Michigan 3. Tennessee 2

June 6, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The No. 1-ranked University of Michigan softball team will become the first team from the east of the Mississippi River to appear in the championship game or series of the Women's College World Series thanks to a 3-2 victory over No. 11-ranked Tennessee this afternoon (Monday, June 6). Stephanie Bercaw (Wooster Ohio/Hillsdale HS) powered the Wolverines (63-6) past the Lady Volunteers (67-15) with a two-run home run, propelling the team into the best-of-three championship series which begins tonight vs. 12th-ranked UCLA at 6:30 p.m. CDT on ESPN.

Despite finishing last night's game close to 1:30 a.m. local time, the Wolverines jumped on Tennessee early, scoring a run in the first inning while producing three baserunners. Centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo (Pasadena, Calif./Polytechnic HS) started the Wolverines off with a single down the rightfield line. Giampaolo moved up to second on a ground ball and later scored on a Samantha Findlay (Lockport, Ill./East HS) groundball single that snuck past the glove of the Tennessee shortstop.

Michigan starter Jennie Ritter (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS), meanwhile, showed little effects from her 136-pitch outing just 12 hours earlier. She allowed just an infield single through the first four innings, giving the Maize and Blue a chance to pad the lead.

Bercaw gave her even more breathing room with a two-out, two-run blast in the bottom of the fourth. The Wolverine rightfielder drilled a 1-0 pitch over the leftfield fence. Bercaw's seventh home run of the year drove in Findlay, who was on second after a leadoff walk, to extend Michigan's lead to 3-0. The home run was Michigan's first of the WCWS, ending the team's longest power shortage of the year.v Tennessee answered and made Ritter work for her record-setting 36th win of the season. Ritter nearly got out of the fifth unscathed, but her own error in the circle kept the inning alive. With two runners on, the Lady Volunteers went with Natalie Brock as a pinch hitter in the nine-hole. The freshman took a Ritter pitch into the leftfield corner, bouncing off the glove of leftfielder Rebekah Milian (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc HS), scoring a pair to make it a 3-2 game.

Ritter was now over 200 pitches in the last 15 hours, but needed just six outs to become Michigan's single-season wins leader. She set down the side in order in the sixth and closed out the complete-game win by striking out the side in the seventh despite giving up a two-out double. Ritter gave up two runs on four hits while striking out eight and not walking a batter.

Michigan (63-6) will attempt to become the first softball team east of the Mississippi and just the second U-M women's program to win a national team championship when it opens the championship series later today vs. two-time defending champion UCLA.

-- Courtesy Michigan