Michigan softball loses 4-1 to Alabama in Super Regional opener
One bad inning by the Michigan softball team turned a pitchers’ duel in Alabama’s favor and gave the No. 2-seeded Crimson Tide a 4-1 win in the first game of a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.
The Wolverines committed their lone error in Alabama’s three-run fifth inning, when the Crimson Tide had three of their six hits against Michigan freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner -- the biggest being a two-run double by Kaila Hunt. She’d later score on a Jazlyn Lunceford single.
That was more than enough offense for Alabama (54-7) sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina, who threw a complete-game three-hitter in front of a crowd of 2,475 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.Along with an error charged to first baseman Amanda Chidester, Alabama's big inning included a misplayed ball by Michigan third baseman Stephanie Kirkpatrick that was ruled a single.
"(Alabama) took advantage of every mistake we made," Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. "We make an error at first; we make, whether they called it or not, an error at third and they get three runs out of it. You just don't do that against Alabama."
Traina struck out 10 Michigan (42-16) batters, including the Wolverines’ leadoff hitter in five of seven innings. Michigan averaged 4.2 strikeouts this season.
It was the third complete-game win of the NCAA tournament for Traina, who has allowed seven postseason hits and struck out 30 in 21 innings.
"I felt actually pretty good when I was warming up," she told reporters after the game. "We had a plan going into the game with all of the batters. When I have a plan, I feel like I throw a lot better."
The teams play again at 4:30 p.m. Friday (ESPNU). If Alabama wins, it will advance to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth time in five seasons. A Michigan victory would force a deciding third game at 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2).
The Wolverines threatened to take a first-inning lead against the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year when Nicole Sappingfield singled and Chidester followed with a blast to straight-away center field. Alabama’s Jennifer Fenton chased down the long fly ball, however, and caught it at the outfield wall.
Traina wouldn’t allow another hit until Ashley Lane’s two-out, RBI double in the sixth inning. That scored Sappingfield, who drew one of four Traina base-on-balls.
Michigan had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the seventh inning after pinch hitter Caitlin Blanchard reached on a throwing error and Bree Evans singled to left. Traina ended the game by striking out Sappingfield on three pitches.
"That was the key, I think," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "Jackie gutted it out a little bit."
Hutchins saw the four late-inning base runners as a hopeful sign for Friday.
"We started getting on (Traina) toward the end of the game and I'm hopeful that we can carry that into (Friday) and make some adjustments with that," she said. "I thought it was a very competitive game and I'm pleased that we're still in the tournament.
"As long as there are outs left, we're playing to win."