Coach Carol Hutchins and Her Awesome Band of Wolverines got to stay in Ann Arbor after winning the NCAA regional. Their opponent in the super regional round would be the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. ULL reached the super regional by defeating their in-state rival, Louisiana State University, in a regional hosted by LSU. Friday, May 24 at 2 pm was when Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette gathered at Alumni Field to commence the super regional, which is a best two of three series.
Sara Driesenga had done very well pitching for Michigan in the regional, and so Coach Hutch stuck with her to open the super regional game one. Through six innings, Driesenga held the Ragin’ Cajuns scoreless. Meanwhile, the Michigan offense scored two runs in the first inning. Lyndsay Doyle got things started with an infield single, Nicole Sappingfield got her to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Doyle went to third on a wild pitch. Sierra Romero followed with a double and Doyle crossed home plate with the first score of the game. Caitlin Blanchard then brought Romero home with a base hit. Michigan carried the 2-0 advantage into the top of the seventh.
The first two ULL batters were out, leaving just one out for Michigan to win the game. It was not to be, as the Cajuns got a runner on and a two run home run tied the game. Michigan was unable to win it in the bottom of the seventh and so extra innings would be necessary.
A leadoff home run gave ULL the lead in the top of the eighth, and Haylie Wagner replaced Driesenga at pitcher. Michigan was now in serious danger of losing the game and falling behind in the series.
Blanchard was hit by a pitch and the tying run was on for the Wolverines. Brandi Virgil went in to pinch run. Ashley Lane came to the plate, and sent the ball over the left field fence to bring home Virgil with the tying score and score the winning run herself. Michigan pulled out a clutch 4-3 win and with it the key 1-0 lead in the series. Wagner got the pitching win in relief.
Game two would not go so well for the Wolverines. The offense was handcuffed, only managing three hits and no runs. Driesenga had a rough outing, allowing four earned runs as ULL won 5-0 and forced a deciding third game.
And so it would come down to one last game for the Super Regional title and a spot in the Women’s College World Series. Driesenga got the pitching start for Michigan, and the first three frames were scoreless. ULL got on the board in the top of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Romero was hit by a pitch and Michigan had a potential tying run on base. Blanchard singled and Romero scampered to third base. Up to the plate came Ashley Lane, the hero of game one for the Wolverines. Once again, she came through in the clutch, hitting a double to bring both Romero and Blanchard home and give Michigan a 2-1 lead.
The Michigan defense took control in the final two frames, not allowing any baserunners. Driesenga got her 30th pitching win of the season and the Wolverines won the Super Regional to advance to the College World Series.
The World Series consists of the final eight teams. Michigan will play Oklahoma in the first round of one of two double elimination brackets. The other first round game in Michigan’s bracket is Arizona State vs Texas. In the other bracket, the first round games are Nebraska vs Washington and Tennessee vs Florida. The winners of the two brackets play in a three game series for the National Championship. The entire World Series takes place in Oklahoma City.
The Michigan-Oklahoma game will be Thursday May 30 at 9:30 pm Michigan time and televised on ESPN 2.