Thursday, May 19, 2016

No. 2 Michigan starts fresh with the Ann Arbor regional this weekend

Despite losing to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 4-3, in 10 innings in the Big Ten Championship Game on May 14, the Michigan Wolverines (46-5) start with a clean slate as they are one of 16 hosts across there country in this weekend's NCAA Softball Regionals at the Wilpon Complex at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, MI.

Games run from May 20-22 as the No. 2 overall seed Michigan's bracket includes Notre Dame, Valparaiso and Miami (OH) and the top two teams advance to the super regionals.

The Wolverines' opener comes on Friday at 7 p.m. against the Valparaiso Crusaders (18-32) in the second game of the session.

In their 24th NCAA Tournament in the last 25 seasons, the Wolverines will rely primarily on the play of second baseman Sierra Romero.

The senior broke the all-time NCAA record with her 294th career run scored in the conference championship game against Minnesota.

Fellow classmate Sierra Lawrence leads the country in runs per game with 1.39 and ranks eighth in on-base percentage at .574.

Pitcher Megan Betsa has been a force for Michigan all season as the right-hander leads the nation in strikeouts per seven innings with 11.5. 

Despite finishing 14 games under .500, Valparaiso won the Horizon League Tournament, 5-4 over Wright State on May 14 and makes its third NCAA appearance in the last five seasons.

The main catalyst of the Crusaders offense has been catcher Sam Stewart. The junior was named the Horizon League Tournament's MVP, going 5-for-12 from the plate with six RBIs in four games.

Before Michigan/Valpo, there's Notre Dame/Miami (OH):

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (41-11) and Miami (Ohio) Redhawks (34-21) meet in the early game on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Notre Dame rides into the regional off a 7-3 defeat at the hands of Florida State in the ACC Championship Game on May 14.

Coach Deanna Gumpf has led the Irish to the NCAA Tournament in each of her 15 seasons.

Junior co-captain Karley Wester leads the team in the batting average department at .440 and is ranked among the Top 10 in the ACC in that category and was named to the all-tournament team on May 14.

After delivering a 3-0 shutout to Ohio in the MAC Tournament Title Game on May 14, Miami returns to the tournament for the first time since the 2012 season.

The RedHawks have shown the ability to produce runs at an abundant pace with a school-record 299 this season (previous record 256).

The ace of Miami's pitching staff all season has been senior Amber Logermann.

Logermann went 23-12 in the regular season with a 2.40 in 26 starts (43 appearances). More impressive was her 0.65 ERA, which resulted in being named the MAC Tournament MVP and will be needed if Miami is to finish in the top two and make a cinderella run to the super regional round.

Ann Arbor Regional Schedule- Friday, May 20 (All Times ET):

Game 1- No. 3 Miami (OH) vs No. 2 Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m.
Game 2- No. 4 Valparaiso vs No. 1 Michigan, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 21:

Game 3- ND/Miami winner vs Valpo/Mich winner, Noon
Game 4- ND/Miami loser vs Valpo/Mich loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5- Game 3 loser vs Game 4 loser, 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 22:

Game 6- Game 3 winner vs Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary)- Game 6 winner vs Game 6 loser, 3:30 p.m.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.