Megan Betsa continued her stellar play in Michigan softball's Big Ten opener at Alumni Field today, weed-whacking her way through the Nittany Lions line-up to the tune of 14 Ks, while allowing only 3 hits and 1 walk, all of which came in separate innings. An error in the 2nd allowed Penn State to briefly threaten, but Betsa came back with a K to slam the door.
The offensive struggles, unfortunately, continued in the early going, as the Wolverines were unable to put anything together in the first 4 innings. Courtney Richardson broke the deadlock in the 5th with her 2nd home run of the year. After a Natalie Peters hit and a wild-pitch, a bad-hop-single off the bat of Faith Canfield put the Maize & Blue up 2-0. The Wolverines added one more the 6th, and that was more than enough for the senior ace to cruise home in the 7th.
Michigan takes their first game of league play 3-0. They'll face Penn State twice more this weekend, on Saturday at 2 PM and on Sunday at 1 PM. You may want to keep an eye on the Minnesota/Nebraska series as well, which will start in just a few minutes.
Softball's struggles continued today on the West Coast, but fortunately did not prove costly. Blanco had a bumpy ride as the starting pitcher against New Mexico State, with 3 earned runs charged the her name in just 3 innings of work. Betsa came in facing a serious jam & pushed a few runners across on free passes, but settled in and delivered 4 innings of hitless ball to give the Wolverines a chance.
Offensively, it was all about the top of the order. Peters & Ramirez both got two hits, and those hits turned into 4 runs as Kelly Christner drove them both home twice. In the 3rd, Christner gave Michigan the lead with a 2 RBI bloop single, and in the 6th, Christner launched a 3-run blast to put Michigan ahead for good. The rest of the offense was stagnant, as the 4-9 hitters never reached base once against the Aggies.
At the end of the day, it's a win coming off a long flight & a time-zone change. With match-ups against 3 ranked teams looming in the next 2 days, though, Team 40 will need to elevate their game in order to get what they want out of this road trip.
The softball team was back in action tonight, but didn't play for all that long. The Wolverines hamblasted the NC State Wolfpack 12 -0 in a 5 inning, run-rule decision. Betsa led the way in the circle, striking out 9 in 4 innings of work, ceding just one hit and no runs before handing things off to sophomore Leah Crockett in the fifth.
Betsa's first-rate pitching was overshadowed, however, by a performance for the ages at the dish by Kelly Christner. Christner turned a 4-run lead into a blow-out in the 2nd inning with a grand slam, and that was just the beginning. Christner came back with a solo shot in the 4th and a 2-run blast in the fifth to make it three long balls on the day. The three homers tie a program single-game record, as Christner becomes the first Wolverine since Dorian Shaw to manage the feat.
Michigan will get an early start tomorrow, facing Notre Dame at 10 AM, followed by a 3 PM rematch with this same NCSU squad.
Team 40 opened their season today with a 7-0 thumping of an over-matched Delaware squad. Just missing out on a run-rule win, the Wolverines got production from all up & down the order. Newcomers to the line-up Natalie Peters & Courtney Richardson both impressed. Meanwhile, Megan Betsa was absolutely dazzling in the circle, getting 15 of her 21 outs via the strike-out. Game 2 against Illinois State just now getting underway.
Season preview will be up soon - technical difficulties with the photos have it delayed at the moment.
Update: Michigan wins game 2 over Illinois State 4-2 behind a solid performance from Tera Blanco. The offense was a bit sluggish, but Courtney Richardson's 3-run homer put Michigan up by multiple runs, and Blanco made it hold up. One mistake by Blanco turned into an ISU 2-run homer, but outside of that, she did an excellent job shutting down a tough line-up.
Both the USA/NFCA Coaches poll and the ESPN/USA Softball poll came out today, and our women are slotted at #6 in both. I have to admit that I find this a little optimistic, given how much talent we just graduated, but we've still got a great team. Hopefully we'll be able to stay in that top-8 & remain on track to host a super-regional.
Other teams of interest include #4/#3 Florida, #3/#4 Florida State, #8/#8 UCLA, #19/#18 Texas A&M, #20/#20 Kentucky, #21/#21 Baylor, #22/#22 Notre Dame, #25/#24 USF, RV/RV Arizona State, and RV/RV Cal State Fullerton, all of whom Michigan will see at least once in the non-conference schedule.
In the Big Ten, Michigan will be keeping a close eye on #16/#14 Minnesota, our toughest challenger for conference hardware, although once again we won't play head to head in the regular season. Nebraska and OSU both received votes in both polls, and Northwestern got a few from the coaches.
First pitch is just ten days away, and we've got yet another top-ten Michigan team with Carol Hutchins at the helm. Full season preview will go up within the week.