Runs sure were at a premium Sunday afternoon in Game 2 of the NCAA Super Regional. Until late, that is, when it was one team’s game, and then another’s.
No. 15 Missouri rallied in the sixth inning, but No. 2 Michigan took a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh and went on to victory.
The Tigers broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning, and it looked like it was their game until the following frame.
In the bottom of the sixth, Rylee Pierce blasted a three-run home run over the center field wall and put Mizzou up 4-1 on the hosts.
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Sami Fagan led off the inning with a double, Chloe Rathburn was intentionally walked and Kirsten Mack smacked a single with Fagan out by fielder’s choice.
That brought up Pierce, who took a 2-1 count before blasting her eighth home run of the year.
“I think that my approach, it allowed me to stay calm by just being confident and helping my team win,” Pierce said after the game. “But doing it for the seniors put that extra oomph into that home run.
“I really wanted it for them, and it breaks my heart that we didn’t get it done.”
In the next frame, the Wolverines got to work.
Sierra Romero hit an RBI sacrifice fly with one out and bases loaded, pulling Michigan to within two.
Kelly Christner followed up with an RBI single down the first-base line, and Kelsey Susalla’s ensuing RBI double tied the game.
With Tera Blanco batting, Christner scored on a wild pitch for the winning run.
It was Blanco who ended the game in the bottom of the frame when she grabbed the bounce and stepped onto first for the Michigan win.
It looked as if it would be a one-run game until late when the Tigers were finally able to get on the board.
Michigan scored early and led 1-0 for almost three innings before Mizzou made it a game.
With two outs against them, Tigers second baseman Kolby Romaine singled to get the effort going after they took two outs in the first two batters.
Center fielder Taylor Gadbois followed up and blasted a shot to left center field that scored Romaine and tied the game.
The teams finished with nine hits each and no errors.
Fagan led the Tigers with three hits in three at bats and Romaine finished with two of her own in her two trips to the plate.
Pitching ace Paige Lowary took the loss and pitched the full game while striking out five.
Mizzou coach Ehren Earleywine said it was a tough loss for the team’s three seniors: Taylor Gadbois, Emily Crane and Sami Fagan.
“I wish it wouldn’t have gone down like that, but I’ve been around the game long enough to know the best team wins,” he said. “However it was supposed to play out, or however it did play out for me doesn’t make a big difference, but I know it’s going to be hard for those players to swallow.”
He commended his three seniors on their work ethic over the years.
“I hurt for the kids; that’s it,” he said. “Sami, Emily and Taylor have given so much; 20 hours a week for five years, two of them. That’s a lot of time, (and) that’s a lot of investment.
“Every team goes through it at the end of every season, but man, it’s hard.”
Pierce backed her senior class, as well as her coach following recent allegations that the university is investigating.
“The past month has probably been the most rewarding month of my life,” she said. “Our team and our leaders made huge risks and did things that could really change our program and the future of our program.
“I love my team and I’m so grateful to have the senior class like those three. They wanted to not only do good this year, but they wanted to leave the underclassmen with the best, and that’s coach E.”
Pierce is optimistic about her future at Mizzou with Earleywine as her coach.
“He is such a good figure for all of us and his leadership though the whole entire season has taken us this far and at the end of the day I have no regrets,” she said. “I left everything I have on the field and I know that coach knows that and I just absolutely love playing for him.”
With the win, the Wolverines head back to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.