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Michigan Finally Breaks Through

June 08, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Throughout the regular season, Michigan's top-ranked softball team dominated opponents with a power-hitting lineup and the pitching of junior Jennie Ritter.

But for the first 14 innings of the best-of-three championship round, the Wolverines were dominated by UCLA freshman sensation Anjelica Selden, who blanked Michigan in Game 1.

That all changed in the fifth inning of Game 2 Tuesday night when Michigan's big bats finally got to Selden. Catcher Becky Marx hit a two-run home run and shortstop Jessica Merchant knocked in two runs with a two-out double to lead the Wolverines to a 5-2 come-from-behind victory over the two-time defending national champion Bruins at Oklahoma City.

Ritter gave up two runs early, but she finished strong with nine consecutive outs and a four-hitter to help Michigan tie the series at 1-1 heading into tonight's decisive championship game.

"We take it one pitch at a time," said Ritter (37-4), who gave up a solo home run to Caitlin Benyi in the fourth inning. "They got a hit and I had to move on like any other hit. I just forgot about it and moved on, that's all you can do."

Selden, who threw a four-hit shutout to win her fourth consecutive complete game in Game 1, gave up eight hits, walked two and struck out 13. She said Michigan took advantage of her mistakes on Tuesday.

"I don't really feel like I learned a lesson," said Selden (29-13) about the Bruins' first World Series loss in 14 games. "I need to be sharper ... and not miss with my pitches."

Michigan (64-7), the first team from the Eastern time zone to play for the NCAA softball championship, finally received production from Marx, who had one hit in 10 previous World Series at-bats. It was Marx's home run that tied the score at 2-2 and broke the Wolverines' scoreless streak against Selden.

Rebekah Milian followed with a single and Tiffany Haas reached base on Selden's throwing error. Alessandra Giampaolo advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt before Merchant delivered her game-winning double.

"I was just trying to stay in sync [against Selden]," Merchant said. "I was thrown for a loop yesterday. We knew coming in that we needed to make some adjustments, make her bring it down in the hitting zone."

UCLA (40-19) scored first when Andrea Duran tripled home Lisa Dodd to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the third. Benyi's homer in the fourth put UCLA ahead, 2-0.

Tuesday's loss was the first blown lead for the Bruins and Selden in World Series play. Selden, who has a 0.80 earned-run average with 49 strikeouts in 35 World Series innings, said she would not change anything for tonight's game.

"There's nothing really more I can do, except be more sharp with my pitches and not miss like I did," Selden said.

White reported from Los Angeles.

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