Michi­gan, Florida will face off for ti­tle

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated press

OK­LA­HOMA CITY — Michi­gan al­ready has gone through two South­east­ern Con­fer­ence teams.

One more, and the Wolver­ines will have their sec­ond na­tional soft­ball cham­pi­onship.

Sierra Lawrence had a two-run dou­ble in the sixth in­ning and Michi­gan beat Louisiana State, 6-3, on Sun­day to ad­vance to face de­fend­ing cham­pion Florida for the Women’s Col­lege World Se­ries ti­tle. Florida beat Auburn, 3-2, in ex­tra innings Sun­day. The best-of-three se­ries starts Mon­day.

Michi­gan won its only na­tional ti­tle in 2005, when it be­came the first pro­gram east of the Mis­sis­sippi River to win it all. And, though most of the talk head­ing into the tour­na­ment was fo­cused on the SEC’s five qual­i­fiers, the Big Ten’s Wolver­ines are still stand­ing while Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Ten­nessee are done for the year. Michi­gan en­ters the cham­pi­onship se­ries with 28 con­sec­u­tive wins.

The Ga­tors won both meet­ings with Michi­gan in the regular sea­son, but Wolver­ines pitcher Haylie Wag­ner looks for­ward to the matchup.

“We’re as ex­cited as we could be, but I think the tough­est thing, it’s go­ing to be a re­ally, re­ally tough game,” she said. “And we have to go out there and attack. Florida is a great hit­ting team, a great de­fen­sive team, and they have ev­ery­thing for them. And we just have to come out and attack and play with our heart and soul be­cause we’re just as good.”

Michi­gan has not been shy about say­ing it wants to win the ti­tle.

“I re­ally be­lieve that if you set a goal, you have to own it,” Coach Carol Hutchins said. “If you can’t say it out loud, you don’t own it. It’s not whether or not we win the cham­pi­onship, it’s whether or not we go for it.”

Michi­gan had to de­liver some lategame hero­ics to earn the shot. The score against LSU was tied at 3-3 when Lawrence’s hit knocked in Tera Blanco and Olivia Rich­val­sky. Lawrence stole home for the fi­nal run.

Blanco, Lind­say Mon­temarano and Abby Ramirez each had two hits, and Sierra Romero hit a home run for Michi­gan (59-6). Megan Betsa got the start, and Wag­ner earned the win.

Michi­gan now will have to deal with Lau­ren Haeger, the na­tional player of the year. The first player in NCAA his­tory with 70 home runs and 70 pitch­ing wins has three wins and two home runs at the World Se­ries.

Kristi Mer­ritt and Haeger made the throws that have Florida (58-6) on the verge of a re­peat.

Mer­ritt, a cen­ter fielder, threw out run­ners at the plate in the sec­ond and fourth innings, and Haeger pitched a com­plete game to give Florida the victory over Auburn in nine innings.

Alonzo Adams As­so­ci­ated Press

JUSTINE McLEAN cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing for Florida in the ninth in­ning against Auburn. The Ga­tors will now de­fend their ti­tle.

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