Michigan Slugs Its Way to Semifinal Round
May 12, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. - Defending Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan kick-started its repeat campaign in the 2006 Big Ten Softball Tournament with a suffocating offensive performance to defeat Michigan State, 13-0, at Northwestern's Sharon J. Drysdale Field on Friday.
After rain postponed the game for All-Conference pitcher Jennie Ritter held the seventh-seeded Spartans to two hits and struck out six in seven innings, while catcher Becky Marx led the Wolverines lineup with a 4-for-4 performance at the plate that included a first-inning solo home run and three RBI. It marked the senior All-Conference second-team selection's 12th homer of the season to put Michigan on the board early before a seven-run scoring spree in the bottom of the third put Michigan State's comeback hopes out of reach.
Michigan State fell to 34-25 while the postseason veteran Wolverienes improved to 38-13 overall this season and 23-8 in tournament history with the win.
"We were glad to qualify for the tournament, obviously disappointed with the outcome," said Spartans coach Jackie Joseph. "But we ran into a team playing its best softball of the year."
With two out in the first, Marx's shot sailed to deep left giving the Wolverines a 1-0 advantage. First base Samantha Findlay followed her with another long shot over the centerfield wall to put U-M up by two. It marked the fourth and fifth home runs Spartans pitcher Rachel Turney has given up in the past two games. Michigan's All-American hurler kept the bases clear through two innings but walked Dana Rosenblatt with one out in the third. The Wolverine field stepped up its defense while Ritter turned up the heat, striking out second base Gina Mondo and forcing shortstop Traci Nicosia into a ground-out at third to end the half-inning.
The Wolverines' bats were singing loud and clear in the bottom of the third. The entire line up saw time at the plate, scoring seven on seven hits against three Spartan pitchers. Turney started the inning by grazing leftfielder Rebekah Milian with a brazen pitch to send her to first. The next batter, Marx, launched deep shot to rightfield, putting Milian on third. The Spartans sent Leslie Noel to the mound to replace Turney, but the sophomore right-hander could not quiet the Michigan offense.
Findlay hit a blooper to left to score Milian, giving Michigan a 3-0 lead. Centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo stepped up to the plate next and lifted another shot to center, sending Marx and home from second. After a sacrifice fly from Tiffany Worthy made
Michigan's lead 5-0, rightfielder Stephanie Bercaw drilled a three-run shot to deep center. The senior's sixth home run of the year extended the Wolverine's lead to eight. After shortstop Teddi Ewing reached first on a passed ball strike, second base Tiffany Haas singled to center to put two on and force Michigan State to make another pitching change with Megan Hair as the Michigan lineup started over in the inning. Marx hit a line drive single past Mondo at second, scoring Ewing and Haas and give U-M a 10-0 lead.
The scoring machine was not finished. Utility hitter Angie Danis drove a three-run shot over the leftfield wall, scoring Ewing's second run of the day and Worthy.
Ritter proved too much for the Spartans, striking out Nocosia and catcher Amy Szawara swinging to close out the game with the fifth-inning run rule coming into effect. Despite the biting rain and unseasonable 40-degree weather, Ritter stayed focused and put together one of her best outings of the season. It marked her eighth game allowing one hit or fewer.
The Wolverines advance to their 11th semifinal in the past 13 tournaments, and they will face the winner of game three between No. 3 Iowa and No. 6 Indiana. Coach Carol Hutchins said her team is hitting its stride at the perfect time in the season.
"It's great when the whole team is hot but the challenge will be who will step up when things don't come so easily. The key is how you play when it starts to get tough."