Sports

Michigan to face Florida in softball championship series

Series win over defending champion Florida would give Michigan its second national softball championship

Michigan already has gone through two Southeastern Conference teams.

One more, and the Wolverines will have their second national softball championship.

Sierra Lawrence had a two-run double in the sixth inning and Michigan beat Louisiana State, 6-3, on Sunday to advance to face defending champion Florida for the Women's College World Series title. Florida beat Auburn, 3-2, in extra innings Sunday. The best-of-three series starts Monday.

Michigan won its only national title in 2005, when it became the first program east of the Mississippi River to win it all. And, though most of the talk heading into the tournament was focused on the SEC's five qualifiers, the Big Ten's Wolverines are still standing while Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee are done for the year. Michigan enters the championship series with 28 consecutive wins.

The Gators won both meetings with Michigan in the regular season, but Wolverines pitcher Haylie Wagner looks forward to the matchup.

"We're as excited as we could be, but I think the toughest thing, it's going to be a really, really tough game," she said. "And we have to go out there and attack. Florida is a great hitting team, a great defensive team, and they have everything for them. And we just have to come out and attack and play with our heart and soul because we're just as good."

Michigan has not been shy about saying it wants to win the title.

"I really believe that if you set a goal, you have to own it," Coach Carol Hutchins said. "If you can't say it out loud, you don't own it. It's not whether or not we win the championship, it's whether or not we go for it."

Michigan had to deliver some late-game heroics to earn the shot. The score against LSU was tied at 3 when Lawrence's hit knocked in Tera Blanco and Olivia Richvalsky. Lawrence stole home for the final run.

Blanco, Lindsay Montemarano and Abby Ramirez each had two hits, and Sierra Romero hit a home run for Michigan (59-6). Megan Betsa got the start, and Wagner earned the win for the Wolverines.

Michigan now will have to deal with Lauren Haeger, the national player of the year. The first player in NCAA history with 70 home runs and 70 pitching wins has three wins and two home runs at the World Series.

Kristi Merritt and Haeger made the throws that have Florida (58-6) on the verge of a repeat.

Merritt, a center fielder, threw out runners at the plate in the second and fourth innings, and Haeger pitched a complete game to give Florida the victory over Auburn in nine innings.

Haeger gave up 11 hits, but she got out of jams to claim her third win at this year's World Series.

"It was a battle," Haeger said. "It was a dogfight. It was a nice clean softball game of just fighting each other and getting outs when we needed to."

Nicole DeWitt's single in the bottom of the ninth scored Justine McLean for the game winner. McLean had advanced to second on a wild pitch before DeWitt's hit off Auburn reliever Marcy Harper.

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