May 22, 2006
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By Amber Colvin
Daily Sports Writer
It couldn't have been more per-
fect. It was plenty heartbreaking, but
it wasn't the end.
With the score tied at two in the
top of the seventh inning in the
regional finals, Michigan had the
bases loaded with one out.
Next in the bat-
ting order? Senior
catcher and home-
run leader Becky
Marx. But before the crowd could
say "grand slam," Marx popped a
fly ball right into the glove of Okla-
homa leftfielder Norrelle Dickson.
Still, the opportunity was far
from gone with sophomore slugger
Samantha Findlay ready to step up
to the plate. The first baseman, best
known for her clutch home run that
won last year's national champion-
ship, had already notched a pair of
grand slams this season. But instead
of racking up a third, Findlay struck
As the dismay from letting this
ideal situation slip away hit the
crowd at Alumni Field hard, there
was one group of people that didn't
let it phase them: the Michigan soft-
Instead, the Wolverine batters
broke out in extra innings with a
Junior Alessandra Giampaolo
kicked off the eighth with a double
to leftfield. Then, junior Grace Leu-
tele followed with her sixth home
run of the season, a blast that rode
gusty winds right over the rightfield
With a 4-2 score and spirits high,
designated player Tiffany Worthy
decided the offensive burst wasn't
over quite yet: She slammed a pitch
Alessandra Giampaolo and the rest of her Michigan teammates will now make their way to Knoxville, Tenn. to square off against
the Volunteers. The two teams met twice in the College World Series last June.
clear over the rightfield bleachers. ters in the bottom half of the inning. Perhaps the one player with most
Senior pitcherJennie Ritter sealed the "It took all we had to beat them," reason to get down was Ritter. The
5-2 win and an NCAA Super Regional Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. All-American ace had to fend off
berth, retiring three of four Sooner bat- "We never got down." See SOONERS, page 16
-Defending champs able to erase year's bad memories
G race Leutele sat at the postgame press conference smiling and The lasting images from the past school year are anything but posi-
joking alongside teammates Jennie Ritter and Alessandra tive when it comes to the "Big Three" Maize and Blue sports teams.
Giampaolo after the Wolverines won their third-consecutive Everyone remembers watching the football team put the cherry on
regional title on Sunday afternoon. top of the disappointment sundae that was its 2005 season.
The trio of girls didn't look stressed or overwhelmed, A 7-5 finish isn't exactly the proper way to follow up back-
or even relieved at the fact that they had just moved one to-back Rose Bowl appearances.
step closer to a return trip to the College World Series. -And who can forget the stomach-punch feeling all of the
They were just having fun, acting in the postgame just hockey fans in Ann Arbor got when its young and prom-
as they did during the game, and just like they have done ising team went from No. 1 in the nation to consistently
during the past few weeks as the season came to a close. inconsistent after suffering from the growing pains that
"At the end of the season, it's crunch time' Leutele playing 11 freshman will provide.
said just after her game-winning two-run homerun. "I But maybe the biggest downer came from the men's bas-
think that our team in general just lights up. I don't think ketball team. After years of mediocrity, the Cagers seemed
it's just me,I think everybody (steps up)." SCOTT to finally be putting everything together. But a 16-3 start
Stepping up and end of the season aren't phrases that BELL turned out to just be another glimpse into what could be, not
have been used in the same thought much this year, Too what would be, and the Wolverines were once again left out
unless, ofcourse someone was trying to cope with dis- Soon? of the Big Dance after a season-ending collapse.
appointment by using sarcasm. So as I was leaving Madison Square Garden after the
All school year long, teams at Michigan have dropped the ball, espe- men's basketball team completed the disappointment trifecta in March,
cially on the biggest stages they perform on. I would have probably told you the chances of the University salvaging
a decent year in sports were about as good as Marissa Cooper making
it out of season three of the O.C. alive.
But two months later, the disaster that was Michigan sports this past
year can at least be mended to respectability.
Sounds like a lot to aska group of 19-to23-year-old women to take
on their shoulders. Isn't that just more unnecessary pressure on a team I
that probably has a lot to deal with already?
The defending national champs seem to have the weight of an entire
university on its shoulders as it embarks on its quest for a repeat.
But compared to last year, it's almost a step down. The Wolverines
had the unenviable task of representing everyone East of the Mississippi
in its attempt to be the first team to win in a West Coast-dominated sport.
It's a welcome change to see a Michigan team stepping up when the
pressure is on. And while it's not fair that the softball team has to carry
the weight of saving a disappointing sports season for Michigan on its
shoulders,this is the one team I would want in this position.
It may be unenviable, but it's not unreachable. At least not
with this team.
- Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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