Michigan softball nearly perfect in opening NCAA Regional win over Valparaiso
After nearly every pitch she throws, University of Michigan sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga walks to the back of the mound, bends down, wipes her hand in the dirt and dusts it off on her pants. She grabs the ball from her mitt and throws it back in as she steps to the mound. She takes a deep breath, sets and delivers the pitch.
It’s a routine that keeps her focused and calm. On Friday night that routine was nearly perfect as Driesenga retired the first 17 batters she faced and allowed just two hits on the night leading the Wolverines to a 5-0 victory over Valparaiso in the opening round of the NCAA Regional at Alumni Field.
“I just took it one pitch at a time. The defense was doing a great job and I trusted them to do their job,” Driesenga said. “If it happened, it happened, if didn’t which it didn’t, which is fine and we still won.
“(The routine) definitely helps me a lot. My routine is just what gets me in it and gets my mindset in the right place and helps me focus on that next pitch.”
Driesenga lost the perfect game with two outs in the top of the sixth inning when Valparaiso junior Amanda Wisniewski (a .147 hitter on the season) hit a bloop single to right field that dropped just in front of senior Jaclyn Crummey. Driesenga pitched seven innings giving up the two hits while striking out six for the win.
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Senior Ashley Lane gave the Wolverines a three-run lead in the bottom of the first inning with a line-drive home run to left field, her 17th of the season. Lane’s home run came just after freshman Sierra Romero was nearly picked off of first base with two outs in the inning. Romero was briefly caught in a pickle, but got back to the bag before being tagged. On the next pitch, Lane drove the ball over the fence and the Wolverines never looked back.
“It was a set play but then again it wasn’t,” Romero said. “(First base coach) Bonnie (Tholl) told me ‘if they throw down to second base, don’t let them get you out.’ So once the throw went down and I got in a pickle, I just took the base that they gave me.”
Lane finished the game 2-for-2 with four RBIs, but left the game after the third inning with an injury she suffered while sliding into second base. Hutchins didn’t say what sort of injury Lane suffered, but said she expects her back in the lineup on Saturday.
Romero went 2-for-2 on the night as well with a double and two runs scored. Junior Lyndsay Doyle went 2-for-3 with a double, one run scored and one RBI.
With the win, Michigan advances to play the University of California, which knocked off Central Michigan 8-1 earlier in the day. That game will start at noon. The winner of that game advances to Sunday’s final, while the loser will face the winner of CMU vs. Valparaiso for a chance to play in the finals.
With Cal up next, Hutchins said her team is ready.
“It should be fun. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
Matt Durr is a freelance sports reporter for AnnArbor.com.