Wolverines Shutout DePaul; Advance in WCWS

After a long, grueling season, the No. 1-ranked Wolverine softball team began their march toward the schools first national championship today at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. Pitcher Jennie Ritter, a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, powered the Wolverines victory with 12 strikeouts on the way to her 15th shutout of the season.

For the Michigan softball team, the 2005 season has become one to remember. Record after record has fallen in the school record books en route to the first No. 1 ranking in program history, and as the season comes to a close, the Wolverines hope to end strong by holding onto the No. 1 ranking they have owned since March 22. To do so, however, the Wolverines have to fend off the challenge of seven of the most battle-tested softball teams in the nation in the WCWS.

The DePaul Blue Demons (45-20) were first in line for the Wolverines (61-5), and as has been the case all season, the Wolverines used a combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting to find a way to win, knocking off the Blue Demons 3-0.

As they have done to opponents all season, the Wolverines jumped on DePaul early in tonight's contest. After a 1-2-3 inning from Jennie Ritter, the Wolverines struck twice in the opening frame, taking advantage of an early Blue Demon miscue. With runners on first and second base and two batters retired, designated player Nicole Motycka's line drive down the right field line slipped underneath the glove of DePaul rightfielder Ashley Parker allowing both Alessandra Giampaolo and Jessica Merchant to cross the plate to put the Wolverines on top 2-0 after one inning.

The lead would hold until the third inning when DePaul would try and answer by putting runners on the corners with one out. At that point, however, Ritter turned her game up a notch by recording a ground out and a strike out to end the inning.

Michigan added a third run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Tiffany Haas, and after the rocky third, Ritter kept the Blue Demons at bay by holding them hitless in the final four innings of play.

With the 3-0 win, the Wolverines remain in the WCWS winner's bracket where they will meet No. 7 Texas tomorrow night at 9 p.m. CDT on ESPN2.

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