Team breakdown courtesy of MGoBlue.com
The No. 3-ranked Michigan softball team (56-6) is making its 11th Women's College World Series appearance -- and second in three seasons -- after sweeping its NCAA Super Regional series against Georgia, 10-3, 7-6, last week (May 21-22) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines open up action in the tournament's third game vs. No. 6 seed Alabama on Thursday (May 28, 6 p.m. CDT) on ESPN2. Michigan's half of the double-elimination bracket also consists of No. 2 seed Oregon and No. 7 seed UCLA, which face off in game four on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. CDT. The winner of that four-team bracket moves onto the best-of-three championship series against the survivor of the other half of the bracket beginning Monday (June 1).
• This year's return to the WCWS correlates with the 10-year anniversary on Michigan's 2005 NCAA championship when it captured the first NCAA crown east of the Mississippi with a dramatic 4-1, 10-inning victory over UCLA in the rubber match of the championship series. Samantha Findlay earned WCWS MVP honors with her game-winning three-run bomb in the top of the 10th, while Jennie Ritter gutted out a complete-game, 119-pitch effort, striking out only four but holding the Bruins to just five hits.
• Michigan enters the WCWS on a tear, having won each of its last 25 games -- rebounding off a 9-1, six-inning loss at Minnesota on April 3. The Wolverines bounced back to claim that series and have not lost since. Michigan has outscored its opposition, 225-36, over that 25-game stretch. Included in its recent win streak, U-M has claimed 15 run-rule victories but has also rallied from deficits seven times over the two months, including twice in NCAA Tournament play. U-M overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit in the second game of the NCAA Super Regional against Georgia.
• The Wolverines have faced two of the WCWS teams this season, posting an even 2-2 record against them. Both of their wins came at Alabama, where U-M battled to an 8-2, 4-1 sweep aided by four runs and a stellar 1.50 ERA. Michigan opened its 2015 season against defending NCAA champion Florida and rallied to tie the game in the top of the seventh before falling, 2-1, on a walk-off wild pitch. U-M also fell to the Gators, 7-4, at the Judi Garman Classic after squandering an early 4-0 lead.
• After a sluggish .212 start at the season-opening USF Softball Classic, Michigan's bats have been explosive ever since. The Wolverines boast program records with 515 runs scored and 115 home runs, ranking second in the nation in both categories as well as their 8.31 runs-per-game average. Junior Sierra Romero, named espnW's inaugural Softball Player of the Year and a top-three finalist for USA Softball's POY for the second time, leads the Wolverine lineup with a .472 batting average, .962 slugging percentage and .624 on-base percentage. Sophomore Kelly Christner and junior Kelsey Susalla -- neither of whom were in the Wolverines' lineup last year -- list second and third with averages of .404 and .380, respectively.
• Pairing with its explosive hitting, Michigan's two-ace staff of sophomore RHP Megan Betsa and senior LHP Haylie Wagner rank fourth in the nation with a 1.59 team ERA. Betsa netted unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year accolades with her breakout season and has established personal-best standards with a 30-4 record, 1.56 ERA and 310 strikeouts. Wagner, who suffered through somewhat of an up-and-down stretch midway through the season, has been terrific of late, going 9-0 over the Wolverines' current win streak with a 1.30 ERA and 48 strikeouts.