May 27, 2004
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The sixth-ranked University of Michigan softball team dropped a heartbreaking opener this afternoon (Thursday, May 27) at the Women's College World Series when a pair of throwing errors in the bottom of the 13th pushed across the winning run in a 3-2 loss to third-ranked LSU. The loss spoiled an incredible performance by starter Nicole Motycka (Sarasota, Fla./Cardinal Mooney HS), who tossed 11.2 innings of shutout ball before allowing an unearned run across in the bottom of the 12th.
Motycka left the contest with two outs, runners on the corners and a 2-1 lead after giving up her first run of the contest. She was relieved by 24-game winner Jennie Ritter (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS) and her 1-1 pitch squirted past catcher Monica Schock (Rialto, Calif./Eisenhower HS) for a passed ball that allowed the the game-tying run to score. Michigan had grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the 12th thanks to a two-run home run off the bat of sophomore third baseman Grace Leutele (Sierra Vista, Ariz./Buena HS) in the top of the 12th after Jessica Merchant (Wayland, Mich./Wayland HS) led off the inning with a triple.
After a scoreless top of the 13th, Ritter and the rest of the Wolverines seemed to settle back in when she easily set down the first two Tigers in the bottom half of the inning. Sara Fitzgerald then singled and put in motion one of the weirdest plays of the season. LSU No. 9 hitter Camille Harris connected for an infield single in the between shortstop and third base when Merchant's attempt to throw her out at first scooted passed the first baseman. Rightfielder Courtney Betley (Corona, Calif./Santa Ana Mater Dei HS), backing up the play, made a throw to the plate to hold Fitzgerald at third, but the one-hopper eluded Schock and Fitzgerald scored the winning run.
The 13-inning marathon the is second-longest game Michigan has ever played at the WCWS, behind a 14-inning, 9-7 loss to Iowa nine years ago to the day.
Michigan pressured the Tigers all afternoon, putting runner in scoring position in the first when NCAA Region 6 MVP Tiffany Haas (Santa Ana, Calif./Foothill HS) led off the WCWS with a single up the middle and moved to second on a sacrifice from Meghan Doe (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino HS). The first frame foretold things to come as the Wolverines put a runner in scoring position in six of the first seven innings but could not push a run across and ended up stranding six runners through the first five innings.
Likewise, LSU put together perhaps the game's biggest threat early, loading the bases with two out in the third, but Motycka forced Tiger cleanup hitter Leigh Ann Danos into a short pop fly down the rightfield line where Haas ranged far over from second base to make the play.
Both hurlers settled in after pitching out of several jams early in the game. After stranding two LSU runners in the fourth, Motycka scattered four hits over the next 6.2 innings of work before the two-out, run-scoring single in the 12th cut the Michigan lead to one (2-1).
The Maize and Blue returns to action in the WCWS on Saturday (May 29, 11 a.m. CDT) and will face Stanford, an 8-2 first-round loser to UCLA, in the first elimination game.