Michigan secures eighth win in a row, clinches share of Big Ten crown
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Third-ranked Michigan clinched at least a share of its eighth consecutive Big Ten Conference title with a 9-1, five-inning decision against Penn State on Saturday afternoon in front of 1,852 fans at the Wilpon Complex, home of Alumni Field.
Sophomore leftfielder Kelly Christner registered her second consecutive three-hit performance, going 3-for-4 with two runs batted in, to headline the Wolverines offense. Junior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence and sophomore third baseman Lindsay Montemarano both went yard with two-run homers. Montemarano went 2-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. She ended the game in the fifth with her two-run shot down the leftfield line.
Senior LHP Haylie Wagner (20-2) was solid in victory from the circle, striking out two while allowing just a single unearned run on seven scattered hits -- none for extra bases -- and no walks.
After little production in the opening two frames, Lawrence broke open the game with the two-run blast in her second turn at the plate bottom of the third. With sophomore shortstop Abby Ramirez on base after a four-pitch walk, Lawrence connected with a 3-2 pitch and lined it deep over the wall in left centerfield for her 13th long ball of the season.
Penn State cut U-M's lead to one with an unearned run in the fourth. First baseman Kristin Brackpool reached on a one-out fielding error, and after a groundout and a pair of singles to the left side, her pinch runner scored to put the Nittany Lions on the board.
Michigan responded with four runs in the home half of the frame. Montemarano led off with a first-pitch double off the wall in left centerfield and scored with freshman first baseman Tera Blanco ripped an RBI single up the middle. Junior pinch runner Olivia Richvalsky scored on a wild pitch before Christner drove a two-run looper into a shallow leftfield, pushing the Wolverines lead to 6-1.
Wagner grew stronger late in the game, dealing a 1-2-3 fifth inning before giving up a harmless two-out single in the sixth.
The Wolverines surged again with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Senior catcher Lauren Sweet drove a sharp, bouncing grounder up the middle to plate another run before Montemarano ended the contest in the next at-bat, lining a deep shot down the leftfield line -- just fair of the foul pole -- for her third home run this season.