Ann Arbor, Mich.--The top-seeded and the nation's No. 1 ranked Michigan Wolverines capped an historic Big Ten season by winning their seventh Big Ten Tournament title by a 7-2 score over the Iowa Hawkeyes. The dominating team performance was highlighted by pitcher Jennie Ritter's four hit performance and the collectively solid hitting output throughout the Michigan order.
After Ritter struckout the first three Iowa batters, the Wolverines opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Tiffany Haas led off the frame with a single to center. After Alessandra Giampolo popped up to third baseman Abby Ruff, U-M shortstop Jessica Merchant followed with a double to right, her third two-base hit of the tournament.
Haas finished the game going 3-for-4 and scoring three runs. Merchant finished the game two-for-four, with two doubles, scoring a run and driving in two more. Merchant was also named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Samantha Findlay walked to load the bases, and after Nicole Motycka struckout, third baseman Grace Leutele hit a screaming linedrive over the head of Iowa first team All-Big Ten centerfielder Mindy Heidgerken. The ball bounced off the base of the wall and Haas and Merchant scored on the hit.
Leutele finished the game going one-for-three and driving in two runs on the day.
In the top of the second, Iowa first baseman Emily Nichols singled up the middle to lead off the inning, but Ritter struckout the next three Hawkeye batters to leave Nichols stranded at first.
In the bottom half of the inning, catcher Becky Marx led off by bouncing a ball over the head of Ruff. After pinch-runner Michelle Weatherdon replaced Marx, left fielder Rebekah Milian put down a bunt right at Ruff. The third baseman fired to shortstop Stacy May to erase Weatherdon.
Haas came up next and drove a ball into centerfield to put runners on first and second, and prompt Iowa coach Gail Blevens to bring in Lisa Birocci, who pitched the day's first game into the circle for starter Ali Arnold.
With the bases loaded, Merchant doubled down the left field line scoring Haas and Milian. Findlay stepped to the dish next and proceeded to single into the gap on the left side of the infield, scoring Giampaolo.
Giampaolo concluded the contest going one-for-three, scoring two runs and driving in a pair as well.
Ritter mowed through the Iowa lineup striking out eight in the first four innings and allowing only a single hit, to Nichols.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Haas led off and singled to center and up next, Giampolo drove the ball into the top of the pine trees beyond the centerfield fence to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.
In the top of the sixth inning, May singled with one out, and after second baseman Summer Downs fouled out, second-team All-Big Ten outfielder Kylie Murray ripped a ball over the rightfield wall to move the score to 7-2.
Murray finished the game going one-for-three, driving in two and scoring one run on the homer. May went one-for-three and scored a run, after being the only Hawkeye to score in their semifinal win over Northwestern.
The Wolverines went down in order in the sixth, and Ritter recorded three straight outs in the top of the seventh, punctuated by a strike out of Heidgerken to end the game.
Ritter finished the championship game with 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work, allowing two earned runs on the Murray homer. She sprinkled four hits throughout the afternoon, and did not issue a free pass on the game.
With the 7-2 victory over Iowa, the Michigan Wolverines win their seventh Big Ten Tournament title in the event's history. Along with the championship trophy, the Wolverines were awarded the Big Ten's automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament. The remaining conference teams will have to wait until Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET for the NCAA selections to be announced.