Minnesota Captures Softball Tournament Championship
May 8, 2014
Game #11: #3 Minnesota 3, #1 Michigan 2: Gophers Win Tournament Title
Michigan scored two runs on a pair of hits in the top of the fourth inning. Caitlin Blanchard got things started with a double to deep right center, and Sierra Lawrence reached on an infield error. Lawrence eventually advanced to second on a wild pitch, as did pinch runner Brandi Virgil. Lauren Sweet drove in both runs in two batters later, sharply singling down the right field line. Lindsay Montemarano grounded into a double play to end the rally.
Minnesota's Kaitlyn Richardson got the Gophers on the board to begin the bottom of the fourth, hitting a home run to left center field. Sara Groenewegen kept the rally going two batters later, driving a pitch over the left field fence to tie the game at 2-2. Michigan countered with a pitching change, bringing Haylie Wagner into the circle. She retired the next two Gophers in order.
Sara Moulton entered the circle for Minnesota to start the top of the fifth inning. The game remained tied until the bottom of the seventh, when Erica Meyer led off the frame with a walk and eventually stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sam Macken then hit a sharp, hopping single into right center field to secure the Gophers' walk-off win.
Game #10: #1 Michigan 4, #4 Wisconsin 3
Wisconsin got on the board first, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Mary Massei hit a home run to right field and plated Stephanie Peace, who singled to start the game.
Big Ten Player of the Year Sierra Romero tied the game with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third. Nicole Sappingfield tallied an infield single to begin the rally, and Sierra Lawrence hit an ensuing home run over the left field fence to make the score 2-2. Michigan eventually loaded the bases in the inning, but Wisconsin pitcher Cassandra Darrah got out of the jam by striking out Kelsey Susalla on three pitches to end the inning.
The game remained scoreless for the next 3.5 innings until Wisconsin's Chloe Miller led off the top of the seventh with a home run to deep center field. The Badgers were retired in order after claiming the 3-2 lead.
Michigan's Lyndsay Doyle led off the bottom half of the seventh with a single up the middle. Sappingfield then hit a double off the wall in right field, scoring Doyle from first base to tie the game at 3-3. Romero was walked on four pitches in the ensuing at-bat, and Michigan then executed a double steal, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Caitlin Blanchard then walked off with a soft single to right field, giving the Wolverines a 4-3 win.
Game #9: #3 Minnesota 9, #7 Ohio State 0 (5 innings)
Minnesota 9, Ohio State 0 (5)
Tyler Walker got things started, depositing a home run to right field to begin the game. Bree Blanchette also hit a two-run homer in the second inning to make the score 3-0. Walker started off the fourth with another home run, as Minnesota extended its lead to 4-0.
The Gophers plated five runs on two hits in the top of the fifth inning. Walker and Sam Macken drew back-to-back walks to begin the frame, followed by an RBI double by Kaitlyn Richardson. Macken scored the second run of the inning one batter later after a sacrifice fly by Taylor LeMay. Hannah Granger drove in another run with a sacrifice fly two batters later, scoring Richardson. Erica Meyer then cleared the bases with a two-run home run to left center field, as Kelsey Klucas crossed home.
Minnesota will take on the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between top-seeded Michigan and No. 4 Wisconsin at approximately 7:30 p.m. CT.
Game #8: #4 Wisconsin 5, #5 Northwestern 4
A five-run third inning proved to be the difference for fourth-seeded Wisconsin in its 5-4 win over Northwestern.
Northwestern scored the game's first run in the opening frame, and added two runs in the top of the third to claim a 3-0 lead. Andrea Filler drove in the Wildcats' second run, while Paige Tonz collected the second RBI of the inning.
Four straight batters reached base for Wisconsin in the bottom half of the frame after Megan Tancill grounded out to begin the inning. Mary Massei, the fourth batter of the stanza, reached on an error, allowing Katie Christner to cross home. Michelle Mueller singled up the middle two batters later, driving in Massei and Maria Van Abel in a pair of unearned runs.
Stephanie Peace hit a two-run home run in the ensuing at-bat as the Badgers took a 5-3 lead. Mueller crossed home ahead of Peace. Northwestern trimmed its deficit to one run in the ensuing top of the fourth after Brianna LeBeau doubled down the left field line to score Andrea DiPrima.
Northwestern brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Tonz lined out to shortstop, and LeBeau was thrown out on the play. The Wildcats, who boast an RPI of 37 with notable wins over South Alabama, Washington, Wisconsin (twice), Nebraska and Minnesota, will now await their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday's NCAA Selection Show.
Wisconsin advances to Saturday's second semifinal, and will take on top-seeded Michigan at 5 p.m. CT.
Game #7: #1 Michigan 8, #9 Illinois 2
Michigan's Lindsay Montemarano hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning to give the Wolverines an early 2-0 lead. Lauren Sweet was driven in after hitting a double in the previous at-bat.
Illinois pulled within one run (2-1) in the top of the third. Kylie Johnson and Ruby Rivera tallied hits in the inning, and Johnson scored after a sacrifice fly in foul territory.
The Wolverines extended their advantage to 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Montemarano led off the frame with a double, Lyndsay Doyle reached on a fielder's choice and Nicole Sappingfield drew an ensuing walk. Big Ten Player of the Year Sierra Romero was intentionally walked in the next at-bat, loading the bases with two outs. Caitlin Blanchard followed with a grand slam to right field to open the Wolverines' five-run lead.
Sweet and Montemarano led off the sixth inning with back-to-back hits, and eventually crossed home to help the Wolverines build an 8-1 lead. Illinois scored its final run in the top of the seventh after putting runners at the corners.
Michigan advances to the semifinals, and will take on the winner of the Northwestern-Wisconsin at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Game #6: #7 Ohio State 7, #2 Nebraska 5 (8 innings)
Nebraska scored two runs in the first inning to claim a 2-0 lead, but Ohio State plated four runs in the third inning to take a 4-2 advantage. The Huskers immediately answered, scoring two runs in the bottom of the third frame to make the score 4-4.
The Buckeyes reclaimed a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth, as Keelia Nester crossed home following a Nebraska throwing error. The Huskers tied things up again (5-5) in the bottom half of the seventh inning, as Taylor Edwards took advantage of wild pitch and scored after Tatum Edwards reached on a fielder's choice.
Ohio State reclaimed a lead it would not relinquish in the top of the eighth. Melissa Rennie and Nester were retired in order to begin the frame, but Caitlin Conrad, Taylor Watkins and Cammi Prantl all followed by reaching base, including a two-run double by Prantl that scored Watkins and Conrad.
Nebraska brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but Ohio State hurler Olivia O'Reilly popped Taylor Edwards up to end the game.
Ohio State advances to Saturday's semifinals. The Buckeyes will take on third-seeded Minnesota beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT.
Game #5: #3 Minnesota 6, #6 Purdue 3
Minnesota jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after a solo home run by Kaitlyn Richardson, but Purdue took the lead after scoring two runs in the top of the third. Danielle Fletcher delivered a two-out single to drive in Tori Chiodi and Andie Varsho.
The Boilermakers added another run in the top of the fifth when Chiodi collected a solo home run, pushing Purdue's lead to 3-1. The score remained tied until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Minnesota scored five runs to regain the lead.
Richardson and Taylor LeMay led off the frame with back-to-back base hits, and Sara Groenewegen drew an ensuing walk. Erica Meyer walked with the bases loaded two batters later, and Minnesota pulled within one run, 3-2. Bree Blanchette then delivered the biggest hit of the game, hitting a grand slam to left field to give the Golden Gophers the 6-3 lead and eventual win.
Northwestern plated three runs in the bottom of the second inning to open the game's scoring. Andrea Filler hit a 1-out, three-run home run that scored Brianna LeBeau and Andrea DiPrima.
Michigan State answered with four runs in the top of the fifth and claimed a 4-3 lead. Sarah Bowling cleared the bases with a grand slam over the left field fence, scoring McKinzie Freimuth, Sarah Gutknecht and Jacquie Reiser.
The Wildcats countered with six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 9-4 lead. Northwestern added an insurance run in the sixth inning following an RBI double by Filler.
Northwestern advances to Friday's quarterfinals. The Wildcats will take on fourth-seeded Wisconsin Friday night at 7 p.m. CT.
Game #3: #9 Illinois 6, #8 Iowa 0
Illinois did all of its damage in the top of the 7th inning, scoring six runs on eight hits.
Nicole Evans led off the frame with a solo home run, the first of four straight Illinois hits to begin the inning. Alex Booker drove in Allie Bauch to put the Illini ahead 2-0, and Brittany Sanchez' single up the middle two batters later scored Booker to make the score 3-0.
Remeny Perez cleared the bases with two outs, homering to right field to push Illinois' lead to 6-0 and complete the game's scoring.
Illinois advances to Friday's quarterfinals. The Fighting Illini will take on top-seeded Michigan beginning at 4:30 p.m. CT.
Game #2: #7 Ohio State 6, #10 Penn State 2
Ohio State scored one run in the bottom of the first inning and four in the second to jump out to a 5-0 lead. First-team All-Big Ten honoree Evelyn Carrillo drove in Caitlin Conrad for the first run, and Conrad hit a three-run home run in the ensuing frame.
The Buckeyes' Cammi Prantl, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, drove in Taylor Watkins, another first-teamer, to put Ohio State ahead 6-0 in the fourth inning. Penn State tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the sixth after Karlie Habitz and Macy Jones collected RBI.
Ohio State advances to Friday's quarterfinals. The Buckeyes will take on second-seeded Nebraska at 1:30 p.m.
Game #1: #6 Purdue 4, #11 Indiana 2
Indiana jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two innings. Second-team All-Big Ten performer Breanna Saucedo homered to lead off the game, and CaraMia Tsirigos led off the second frame with a solo home run.
Purdue scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning to tie the score, 2-2. First-team All-Big Ten standout Ashley Burkhardt hit a two-out home run to drive in fellow first-teamer Andie Varsho. The Boilermakers then added two runs on three hits in the fifth, with Varsho and Burkhardt again crossing home to complete the game's scoring.
Purdue advances to Friday's quarterfinals, where the Boilermakers will take on third-seeded Minnesota beginning at 11 a.m. CT. The Gophers took two of three from Purdue last weekend to end the Big Ten regular season.
BIG TEN SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
Thursday's Big Ten Softball Tournament Schedule:
#6 Purdue vs. #11 Indiana - 11 a.m. (BTDN)
Big Ten Tournament Storylines:
• For the first time since 2008, the Big Ten Tournament will be played at Sharon J. Drysdale Field on the campus of Northwestern. Action gets underway on Thursday with opening round contests, followed by the quarterfinals on Friday. Both semifinal contents and the championship game will be held on Saturday.
• The Big Ten Tournament Champion will receive the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. The tournament is being played in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2007 and 2008. From 2009-12, no postseason tournament was held, and the Big Ten's first-place finisher was declared the Big Ten Champion and NCAA automatic qualifier.
• BTN will provide live coverage of the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game, while Thursday's first round games will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network (BTDN).
• Michigan has won a conference-best nine Big Ten Tournament titles. Northwestern has captured three tournament championships, while Iowa has won the Big Ten Tournament crown twice. Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin have all collected one tournament title, with Wisconsin accomplishing the feat last season in Lincoln, Neb.
• Entering the Big Ten Tournament, the Big Ten has eight teams rated among the top 75 in the NCAA RPI, including five top-50 squads. Minnesota leads the way at No. 17, followed by No. 18 Michigan, No. 19 Nebraska, No. 37 Northwestern, No. 38 Wisconsin, No. 64 Illinois, No. 69 Ohio State and No. 71 Purdue.
• Three Big Ten teams are ranked among the top 20 in the most recent top 25 polls, with two additional squads receiving votes. Michigan leads the way at No. 11 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, followed by No. 16 Minnesota and No. 18 Nebraska. In the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll, the Wolverines appeared at No. 10, followed by No. 15 Minnesota and No. 18 Nebraska. Northwestern and Wisconsin received votes in both ballots.