Wolverines dig big hole with loss to Sooners

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Oklahoma City — Second-ranked Michigan got in a hole early and despite a seventh-inning rally, didn’t have enough to overcome Oklahoma in the second game of the College World Series.

The Sooners, ranked third, extended their winning streak to 29 games in front of a strong hometown crowd at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Saturday night by defeating Michigan 7-5. The Wolverines, who had won six straight in the postseason before the loss, out-hit Oklahoma 12-7 but had two errors and stranded 10 runners.

BOX SCORE: Oklahoma 7, Michigan 5

Michigan now has a tough turnaround and will face Florida State at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday on ESPN about 12 hours after the loss. The Wolverines defeated FSU twice early in the season, and if they win again, will face Auburn at 7 p.m. Michigan must win those games and one game Monday to advance to the championship round.

“Congrats to Oklahoma,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said during an abbreviated news conference so the team could leave to get rested for Sunday. “They came out and they were on their game. They had a great game plan. They attacked us and put us on our heels. I was disappointed I did not think we were ready to play and I didn’t think our approach was good from the get-go.

“As the game went on, we got a little bit better. But the name of the game is, we out-hit them, but they got key hits, timely hits and a lot of free bases. I never thought we played well as a team. We looked like we played a little bit individual around the edges. You’re not going to beat a great team like Oklahoma, and they’re a very good team. We have our work cut out for us, and we’re in a really tough situation, so we really need to go home.”

Michigan, the national champion runner-up last season, working with two outs scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh while making a late charge. Aidan Falk had an RBI single, her third RBI of the game, and Lindsay Montemarano followed her with an RBI single. But the game ended when, with bases loaded, Abby Ramirez grounded out.

Oklahoma pitcher Paige Parker, who got the win and had eight strikeouts, said with a full count on Ramirez, she was confident in her plan.

“I knew I just had to throw a strike, and I knew my defense would be there,” Parker said. “When the ball came to me I was just focused on making a good throw over to first. It was just such a hard-fought seventh inning.”

Hutchins said the Wolverines didn't have their attention on the right team.

“Honestly, I think we were real focused on Oklahoma,” Hutchins said. “We were focused on them. We need to focus on Michigan. That’s when we’re good. I think we were focused on them. That’s the way it appeared from the dugout, so that’s on me.”

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said the Sooners’ game plan was to be aggressive because of Michigan’s high-powered offense.

“I have the utmost respect for the University of Michigan and coach Hutch is a peer of mine I respect and that program I respect like no other,” Gasso said. “They do things the right way, and they fight. You knew it was going to come down to the very finish. There was not a lead that was going to be big enough against them with the mission that they’re on. For Paige to hold on the way she did, the defense to play a fantastic game and for our offense to find a way to score late was the difference.

“Our game plan was to push the envelope a little bit and really try to be aggressive and make them make plays. We wanted to set that tone. We’ve been doing it all year, and it’s been pretty effective. They’ve been doing a great job of executing hit and runs and the plays we are calling. That definitely was our game plan to be very aggressive offensively.”

Michigan, boosted by a two-run home run by Falk, scored three runs in the fourth inning to cut the Sooners’ lead to one.

Mom Romero torn in CWS outcome for daughters

The story line within the game involved the Romero sisters Michigan senior Sierra Romero, the National Player of the year, and Oklahoma freshman Sydney Romero. Their parents, Melissa and Michael, and younger siblings, moved from seats in the Oklahoma side to the Michigan side throughout the game.

Sydney Romero led off the third inning crushing a home run to left to give the Sooners the 4-0 lead.

Both sisters had an RBI in the game. Sierra Romero singled in the third run in the fourth inning, getting the better of her younger sister by beating out her throw to first.

It was a precarious start for the Wolverines, as they allowed Oklahoma a three-run head start in the top of the first inning. Megan Betsa hit lead-off batter Erin Miller and then gave up three straight singles. Betsa got out of the inning with consecutive strikeouts.

“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Betsa said. “We never really recovered from that first inning, and that was my bad. I didn’t have my best stuff, and I should have.”

Michigan rallied in the bottom of the fourth scoring three runs to cut the deficit to one. Kelsey Susalla started the inning reaching first after being hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Falk had her homer to put Michigan on the board, 4-2.

“I was just looking for a strike and I had Hutch my head saying, ‘See the ball,’ so I saw the ball,” Falk said.

With two out, Amanda Vargas doubled and the next two batters, Ramirez and Sierra Lawrence, who had a fantastic at bat, drew walks. Romero, with bases loaded, singled to third — where younger sister Sydney plays — and beat her sister’s throw to first and scored a run. Michigan had pulled within 4-3 when Kelly Christner struck out looking with bases loaded.

“We took four called third strikes and some of them were really big,” Hutchins said. “The game plan was to swing, and we took a lot of the pitches we needed to swing at. I thought we could be better. We took some good cuts. We hit the ball well at times, but we also were timid at times. You can’t take a pitch off in a game like this.”

UM softball players undaunted by uphill climb ahead

The Sooners built a two-run lead, 5-3, when Nicole Pendley took the first pitch in the top of the sixth from Betsa and homered to right field. The inning ended with a diving catch by center field Sierra Lawrence robbing Kelsey Arnold of a hit.

Michigan tried to get something going in the sixth inning but with one out and Ramirez on first, Lawrence hit a short fly to right and the Sooners converted a double play to end the inning.

Oklahoma added two runs to its lead in the seventh when Betsa, with bases loaded, got behind early to Fale Aviu but fought back to take the count to full before walking in the run and making it 6-3. Pitcher Sara Driesenga entered the game with one out and bases loaded. With two out, Kady Self made it 7-3 with an RBI single.

Sierra Romero said while the Wolverines didn’t fold, they needed to make an impact sooner.

“We took a while to get going,” she said. “They got the first punch in and we should have just tried to come out a little bit better.”


Twitter: @chengelis