Michigan softball falls to Kentucky, 7-6; will play elimination game tonight
Note: Updated with Michigan's elimination game opponent and start time. Notre Dame beat Western Michigan, 4-0.
The Michigan softball team tried to make a rally. But it fell one run short.
Kentucky built too much of a lead on the Wolverines in its 7-6 win in the third game of the NCAA regionals Saturday.
The Wildcats move on to the regional final at 1 p.m. Sunday. Michigan will play Notre Dame at 5:37 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game.
Trailing 7-1 in the top of the seventh inning, Michigan's first five batters reached base and all scored, capped by a grand slam by sophomore Ashley Lane over the left field fence. It cut Kentucky’s lead to 7-6 and gave the Wolverines energy.
Kentucky (38-14) switched pitchers, pulling starter Chanda Bell for reliever Rachel Riley.
Riley then retired the next three batters — including Alycia Ryan and Marley Powers looking at the plate — to secure the win.
“If they don’t learn their lesson, it’s going to be over,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “This is a wake-up call and we have to battle better from pitch-to-pitch.
“Our inability to adjust for six innings, pop ups, pop outs, it just brought us down.”
Michigan threatened in the top of the third with Lyndsay Doyle on second and Dorian Shaw on first with two outs, but Big Ten Player of the Year Amanda Chidester was called out on a dead ball strike three.
It ended the inning and sent both associate head coach Bonnie Tholl and Hutchins out of the dugout to argue the call separately.
“I don’t know why she was out,” Hutchins said. “I got a different explanation every time. So I don’t know what happened.”
Michael Mazur, the non-working umpire in the chair behind home plate, said a check-swing appeal was made by Kentucky and when that happens, the appeal call goes to the umpire who is on the line regardless of lefty or righty batter.
“The umpire that had the ruling ruled that she swung, so it is a dead-ball strike,” Mazur said. “When a batter swings at a pitch and is hit by a pitch and does not foul it off, it is a dead-ball strike. If it is strike three, it is dead ball strike three. That is my understanding of what it was.”
Chidester said she felt she checked on the swing and then ran out the play because she wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. Chidester said the ball hit her cleanly on the wrist.
But she said the play changed some momentum for the Wolverines (52-5)
“I had no idea why I was out,” Chidester said. “I thought if anything, it was going to be a foul ball or hit by pitch.”
Kentucky used that point to rally, scoring three runs in both the bottom of the fourth and the bottom of the fifth. Wildcats first baseman Samantha DeMartine drove in three of the runs — two in the fourth, one in the fifth — for Kentucky.