OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For nearly five innings on Sunday afternoon at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., Washington’s Bryana Walker and Michigan’s Sara Driesenga engaged in an old-school pitcher’s duel more likely to be witnessed a decade ago at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
That all changed over the span of just six total outs as a hard-fought, one-run Wolverine lead, gained in the bottom of the fifth, evaporated just minutes later as the Huskies exploded for a four-spot during the sixth to eliminate UM from the WCWS, 4-1.
UW catcher Shawna Wright led the offense with two of her squad’s seven total hits in the match-up, while third baseman Kimberlee Souza (1-for-2), center fielder Kylee Lahners (1-for-3) and left fielder Whitney Jones (0-for-3) were each credited with a RBI. In the circle Walker picked up her 20th win of the season, allowing one earned run on four hits over seven innings of work with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“First, when we knew that we were going to play Michigan last night at whatever time it was -- 2:34 -- it was either Michigan or ASU, so we knew we were in for a battle,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. “I don't know how long our team stayed up to watch the game; hopefully not too long. They knew we were in for it. Michigan played us tough last time we played them in March, and we lost pretty handily. I just want to give credit to our team for staying strong, especially going down 1‑0 late in the game. And Bryana Walker threw an awesome game, and I’m just really proud of our team right now.”
Driesenga permitted four earned tallies on seven hits with two walks and three K’s over seven frames in falling to 31-9 in 2013. UM designated player Jaclyn Crummey guided the Wolverine offense with two hits in three at-bats and the lone RBI.
Washington wasted little time getting its initial base runner of the contest during the top of the opening frame as first baseman Hooch Fagaly delivered a one-out single through the right side of the infield off Driesenga. That was all the Huskies would get, however, as designated player Kaitlin Inglesby chopped into a fielder’s choice to third that cut down the lead runner and Souza bounced back to the circle.
Michigan second baseman Ashley Lane opened the bottom of the second in promising fashion for the Wolverines, reaching safely after her sharp grounder was misplayed on a tough hop by Huskie shortstop Jennie McNeill. Washington starter Walker refused to allow the UM offense to string anything together, however, as she struck out both third baseman Amy Knapp and catcher Lauren Sweet before watching her battery mate Shawna Wright gun down Lane on a caught stealing at second to end the frame.
With a full-blown pitcher’s duel in effect, any mistake during the late innings might be one that proved costly. It was Washington that blinked first during the bottom of the fifth. Following a one-out walk issued to Sweet, a fielder’s choice from left fielder Sierra Lawrence, a stolen base and a wild pitch stationed a Wolverine runner just 60 feet from pay dirt. Crummey hit a slow roller off the end of the bat, hustling hard down the line with two outs to beat a throw to first as Lawrence crossed easily for a 1-0 lead. A single to left from center fielder Lyndsay Doyle brought a visit to the circle from the UW coaching staff. That seemed to settle Walker down as the hurler struck out pinch hitter Kelsey Susalla to limit the damage to just the one tally.
That Michigan run in the bottom of the fifth seemed to have an awakening effect on the Washington squad as its offense erupted for four runs in the top of the sixth off Dreisenga to nab a 4-1 lead. The outburst all began with a single up the middle from right fielder Victoria Hayward. After she was sacrificed to second, Inglesby was intentionally walked to put a pair aboard with one down. Souza delivered a single that was eventually thrown away for an error, allowing both Hayward and pinch runner Marki Creger-Zier time to score for a 2-1 lead. A RBI double by center fielder Kylee Lahners and a RBI groundout from left fielder Whitney Jones plated two more as the advantage expanded to 4-1 in UW’s favor.
UM shortstop Sierra Romero tried to start a rally for the Wolverines during the bottom of the sixth by leading off the frame with a hit to right center. She was soon cut down, however, as part of a wild double play as a foul ball outside of third off the bat of first baseman Caitlin Blanchard was caught and fired quickly to second, nailing Romero in a futile attempt to advance. Lane soon battled Walker to draw a two-out free pass but was left stranded at first as Knapp grounded out to shortstop.
Washington’s Walker refused to allow Michigan any possible hope of a comeback during the bottom of the seventh, striking out Sweet, getting defensive help on a nice leaping snag at first by Fagaly on a Lawrence liner and K’ing Crummey to wrap up the 4-1 triumph.