Michigan Shuts Out Indiana, Advances to Championship Game
May 13, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. - Defending champion Michigan showed its offensive versatility between its first two appearances in the Big Ten Tournament, switching from long-ball power-hitting in its first-round contest to a semifinal philosophy of sound base-running and hard-ball savvy for a 4-0 win over Indiana.
The shutout victory marks Michigan's second against the Hoosiers this season, and secures the Wolverines spot in the championship game for the 11th time in 13 tournament appearances.
The Wolverines, who are also reigning national champions, bring an unmatched postseason experience to Saturday afternoon's final contest. They will face the winner of the second semifinal between top-seeded Northwestern and fourth-seeded Ohio State.
After conquering Michigan State 13-0 to open tournament play on Friday, the Wolverines patiently waited through nearly five scoreless innings before their bats warmed up in the sixth, giving star hurler Jennie Ritter enough offense to hold up a stellar performance from the circle.
The All-American pitcher gave up only three hits and struck out 14 en route to her 26th win and 23rd complete game of the season. Since taking over the top spot in Michgan's record books as the school's all-time strikeouts leader, Ritter has fanned down a league-leading 371 batter's, including 20 in this year's tournament. She has surrendered only four hits in two games of the 2006 postseason event and no runs.
The Wolverines got on the board early in the first when catcher Becky Marx sent a double sailing to left-center to score Tiffany Haas from second. With the rain falling again in Evanston, Ill., Michigan's lineup accounted for only three hits through the next five innings.
Meanwhile, Ritter did her part to keep the Hoosiers from building any momentum with a fierce performance from the circle. After giving up a hit to Indiana hurler Mariangee Bogado on her first pitch of the game, Ritter refocused to get leftfielder Julia Hamilton out swinging. The Hoosiers mananged another single in the second, but Ritter responded with three strike outs. She took out Indiana's RBI leader Kim Richards swinging and then caught Sarah Padove looking. She closed out the inning with a swinging strike from designated hitter Anna Olson.
The next Hoosier reeked of deja vu. Catcher Janetta Deaven, who hit the game-winning RBI-double to lead off the eighth inning in yesterday's first-round game, led off and went down swinging before Hamilton and Jennilee Huddleston fell to the same fate.
Indiana put itself in position to make something happen in the bottom of the fifth. Heather Hohs took over base-running responsibilities for Sarah Padove after a single to center. Hohs stole second on a pitch to Olson, putting herself in scoring position. On the next pitch, Olson popped out to deep rightfield, and Hohs took off for third. But when the Michigan fielders realized Hohs didn't tag up, they ended the inning and Indiana's closest scoring attempt with an unconventional double play.
With two outs and none on, Michigan caught a break in the top of the sixth when Bogado walked Grace Luetele. The senior third base made Bogado pay for the freebie, stealing second on the hurler's second strike pitch to designated player Tiffany Worthy. On the next toss, Worthy sent a single up the right-field line. Hines bobbled it as it went through her legs for the error, allowing Luetele plenty of time to cross home plate for the 2-0 Michigan lead. The next batter, rightfielder Stephanie Bercaw, ripped a double over Richards' head in centerfield to score Worthy from first.
The Hoosiers could not make a dent in Michigan's 4-0 lead, as Ritter struck out three of the next six batters she faced.
The championship game will begin at approximately 2 p.m. at Northwestern University's Sharon J. Drysdale field. A tape-delayed broadcasat of the game can be seen on CSTV at 6 p.m. CT.