UL Softball Preview: Michigan Wolverines
The 20th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns will play the 6th-ranked Michigan Wolverines twice in the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational over the weekend at Lamson Park, and if those two games are anything like the last five, then softball fans are in for quite a treat.
In 2012, Louisiana defeated Michigan, 10-7, in the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida, in a game in which the two teams combined for 17 runs and 25 hits.
Last year, the two squads met again in NFCA Leadoff Classic, with the Wolverines coming out on top, 3-1, in a great pitcher's duel between Sara Driesenga of Michigan and UL's Jordan Wallace.
In last year's NCAA Super Regionals, the two teams met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a berth to the Women's College World Series on the line in the best-of-three game series.
In game one, Driesenga shut out the Cajuns for six innings, as the Wolverines took a 2-0 lead into the final frame.
Things looked bleak for UL, as Driesenga retired the first two Louisiana hitters she faced, and Michigan was only one out away from a win.
With two outs and the bases empty, Louisiana shortstop Nerissa Myers singled to left, before outfielder Brianna Cherry belted a dramatic two-run, game-tying home run in the next at-bat.
In the eighth, the Cajuns grabbed their first lead of the game, pushing a run across the plate, to take a 3-2 lead into the bottom half of the inning.
That's when second baseman Ashley Lane crushed a two-run walk-off home run, giving Michigan a 3-2 win in one of the more dramatic postseason games in Ragin' Cajuns softball history.
In the second game, Wallace was dynamite, twirling a three-hit shutout, while catcher Sara Draheim and designated player Sara Corbello both hit homers, propelling the Cajuns to a 5-0 win.
That set-up a third and decisive game, in which the Wolverines scored two run in the bottom of the fifth, to capture a 2-1 win, and deny Louisiana a berth in the WCWS.
In that final game, Wallace and Driesenga were at it again, allowing a combined three runs on only ten hits.
So, in the last five meetings between the two teams, Michigan has won three of the five games, while Louisiana has outscored the Wolverines, 20-16.
These are two programs that are always in postseason play, two programs that feature two of the best coaches in the entire country, in Carol Hutchins of Michigan, and Michael Lotief of Louisiana, and two programs that feature an All-American candidate in the circle, as both Wallace and Driesenga return.
If you like softball, even a little bit, you need to make it a point to be at Lamson Park for at least one of the two meetings, either on Friday at 4:30 pm, or on Saturday at 2 o'clock.
Michigan will come into the tournament at 3-1, after opening their season in the USF Wilson-Demarini Tournament in Tampa, Florida last weekend.
The Wolverines fell to 4th-ranked Florida, 9-4, in eight innings, before capturing wins over #25 USF (3-2), Illinois St. (7-1), and Bethune Cookman (12-1).
Driesenga, a junior right-hander, is off to a little bit of a slow start, at 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA., but she'll rank among the nation's elite by the end of the year. She, along with junior left-hander Haylie Wagner and freshman right-hander Megan Betsa give Michigan one of the most talented and deepest staffs in the nation.
Offensively, is led by sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero, who hit a .379 with 23 home runs and 71 RBI's a season ago, while being tabbed a second team All-American.
Romero, along with senior outfielders Lyndsay Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield, catcher Caitlin Blanchard, and Driesenga, who also plays first base, gives Michigan a formidable line-up.
The Wolverines are a team that can beat you with pitching, defense, power, speed, or with the short game. They are a legit top ten team, and a contender to make a return trip to the Women's College World Series again this year.
The two contests between Michigan and Louisiana should be fun, just like the previous five.
Michigan will play twice on Friday, at 2 o'clock against Memphis and at 4:30 pm against Louisiana, twice again on Saturday, at 11:30 am against Central Arkansas and at 2 o'clock against Louisiana, and once on Sunday, at 9 am against Boston College.
The Louisiana schedule for the tournament is as follows:
Friday: vs. Michigan---4:30 pm vs. Valparaiso--7 pm
Saturday: vs. Michigan--2 pm vs. Memphis--4:30 pm
Sunday: vs. Central Arkansas--2 pm
You can hear all the Louisiana games on Sports Radio ESPN 1420 & espn1420.com, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes prior to first-pitch.