Michigan softball on brink of NCAA tournament elimination after 3-2 loss to No. 16 UCF

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The Michigan softball team collapsed on Saturday afternoon, and now its season is on the brink after a 3-2 loss to No. 16-seed UCF in 11 innings in the Orlando regional of the NCAA tournament.

Up 2-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Wolverines gave up a two-out RBI double to cut their lead in half.

Michigan got out of the inning with no further damage, though, then had the Knights down to their final strike of the game. With two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the seventh, however, pinch-hitter Maddie Bejarano ripped an RBI double to the right-centerfield gap to tie the game.

She wasn't done there.

The Wolverines couldn't scratch any runs across through four extra innings, and in the bottom of the 11th, a walk and an error put two runners on for UCF for the third consecutive inning.

That's when Bejarano stepped to the plate again and pulled an RBI double down the right-field line for the victory.

Michigan now plays the winner of Saturday's game between Villanova and South Dakota State on Saturday night to avoid elimination. The winner of that matchup will advance to Sunday's regional final, but would need to win two against UCF in order to advance to the super regional.

With players in scoring position, Michigan Head Softball Coach Carol Hutchins talks with Audrey LeClair (25) before she bats in the Big Ten Softball Championship Game at Secchia Stadium Saturday, May 14, 2022.
With players in scoring position, Michigan Head Softball Coach Carol Hutchins talks with Audrey LeClair (25) before she bats in the Big Ten Softball Championship Game at Secchia Stadium Saturday, May 14, 2022.

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After both teams went 1-2-3 in the first inning, the Wolverines got the scoring started in the second.

Taylor Bump and Sierra Kirsten worked consecutive one-out walks and two batters later, freshman utility player Annabelle Widra hit a chopper through the left side of the infield for an RBI single.

Michigan next put the pressure on in the top of the fifth.

Widra reached on a single to right, and freshman Ella McVey laid down a perfect bunt with two strikes — she was attempting a sacrifice — to get the first two runners on.

The next two batters went down in order before Lexie Blair hit a routine chopper to Justene Molina, the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, who couldn't hold onto it. The ball trickled into centerfield and Widra scored without a throw on the error.

That appeared as if would be enough run support for senior Meghan Beaubien, who was in cruise control most of the way.

Beaubien, who has the sixth-most wins in program history, had given up just two singles and two walks through 5⅔ innings. But then the game flipped.

She hit the next batter with a pitch and then, on a full count, gave up Ashleigh Griffin's RBI double down the left-field line. Widra came in to relieve Beaubien and got out of the inning.

Widra couldn't close the door again in the seventh. After allowing a leadoff single by Johneisha Rowe, who advanced to third with two outs, she left a 2-2 pitch over the plate to Bejarano, whose double sent the game to extras.

Michigan's bats were silent in that time. The Wolverines had just two runners in four innings, via a walk and a bunt single. Credit UCF pitcher Kama Woodall, who threw 184 pitches across 11 innings for the Knights, giving up just five singles and three walks while striking out a season-high 10 in the win.

The Knights had two runners on in the ninth and 10th innings, but Beaubien, who re-entered the game, pitched out of both jams.

But after a walk in the 11th, Beaubien induced a ground ball that McVey flipped to Melina Livingston, who dropped it at second for Michigan's third error of the game.

Bejarano doubled four pitches later for the win.

Beaubien was also impressive on the mound, giving up six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts on 121 pitches over 7⅔ innings.

Oakland blasted by Notre Dame, eliminated from tourney

Oakland softball was eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois, as Notre Dame opened the scoring early and continued with runs in four of the five innings of a 12-1 victory. The game ended two innings early under the NCAA’s eight-run rule.

Sydney Campbell, starting her fifth straight game in the circle for the Golden Grizzlies, retired the first two Irish batters. But Leea Hanks singled and stole second to give Notre Dame a runner in scoring position with two outs, and Karina Gaskins doubled her in. That was followed by an RBI single by Jane Kronenberger to put the Golden Grizzlies down, 2-0, before they got to the plate.

After a 1-2-3 inning, the Notre Dame attack began anew. Campbell retired the first batter, and got the second out of the inning, after a single, on a fielder’s choice at second. But then the next six batters reached, five on hits, as the Irish scored six runs to make it 8-0. That was followed by three straight strikeouts by Notre Dame pitcher Alexis Holloway.

The third wasn’t any kinder for OU (26-17), as the first four batters reached base (albeit with one out recorded when Abby Sweet was thrown out trying to take second after an error by shortstop Reese Ruhlman). That was capped by a homer to right by Hanks to make it 11-0 and end Campbell’s night; Mia Konyvka came on in relief and stopped the hemorrhaging briefly with five straight outs to get the Golden Grizzlies through the fourth.

OU finally got its first hit to open the bottom of the fourth, off reliever Payton Tidd: Madison Jones launched a 1-0 pitch to left center to give the Golden Grizzlies hope. With two outs in the inning, OU loaded the bases, but Allisa DiPrima popped up to the catcher to end the threat.

Notre Dame tacked on five more runs in the top of the fifth, with Brooke Marquez and Joley Mitchell both homering off Konyvka, and Oakland managed just one runner —Jones reached on a throwing error by the third baseman — before Cammie Brummitt wrapped things up with a grounder to third.

Notre Dame advances to another elimination game, against McNeese, with the winner facing Northwestern on Sunday afternoon. The ninth-seeded Wildcats, the host of the regional, thumped McNeese, 17-3, in the early game Saturday.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan softball falls, OU eliminated in NCAA tourney regional