when -- and we got through that Regional, we got through that Super Regional, and we got here, and we won a tough game the first night (vs. LSU). You know, we were close to winning it last night (against Oklahoma) without our best performance. This is a really tough group.”

Betsa, who has been playing through back pain, just might have been the toughest. But Florida State broke the scoreless tie at the end of third with bases loaded when Morgan Klaevemann scored on a wild pitch that got away from catcher Aidan Falk.

“It was supposed to be a changeup in the dirt, and it was just a little too much in the dirt, and it got past Aidan, and the run scored,” Betsa said. “But I gave up too many free bases in that inning, and it hurt me.”

Klaevemann said she was ready – and looking – to pound on the miscue.

“Being able to score on a little bobble or overthrow, you're always looking for those things and you wish for them to happen and beg for them to happen,” Klaevemann said. “So when it does you want to take advantage of it all the way and execute when those things do happen.

“So I'm just happy to be able to bring my speed to the team and be able to do that for my team, and it's just a great feeling.”

Betsa (28-6) retired the final 10 FSU batters she faced. In three World Series games, Betsa pitched 19.1 innings, gave up 11 hits and eight runs, walked 12 and struck out 19. She threw 122 pitches in the opener against LSU, struggled against the Sooners and threw 133 before Sara Driesenga came on, and was most efficient against FSU, throwing 91 pitches in six innings, including 56 strikes.

“I just had to fight and I was focused on giving everything I had and working through whatever I needed to work through,” Betsa said. “I knew if this was going to be it that I was going to go out and give everything I had for my teammates and this senior class.”

The Wolverines had their chances against the Seminoles and twice stranded two runners, in the second and sixth innings. In the top of the seventh, with one out, Michigan tried to ignite a rally. Falk, with one out, singled to right to get the tying run on base.  She had two of Michigan’s three hits against the Seminoles.

But third baseman Lindsay Montemarano fouled out to the catcher on a bunt attempt.

“I wanted her to bunt it to the right side, and we didn't get it done,” Hutchins said of her strategy at that point. “I'm sure Burroughs spun that pitch and we needed to get the tying run to second base and give us a chance to win. They played deep. They'd been bunted on the whole tournament, and we didn't get it done.”

Amanda Vargas was the last out for the Wolverines, who left five stranded in the game.

“Jessica had a great day today, and a lot of that comes from having a great catcher (Sydney Broderick) to stop a lot of those dropped balls and changeups for her to be able to throw that,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said. “So the confidence of them and trusting (her) to pitch it was amazing to see in big situations there.”

As she said last year after falling to Florida in the national championship series, Hutchins said Sunday that the losses to Oklahoma and Florida State in this WCWS don’t define the players or her program.

“You know, I say it all the time -- I've been coaching longer than most people have been alive, and it's really hard to get to the World Series,” Hutchins said. “It's really hard to win at the World Series. And honestly, I'm just proud of our kids for the season they've had. It doesn't always go your way. That's how life goes. It's not whether it goes right or wrong, it's just whether you persevere through it. If this is the biggest adversity they ever have, you know they've had a heck of a great life.”