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Minnesota captures Big 10 tourney

By Charlie Lettner


A neutral field didn’t figure to be a problem for Michigan or Minnesota in the Big Ten softball tournament title game May 10.

Prior to the championship game at Northwestern’s Drysdale Field in Evanston, each team had made themselves at home in games without a host.

Minnesota (41-9 overall, 20-2 at neutral fields) and Michigan (42-12, 16-5) had no distractions or excuses.

Minnesota started Big Ten pitcher and freshman of the year Sara Groenewegen (13-2) against Michigan's 2013 Big Ten first-teamer Sara Driesenga (5-6).  History was on the side of the Lady Wolverines, who recorded Big Ten championships in 16-of-the-past-21 seasons; Minnesota's last title came over Michigan in 1999.
  

Michigan also held an experience edge in Hall of Fame coach Carol Hutchins, who has more than 1,300 wins in 28 seasons. Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister entered the game with 98 career victories over 3 seasons.

Michigan looked like it was on its way to another title in fourth inning after a Catlin Blanchard double to right center. An ground ball error on semior shortstop allowed allowed Sierra Lawrence to reach first. A wild pitch from Groenewegen allowed pinch runner Brandi Virgil.and Lawrence to advance. Both scored on a Lauren Sweet single.

Minnesota regrouped and responded in the bottom half of the inning on home runs to left from Kaitlyn Richardson and Groenewegen.

Michigan threatened in the top of the seventh. Lyndsay Doyle stood at second while the Lady Wolverine players pointed to the stands screaming “Go! “ and the Michigan fans screamed back “Blue!”

The next pitch from Sara Moulton, who came in in the fifth, was rifled to left. A diving catch from Walker prevented the run from scoring.

In the bottom of the inning, Michigan pitcher Haylie Wagner walked Erica Meyer, who then stole second base. After Tyler Walker received an intentional walk, a wild pitch allowed the runners to advance.

With two outs and two strikes, freshman Sam Macken came through. After going hitless in her first three at-bats, she hit a hard single to right for the game-winner.

"I stayed calm like in practice, and I had an idea of what the pitch was going to be from previous games this season," Macken said. "It was hard and in, and I took advantage of it.”

Today's Schedule: Season Schedule