Michigan's Pair Of Comebacks Fall Short In WCWS Loss To Stanford
May 29, 2004
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The sixth-ranked University of Michigan softball team put Thursday's difficult 3-2, 13-inning loss to LSU behind it and battled back from deficits twice today (Saturday, May 29) against Stanford, but a bang-bang play at the plate in the top of the seventh did not go the Wolverines' way in a 5-4 loss that eliminated the Maize and Blue from the 2004 Women's College World Series.
Michigan's keystone combination of sophomore second baseman Tiffany Haas (Santa Ana, Calif./Foothill HS) and junior shortstop Jessica Merchant (Wayland, Mich./Wayland HS) continued their fine performances in the WCWS. Haas went 1-3 with a run scored to finish the series 4-9, while Merchant went 2-3 with a double to finish the weekend 4-7 with a double and triple. Both All-Americans return next season along with All-American pitcher Nicole Motycka (Sarasota, Fla./Cardinal Mooney HS) to anchor a Michigan team with the ingredients another WCWS run.
Michigan (54-13) had fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead and then came back from a 4-3 deficit to tie the contest at four in the bottom of the sixth. The Cardinal, however, scratched across four hits -- one when a ball hit a runner -- to load the bases with one out in the seventh. Meghan Sickler drove a fly ball to leftfield where Wolverine Rebekah Milian (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc HS) made the play and threw a bullet to the plate, but Monica Schock's (Rialto, Calif./Eisenhower HS) tag was a split second late.
It was the second close play that did not go the Wolverines' way and resulted in a Stanford score. The Cardinal pushed across two runs and reclaimed the lead 4-3 in fifth when Leah Nelson sent a shot down the line in leftfield for a run-scoring double. The ball fell in foul territory down the line after deflecting off the glove of Michigan third baseman Grace Leutele (Sierra Vista, Ariz./Buena HS). It was ruled Leutele touched the ball in fair territory, and one run scored with runners ending up on second and third. One more Cardinal run scored on an infield ground ball.
Michigan had tied the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when leadoff hitter Haas double for her fourth hit in nine at-bats of the series and moved to third with nobody out on a single from Merchant. Leutele eventually drove in her third run of the series on an infield ground ball that required a great head-first slide at the plate by Haas to tie the game. Schock nearly gave Michigan the lead one out later, but her hard shot one-hopped right at the Stanford second baseman for the final out of the inning, stranding Merchant at second.
The Wolverines appeared to still be feeling some of the effects of the heartbreaking loss to LSU early in the game, and Stanford touched starter Jennie Ritter (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS) for a pair of runs in the second before Motycka came out of the bullpen to leave the bases juiced with a strikeout.
Senior first baseman Jennifer Olds (North Palm Beach, Fla./Suncoast HS) drilled what many people believe was the longest home run in WCWS history when her shot went well over the auxiliary seating in leftfield to tie the game at two in the bottom of the second. Michigan took its only lead of the game in the fourth when Merchant led off with a double and scored on Schock's long sacrifice fly to rightfield.