Beaubien No-Hitter Clinches Sweep of Maryland, 8-0 (6 inn.)

Beaubien No-Hitter Clinches Sweep of Maryland, 8-0 (6 inn.)

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on April 22nd, 2018 at 2:16 PM

Last year, Maryland handed Michigan a surprising loss in College Park, dealing a critical blow to Michigan's Big Ten title chances.  Revenge may not have been consciously on the players' minds this weekend, but the results speak for themselves.  Michigan complete a "win with cruelty" 3-game sweep of a Terrapins team that never looked like they deserved to be on the same field with mighty Michigan.

For the 3rd straight game, Michigan rushed out to an early lead, plating a run in the 1st on a Faith Canfield solo home run.  2 more runs would pop up on the board in each of the next 3 innings, as Lou Allan would launch a long ball in the 2nd, an error and an Alexander single would add a pair in the 3rd, and Peters & Blanco would combine to drive home runs #6 & 7 in the 4th.  The 5th inning came & went quietly, before Michigan applied the coup de grace in the 6th.  An error got things started, and then 3 straight singles, from Canfield, Peters, and Blanco would bring home the game-ending run-rule score.

In the circle, Beaubien dazzled again.  Only a check-swing appeal that went Maryland's way in the top of the 6th separated her from completing a perfect game.  As it was, she threw yet another no-hitter, weed-whacking her way through the Maryland line-up with 11 Ks.  In 2 games on the weekend, Beaubien went 13 innings, allowing no earned runs, 1 hit (Friday), 1 walk (today), and racking up 18 strike-outs.  And yes, she's still just a freshman.  Settle in, folks, it's going to be a fun 4 years.

Michigan will step on the field next on Friday at 6 PM to kick off a crucial series at Indiana.  The Hoosiers, despite their terrible non-conference performance, have emerged into surprise contenders for the Big Ten regular season crown.  The team that takes next weekend's series will be in a great position to take home the Big Ten title.

Big 6th Lifts Softball Over CMU, 5-0

Big 6th Lifts Softball Over CMU, 5-0

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on March 21st, 2018 at 5:46 PM

Michigan softball just wrapped up their home opener, topping CMU 5-0 at Alumni Field.  The weather was chilly, and so were the bats through 5 innings in this one.

Neither team could scrape together a run, although the Chips came dangerously close in the 5th.  Hutch had lifted starter Tera Blanco for freshman phenom Meghan Beaubien, but Beaubien coming in cold could not keep Central off the base paths.  With the bases loaded, Blanco returned to the circle and got the Wolverines out of the jam.  Blanco would keep the door closed in the 6th, before getting her chance to play hero on the other side of the ball.

After Faith Canfield and Natalie Peters picked up hits, Blanco stepped to the plate with 2 on and no outs.  She delivered a double to the wall, driving in what would turn out to be the winning run.  Madison Uden added another double, making it 3-0, and Lou Allan and Faith Canfield added RBI singles as the Wolverines batted around.

Freshman Sarah Schaefer, coming off a Big Ten Pitcher of the Week performance last weekend, slammed the door in the 7th, and a stressful pitchers' duel ended as a comfortable M win.

Conference play begins on Friday, as Michigan travels to Iowa for a Friday/Saturday/Sunday 3 game slate.  Friday's game will be on BTN at 6 Eastern, 5 Central, so take a break from the Sweet Sixteen to take in some bat-and-ball action!

Softball Smacks Stony Brook, 7-0

Softball Smacks Stony Brook, 7-0

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on March 9th, 2018 at 5:55 PM

Coming off a break-out weekend, featuring multiple wins over ranked opponents and some of the most complete performances of the season, Michigan makes a trip to Florida this weekend for the FAU tournament.  The opener was the first-ever meeting between Michigan & Stony Brook softball, and my guess is that the Seawolves won't be all too eager to schedule meeting #2 any time soon.

It was another encouraging outing for the Michigan offense, as 6 different Wolverines got hits on the day.  Faith Canfield continued on her tear from a week ago, going 2-4 with 3 RBIs (all three of which came on a bases-clearing double in the B6 that turned a 4-0 lead into a 7-0 blowout).  Madison Uden was also particularly effective, going 2 for 2 with a walk to boot, while freshman Natalia Rodriguez also added a pair of hits to the cause.  Fellow-freshman Lou Allan continues to work her way into the line-up bit by bit, scoring a run after reaching base on a Stony Brook error in the 6th.

Defensively, Tera Blanco was in control for most of this one.  Stony Brook didn't register a hit until the 4th inning, when a lead-off triple gave them their biggest threat of the day.  An alert Sobczak gunned down the runner trying to get home on a bunt, though, and no harm was done.  Sarah Schaefer would come in to close things out in the 7th, hurling a 1-2-3 inning.

Michigan continues play in about 5 minutes, facing hosts FAU.  Freshman phenom Meghan Beaubien will be in the circle for this one.

Softball Bounces Back against Illinois St., 6-1

Softball Bounces Back against Illinois St., 6-1

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 11th, 2018 at 1:05 PM

After a disappointing Saturday in which the offense never really got going, the Michigan softball team had a bounce-back performance Sunday against Illinois State.  The bats heated up in this one, as the Wolverines pounded out 13 hits.  The offensive headliners were Aidan Falk and Faith Canfield, with two hits apiece.  Falk & Canfield are hitting .400 and .389, respectively, and are showing every indication of being the core of the offensive leadership for the 2018 squad.

In the circle, freshman Meghan Beaubien got the start again, and again looked the part of the ace.  Outside of a bumpy second inning, in which she surrendered 2 hits, a BB, and a HBP, leading to ISU's only run, Beaubien kept the Redbirds off the base paths while she was pitching.

With a substantial lead, Hutch decided to go to the bullpen in the 5th, sending her other freshman pitcher, Sarah Schafer, out for her first NCAA action.  Schafer surrendered a pair of hits, but also picked up 2 Ks and did not allowed a run.

Next weekend the team heads to Tallahassee for 2 games against Notre Dame & 2 more against Florida State.  With 4 games against tournament-level teams, including 2 against a top-10 opponent, this will be one of the pivotal weekends in the non-conference schedule.

Michigan Softball 2018 Season Preview

Michigan Softball 2018 Season Preview

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 9th, 2018 at 4:45 PM

[ED: Happy Softball Opening Day! Every year South Bend Wolverine writes these fantastic previews of Michigan's continuing softball dynasty. He put this up before the season started but they've already won two games, the second a no hitter by freshman pitcher Meghan Beaubien. I've added photos and captions. Enjoy the winning! -Seth]

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More great seniors where that came from! [JD Scott]

It seems as though Michigan softball is often at its best when other sports are scuffling.  Michigan’s mediocre 2005 football team played in the same year that Michigan softball won a national championship.  Softball’s 9-year Big Ten conference championship streak spanned the entire Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke years, covering some Beilein struggles and the late Berenson decline as well.  The high point of that run, the 2015 “Year of the Pizza” national runner-up squad, made names like Romero, Lawrence, Wagner, and Susalla household names while Wolverine fans were reeling from the collapse of the Hoke/Brandon fiasco.  If this pattern holds, then middling seasons in football, hockey, and arguably basketball as well just might be a good omen for the 2018 softball team.

Whatever the auguries, this is a team resolutely looking towards the future.  The conference championship streak is broken, all the biggest stars of 2015 have graduated, and one of the most exciting recruiting classes in program history has arrived in town, ready to get down to business.  The past is in the past.  With first-pitch just two days away, it’s time for a new generation to write some legends of their own.

Departures

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Will it be weird not having Megan Betsa around? You bet your ass it will! [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Michigan bids a fond farewell to a storied senior class.  The four players who made up the class of 2017 played on some of the greatest teams in Michigan softball history, including one of my personal all-time, all-sport favorite teams to watch, the 2015 team.  These women won an astonishing 202 games as Wolverines.  In conference play, they brought home 3 Big Ten Championships and 1 Big Ten Tournament Championship, while in the post-season they won 3 NCAA regionals, made two trips to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series, and finished as National Runners-Up once.

The star of the group was right-handed strike-out artist Megan Betsa.  She made 1st Team All-Big Ten 3 times, and 2nd Team All-American thrice as well.  Her name won’t be dislodged from the Michigan record books anytime soon, as she finished her career second in team history with 6 no-hitters, third with 102 wins and 1,201 strikeouts, and fourth with 37 shutouts.  As a senior, she led the nation in Ks by a country mile, setting down 412 batters on strikes, 52 more than the second-place pitcher.  On a team that didn’t have a deep rotation, Betsa was an iron horse, throwing 235.1 innings while maintaining a remarkably high level of play throughout.

[Hit THE JUMP for the new wave, just like the old wave]

Softball Whips UAB in Season Opener [Update: No Hitter in Game 2!]

Softball Whips UAB in Season Opener [Update: No Hitter in Game 2!]

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 9th, 2018 at 12:20 PM

Softball season is officially underway for the Michigan Wolverines!  In Florida for the USF tournament, the team took on the UAB Blazers.

Michigan got started early, putting up a run in the 1st inning on the strength of an Aidan Falk single.  Both teams threatened in the 2nd, but no one was able to push a run across.  Then in the 3rd inning, Michigan blew down the doors.  Faith Canfield got a lead-off hit, and after a walk, Falk added 2 more RBIs to her total with another single.  A pair of hit batters made it 4-0, and Abby Skvarce made it 5-0 (and maintained her career 1.000 batting average!).  The inning finally ended, but not before 2 wild pitches made it 6-0.  Things calmed down after that, with a Faith Canfield solo shot in the 6th rounding out the scoring.

Defensively, Tera Blanco went 6 strong innings, not allowing a run at any point.  Looking to get her young star a few reps in a low pressure situation, Hutch threw freshman Meghan Beaubien into the circle to close the show.  A little bit of nerves might have been in play, as Beaubien hit the first batter on her first career pitch.  A couple close plays that went UAB's way loaded the bases with no outs, and brought Hutch to the circle.  After that, Beaubien was lights out.  2 straight Ks put UAB's backs to the wall, and a ground-out ended the affair.

Michigan will now take a short break before facing Georgia State in about 20 minutes.

Georgia State was simply no match for Michigan in any phase of the game.  Offensively, Michigan hit through the line-up, with everyone but Blanco getting at least one base knock.  Faith Canfield starred offensively with 2 hits, including a 3-run homer to put the game into run-rule territory in the top of the 6th, but it was truly a team effort.

No one wants to talk about the offense right now, though.  The story is all about Meghan Beaubien, who absolutely murdered GSU from the circle.  Hurling 11 Ks while surrendering just 1 walk, the freshman unbelievably pitched a complete-game no-hitter in her first career start.  She mixed speeds effectively, ranging from the 70s down to the mid-50s, and never looked in serious danger of wavering.  You can't ask for a better start to a career than she just delivered.  Tomorrow, we'll get the chance to see what she can do against tougher opponents.

Softball Regional Preview & Season Review

Softball Regional Preview & Season Review

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on May 19th, 2017 at 12:37 PM

2017 Michigan Softball Season Review & Regional Preview

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT

NCAA Softball Regional

WHERE

Husky Softball Stadium, Seattle, WA

WHEN

Friday-Sunday, May 19-21

TV

ESPN2 & ESPN3

THE SCHEDULE

The NCAA regional is a double-elimination tournament, so the only team Michigan is guaranteed to play is Fresno State; if all goes chalk, Michigan would play Washington in Game 3 and go from there. (All times Eastern, note that only the time of the first game each day is fixed.  Other games may start later, depending on the duration of earlier match-ups.)

Time

Game

Friday, May 19

 

9:00 p.m.

Game 1 -- #2 seed Michigan vs. #3 seed Fresno State (ESPN2)

11:30 p.m.

Game 2 -- #1 seed Washington vs. #4 seed Montana (ESPN3)

Saturday, May 20 

 

5:00 PM

Game 3 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (TV TBD)

7:30 PM

Game 4 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser (TV TBD)

11:00 PM

Game 5 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner (TV TBD)

Sunday, May 21

 

7:00 PM

Game 6 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner (TV TBD)

9:30 PM

Game 7 -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary) (TV TBD) 

 

Season Review

It is a testament to the stunning success of the 2015 and 2016 teams that this year has felt, at times, like something of a slog.  After winning 60 games in 2015 and 52 in 2016, with just 15 losses over the two years combined, this year’s mark of 41-11-1 has felt downright mediocre at times.  One could easily be forgiven for forgetting that Michigan only narrowly missed out on hosting post-season play for the 3rd straight year, and ranks in the top-25 in most offensive categories.  Success has a way of breeding high, even unreasonable, expectations, though, and there is no doubt that 2017 has been a bit of a reality-check after two years spent on the heights.  Before looking ahead to this weekend’s opposition, let’s take a look back at the ups and downs that brought us to this point.

As has happened all too often over the last few years of UM softball, the season began with heartbreak at the hands of the Florida Gators, who are beginning to look a lot like the Alabama of the sport.  Despite picking up a run against the usually unhittable Kelly Barnhill, and despite having runners 60 feet away from crossing home for a walk-off win in the 8th & 9th innings, the Wolverines couldn’t get it done, falling 2-1 to the eventual #1 national seed.

Each of Michigan’s early-season invitationals would be marred by frustration at the hands of top competition.  While the Wolverines weed-whacked their way through the weaker opponents on the schedule, they dropped games against ranked opponents like USF, Texas A&M, UCLA, Baylor, and Kentucky, along with a loss to unranked Notre Dame (38 in the RPI at season’s end).  The only ranked team Michigan was able to top was Arizona State, victims of 3-0 and 2-0 shut-outs at the hands of the Wolverines.  Along the way, another major frustration came in the form of a tie against Florida State.  After squandering a 1-run lead in the 7th, the game was called halfway through the 8th due to FSU’s flight plans.

After the ritual slaughter of a few MAC opponents to celebrate the team’s arrival at Alumni Field after over a month spent on the road, the Wolverines turned their attention to the Big Ten schedule.  The wins started to pile up, but a number of ominous signs continued to loom.  Tera Blanco had still not emerged into a top-level pitcher, and had to be lifted in favor of senior Megan Betsa on several occasions.  Betsa continued to prove herself to be an elite pitcher, but also piled up a massive pitch-count – a combination of having to throw 2 or more games every weekend and a strike-out based approach which often results in long, battling at-bats.  On the offensive side of the ball, production continued to be uneven at best.  Weak run-support was a major factor in a 5-0 loss at OSU, a 2-1 slip-up at Maryland, and – one of the lowest points of the season – a 1-0, 11-inning defeat at Wisconsin, in which Megan Betsa threw 7 innings worth of no-hit softball, surrendered one hit in the 8th, and then finally gave up a walk-off solo shot in the 11th.

Carol Hutchins was furious with the lack of production (and perhaps the lack of leadership as well), and sent 5 regular starters to the bench for the early innings of the following game.  The team got the hint, and when the starters were re-inserted, they went on a tear.  Wisconsin went down 10-2 in 5 innings that day and were blasted off their home field early again in the rubber game, falling 8-0 in 5.  Finally the bats seemed to be awake, as Michigan tore through the remainder of their schedule, outscoring Indiana 17-2 over a three game series, brushing aside Western Michigan 8-0 in 5, and finally, giving the football team a run for their money in the “Rutgers blow-out” department, winning 6-1, 19-1 (5 inn.), and 20-0 (5 inn.) in Piscataway.

While the 20-3 conference record that Michigan put up was better than several of the marks put up during the 9-year conference championship streak, it wouldn’t be good enough to keep pace with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are in the midst of the greatest season in school history.  Nevertheless, optimism was high heading into the Big Ten tournament, as the second-seeded Wolverines prepared to host the event for the first time in over a decade.  Even better, Michigan was set to face a mediocre MSU squad they hadn’t lost to in years.  Things were looking good as the Maize & Blue held on to a 4-2 lead heading into the 7th, but an uncharacteristically erratic inning from Megan Betsa lead to a 5-4 loss and an early exit from the tourney.

In just a few short minutes last Friday, a narrative of a hot-and-cold team that had found its stride and was ready for a deep post-season run was thrown into disarray.  Questions now abound as to who the true Michigan is.  Are these the Wolverines that were one hit away from wins against Florida and Florida State, that have one of the best offenses in the nation, and that obliterated almost all of their conference opposition?  Or are they the team that slips up against the Marylands and MSUs of the world, and can’t get past ranked opponents?  Only time – and the NCAA regional – will tell.

Players to Watch

 Michigan brings a series of stars to the table this year, both offensively and defensively.  Below, we’ll take a look at two of the most important offensive leaders along with Michigan’s unquestioned ace in the circle.

Kelly Christner

Kelly Christner burst onto the scene as a sophomore, hitting a blistering .393 and crushing 21 home runs en route to First-Team All-American honors.  After a dip in production as a junior, Christner has found her way back to elite status as a senior.  While she hasn’t been able to replicate her power numbers from the Year of the Pizza two seasons back, as a senior she is hitting .414 for the year, reaching base in over half her at-bats.  Compared to her blazing start to the season, Christner took a bit of a step back in Big Ten play, hitting .375 with an OBP just under .500.  Even so, she is still one of the team’s most important offensive pieces and provides an essential element of senior leadership in the batting order.  Lately she has seemed more comfortable hitting from the lead-off spot, and her status as the team leader in stolen bases makes her a good candidate to start trouble on the base paths.  If she can produce at a high level, it will set a great tone for the rest of the team throughout the regional.

Faith Canfield

Another hitter to keep an eye on is sophomore utility player Faith Canfield.  As a freshman, Canfield was in and out of the line-up, hitting just .268, and she looked only incrementally improved in the early going of her second season in Ann Arbor.  Around the time conference play began, however, something clicked for Canfield, and she laid waste to Big Ten pitching, hitting a Romero-esque .462 in league play and slugging just a notch under .750.  On a team that lacks the power hitting of the last two years, Canfield – tied for the team lead in both doubles (with Aidan Falk) and home-runs (with Kelly Christner) – is one of the leading candidates to put the hurt on a ball and drive in a few runs.  Her aversion to strike-outs is another advantage; with only 7 on the year, you can count on her putting the ball in play when she steps to the plate.

Megan Betsa

No single player has been more critical to keeping Michigan softball on track in 2017 than senior RHP Megan Betsa.  Of her staggering 1,165 career strike-outs, 376 have come in 2017, her best statistical year as a Wolverine.  Her 23-8 record does not do full justice to her contributions to the team, as she faced all the toughest non-conference opponents, earned 5 saves in relief of Blanco, and has pitched both Friday and Sunday throughout Big Ten play.  Any concern arising from the shaky 7th inning against MSU in the Big Ten tournament should be balanced by her 1.31 ERA for the season (a sterling 0.86 in Big Ten play).

Betsa has been a major contributor to Michigan softball for four years now, pitching meaningful innings, including post-season games, each time around.  She is clearly among the nation’s elite statistically, leading the nation in strike-outs, ranking 3rd in strike-outs per 7 innings, 5th in shut-outs, 8th in saves, and 10th in hits allowed per 7 innings.  Her name is all over the Michigan record book as well, as she currently sits 3rd in career Ks and is tied with Haylie Wagner in 3rd place for career wins at 100 exactly.  Legacies are about more than stats, though, and at the beginning of this season, I proclaimed this the “Year of Betsa”.  A deep post-season run on the strength of her right arm in her final year would provide the perfect cement for her enduring position among the legends of Michigan softball.

Regional Opponents 

After back-to-back seasons hosting regional play, Michigan once again has to hit the road for the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Because of the tournament structure, Fresno State is the only opponent Michigan is guaranteed to face, but at least one showdown with Washington seems very likely, and a clash with Montana could come up as well if there’s an upset somewhere in the bracket.

Fresno State

We’ll start with an overview of Michigan’s Friday night opponent, the Bulldogs of Fresno State.  Despite finishing tied for 3rd in the Mountain West conference (which does not hold a conference tournament), FSU (NTFSU) managed to earn an at-large bid into the field of 64, narrowly edging out conference rivals San Diego State for one of the final spots in the field.  Fresno State challenged themselves in the non-conference schedule, taking on an array of major conference teams.  While they took it on the chin more than once, their aggressive scheduling strategy probably helped secure a spot in the tournament, as they ended the year 6-8 against the RPI top-50, and a highly-successful 5-2 against the RPI 26-50.  This is a team Michigan beats comfortably on a good day, but if there’s any hangover from the disappointment in the Big Ten tournament, they’re good enough to cause problems.

Looking at the Bulldogs’ line-up, the #1 threat is clearly Morgan Howe, who is hitting .438 on the year and slugging well over .600.  She brings a bit of home run power as well, having sent 6 over the wall this year.  After her, Malia Rivers seems to be the other prominent on-base threat, batting .355.  Unlike Howe, though, Rivers hasn’t hit a single homer and only has 4 extra-base hits all season, indicating a singles-based, small-ball profile.  No other Bulldogs are hitting meaningfully over .300, although they do have a few home run threats in Vanessa Hernandez (7 HR), Savannah McHellon (10 HR), and Lindsey Willmon (9 HR).  All three are strike-out-prone, however, especially McHellon, which could spell trouble with Betsa in the circle for the Wolverines.

In the circle, it’s a one-woman show for Fresno State, with the unfortunately-named Kamalani Dung starting more than twice as many games as anyone else and pitching almost 4 times as many innings as the next pitcher in line.  She leads the team with a 2.17 ERA, and her 202/91 K/BB numbers indicate a pitcher who likes to go for the K.  After her, Savannah McHellon sees the most action, but is a major step back.  In addition to her 4.32 ERA, McHellon has exhibited significant control problems, giving up more BBs than she picks up Ks.

Washington

Hosts and headliners of the regional, the Washington Huskies have been a major power at times over the last decade.  2009 National Champions, the Huskies are eager to return to the WCWS for the first time since 2013 (Washington ended the Wolverines’ season that year in a 4-1 affair).  As the #6 national seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, the Huskies will be a formidable opponent for Michigan to try to knock off.  Unlike some power-conference teams, the Huskies took on a decent helping of non-conference challenges, and earned wins against quality opponents including Auburn, Oklahoma, and, notably from a Big Ten perspective, Minnesota – the Gophers fell twice to the Huskies, 3-2 and 9-0.  In the PAC-12, the Huskies faced tough opposition on a weekly basis and earned key series wins against Arizona State, Oregon, and Utah.  They also swept the Crimson Tide during a break from league play.  The Huskies will come into this regional battle-tested and hungry to re-establish themselves among softball’s elite teams.

No one player stands alone atop the Huskies batting order, but with 4 separate players hitting right around .350, there’s plenty of power there.  Casey Stangel and Ali Aguilar are particularly notable in that group, as both have belted double-digit home runs on the year, as has Morganne Flores, a .338 hitter.  Stangel in particular is a bit strike-out prone, so Betsa may be able to exploit that a bit, but she makes up for it by slugging a team-leading .638.  Aguilar is a bit of a sore spot defensively for the Huskies, with 11 errors on the year, but she’s as tough an out as you can ask for at the plate.  Top to bottom, there just aren’t many weak spots in this line-up.  If the expected encounter between Michigan and Washington happens (and it’s likely to happen 2-3 times), the goal will be more to scatter hits than to prevent them entirely.  A few runs are likely to score in any event, so run support will be vital in this one.

In the circle, it’s all about sophomore Taran Alvelo.  Alvelo’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they’re very strong, especially when you consider that she’s been handling the bulk of the workload for a PAC-12 team.  With an ERA of 1.90 and a K/BB ratio of 2.57, Alvelo isn’t necessarily a dominating pitcher, but she gets the job done more often than not.  After their ace, the Huskies can trot out either of a pair of very similar back-ups.  Freshman Samantha Manti and junior Madi Schreyer have both started 13 games, and have ERAs at or near 3.  Schreyer has more control problems than Manti, with only 5 fewer BBs than Ks on the year.  This is a set of pitchers that Michigan can hit, but it’s not going to be easy to put up big numbers.  Given the strength of the Washington offense, the Wolverines will have to find a way to string hits together more than once if they want to get out of Seattle with the season still alive.

Montana

Michigan will only face the Grizz in the event of an upset somewhere along the line, but stranger things have happened.  Simply put, Montana is not an especially good softball team.  After finishing 2nd in the Big Sky conference in the regular season, the Grizz beat regular season champions Weber State twice in the conference tournament to secure their spot in the tournament.  Sitting at 124 in the RPI, Montana is an order of magnitude lower down than anyone else in the region, and their schedule gives a clue as to why.  After barely challenging themselves at all in the non-conference schedule (a couple of Ws over UNLV were the closest things they had to signature wins), they were pretty average in conference play as well, only sweeping two opponents prior to the conference tournament.  This looks to be a classic case of a team from a weak conference who is mainly just happy to be here.

Montana does have a pair of decent hitters atop their stat sheet, with Bethany Olea and Delene Colburn both hitting over .400 – Colburn has also jacked 14 long balls on the season.  No one else is hitting much over .300, however, and only one other player (Sydney Stites) has more than 5 homers.  Michaela Hood is the usual starter in the circle, and her 2.15 ERA and better than 3-1 K/BB ratio are respectable.  Colleen Driscoll and Maddy Stensby are the other two prominent pitchers, both putting up fairly non-descript numbers – Driscoll is a bit better overall, but more likely to give up a dinger.  Severe strength of schedule caveats apply to all these numbers, of course.  If Michigan ends up facing Montana and struggles much at all, it should be considered a major warning sign for what’s to come.

Overall

This is about as good of a situation as Michigan could have asked for after flaming out against MSU in the conference tournament.  True, it’s a tougher regional to get shipped to than some we’ve seen in the past, but it’s still a winnable one – we’re not talking about getting sent to Florida or Arizona here.  What’s more, if the team does advance, the most likely opponent would be the Utah Utes, who had an up-and-down non-conference season before picking up some impressive wins in PAC-12 play, highlighted by a 3-game sweep of UCLA and a series win over Arizona.  A trip back to the WCWS is still very much in play, but the team needs to leave their struggles behind and fire on all cylinders.  More than anything, the Wolverines will need their senior ace to deliver the best performance of her career.  If that happens, a trip to Oklahoma City for the 3rd straight year could still beckon for Team 40.

Softball Run-Rules PSU 8-0

Softball Run-Rules PSU 8-0

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on March 25th, 2017 at 3:35 PM

Michigan softball won for the second time in as many days at Alumni Field, whalloping the Penn State Nittany Lions 8-0 in a 5-inning, rule-run beatdown.  After struggling to get the offense going yesterday, the bats were blazing hot today.  Michigan jumped right on top of Penn State, scoring 3 in the bottom of the first, and put up crooked numbers in the 3rd & 4th as well - they didn't even need to bat in the 5th to secure the win.

Faith Canfield was the driving force on offense today, going 2-for-3, including a solo home run and a two-run triple.  She also scored the run to put the game into run-rule territory, motoring home after the PSU pitcher lost control of one.

In the circle, Tera Blanco was in command.  She pitched all 5 innings and allowed 2 hits.  Some control issues did crop up, as she issued 4 walks and a HBP, but she still managed to keep the goose egg on the board.

The two teams will square off again tomorrow at 1, as Michigan looks to keep pace with the conference leaders in the standings.