staff, May 22, 2015

The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan softball team rallied from an early deficit and staved off a late comeback to knock off No. 14 Georgia, 7-6, and claim an NCAA Super Regional sweep on Friday evening in front of 2,582 fans at the Wilpon Complex, home of Alumni Field.

With the victory — their 24th in a row — the Wolverines advanced to the Women's College World Series for the 11th time in program history and second time in three seasons.

Senior LHP Haylie Wagner (22-2) earned the victory in relief, striking out six while allowing three runs — two earned — on seven hits and no walks. Sophomore RHP Megan Betsa, who was pulled after allowing a pair of home runs in the first inning, reentered with two outs and the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh and forced a game-ending popout to secure her fourth save of the season.

Junior rightfielder Kelsey Susalla and senior catcher Lauren Sweet combined for five hits and four RBI in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots; Susalla matched her career best with three base knocks, including a second-inning home run to put U-M on the board. Junior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence also posted a pair of hits, while Wagner helped her own cause with a fourth-inning shot — her second of the season.

Georgia used a pair of first-inning bombs to jump to a 3-0 advantage, but the Wolverines chipped away, scoring runs in each of the subsequent four innings — tying the game in the third before surging past the Bulldogs in the fourth.

Susalla initiated the rally immediately in the second, sending a towering first-pitch leadoff shot deep over the right centerfield wall for her 13th homer of the season. The Wolverines strung together three straight hits to keep the momentum going in the third. With two runners on, junior second baseman Sierra Romero shot an RBI single through the 3-4 gap, and sophomore leftfielder Kelly Christner followed with a deep sac fly to rightfield to plate the tying run.

U-M quickly earned the go-ahead run in its next turn at the plate when Wagner, who struck out on four pitches in her first at-bat, connected with the second pitch of her next at-bat and lined it deep over the left centerfield wall. The Wolverines plated two more with two outs in the fifth. Susalla worked out of a 0-2 count to smack a RBI double down the leftfield line and, after advancing on a wild pitch, came home herself when Sweet drove the next pitch through the right side.

Georgia put two runners in scoring position with no outs in the sixth and plated a run on a groundout before Wagner got out of the jam with a tremendous play at the plate and an inning-ending strikeout. Michigan reestablished its three-run cushion on Sweet's RBI single up the middle in the top of the seventh.

That seventh-inning insurance run proved pivotal when Bulldogs third baseman Anna Swafford bombed a two-out, two-run homer deep to centerfield. Michigan brought Betsa back in after Georgia singled up the middle in the next at-bat, and the Wolverine sophomore worked the count full before forcing a soft game-ending popout to Romero at second base.