Stephanie Bercaw continued her solid hitting off Tennessee's Monica Abbott with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth, and Jennie Ritter held off a Lady Vols' rally as Michigan moved into the national championship series with a 3-2 win Monday afternoon at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The home run was the first of the tournament for the Wolverines after Tennessee's Tonya Callahan forced Monday's game with a towering shot of her own earlier in the morning. Bercaw followed up last night's 3-for-5 plate performance with a 1-for-3, two-RBI outing today.
"I have been seeing the ball well, and I tried to stick to the game plan," Bercaw said. "We wanted to get (Jennie) Ritter some runs. I don't know what the pitch was; I was just in the moment."
Both pitchers battled once again, as Ritter allowed two runs, both unearned, on four hits with eight strikeouts, while Abbott, who threw 380 pitches in a 24-hour span, gave up all three runs on four hits with four strikeouts.
"This was a classic fastpitch game," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Michigan is a great team in every category. I was proud of our kids. Both teams had a short night, but Michigan came out on top."
Michigan struck early off Abbott with a run in the first inning on Samantha Findlay's single to left that scored Alessandra Giampaolo.
The Wolverines continued battling against the same pitcher in Abbott who held them scoreless on six hits through 11 innings last night, and broke through with the deciding runs in the fourth. Findlay walked to lead off the inning. After Nicole Motycka sacrificed her to second for the first out, Grace Leutele grounded out to short for the second out of the inning. Bercaw stepped to the plate and took the 1-0 offering over the same left field fence that Callahan's shot cleared at 1:21 a.m. Monday morning.
"We played two great games with Tennessee," Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins said. "They are a great team all the way through the lineup. I thought after last night's emotional game, we really did a good job putting our emotions aside and gutting out a tough win. We hung in there and played one pitch at a time."
The Lady Vols weren't going to go down without a fight, though, as pinch-hitter Natalie Brock delievered a two-out double in the top of the fifth to score Stacey Jennings, who doubled, and pinch-hitter Brittany Bessho, who reached on a fielding error by Ritter.
Ritter retired the next six hitters, but Jennings kept the Lady Vols alive with her second straight double. Ritter got pinch-hitter Ashley Cline to strikeout to end the game and send the Wolverines into the best-of-three series against UCLA for the national title.