Washington had struggled offensively for much of the Women's College World Series. And the No. 11 Huskies looked like they were heading for another cold performance — and thus, elimination — Sunday afternoon against eighth-seeded Michigan.
But then Washington exploded for four runs in the sixth inning, which was all it would need in a 4-1 comeback victory at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“It's kind of like one of those things where you can't keep a good team down very long,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “For us to be able to find a way to stay in the games that we were staying in to be able to win them, I think that says a lot about our team.
“It was just only a matter of time for our team to be able to have a big fourrun inning. We found a way to get the leadoff runner on, and then get her over.”
The Huskies will next face Oklahoma Sunday at 8:30 p.m. and will need to beat the top-ranked Sooners twice to reach the championship series.
After 4 1/2 innings of scoreless play, Michigan scratched a run across with small ball when Sierra Lawrence reached on a fielder's choice following a bunt, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on an infield single by Jaclyn Crummy.
But Washington immediately answered with its big frame — and got its first two runs in wacky fashion after some help from the Michigan defense.
Following a single by Victoria Hayward and an intentional walk to Kaitlin Inglesby, a ball off the bat of Kimberlee Souza deflected awkwardly off pitcher Sara Driesenga. Hayward beat the throw home, and then a fielding error by shortstop Sierra Romero after Lauren Sweet threw to second base to try to snag Souza allowed pinch runner Marki Creger-Zier to score.
“It was hard for me to see,” Tarr said. “I was wheeling the runners around (at third base), and I saw it go off the pitcher's leg, and it looked like it was going into no man's land. And I was hoping that Romero couldn't get it because she is such a good athlete. So I was hoping she couldn't get it to throw us out (at home).”
An RBI double down the left-field line by Kylee Lahners and an RBI groundout Whitney Jones plated the Huskies' other two runs.
The offensive outburst broke a 12-inning scoreless streak for Washington, which includes the duration of a 1-0 loss to Tennessee Saturday afternoon.
“Our team's pretty scrappy,” catcher Shawna Wright said. “We fight. They only got one run in, and we knew we needed at least one run to at least win the game. So we weren't very stressed out about the situation. We stayed calm and did what we can do.”
Bryana Walker, who lasted just three innings in her WCWS start against Nebraska on Thursday, used a strong drop ball to get the win for Washington after allowing four hits and striking out seven batters in the complete game. Driesenga gave up seven hits and struck out three in the loss.
Despite the loss, spirits were relatively high in Michigan's postgame news conference as Romero, Driesenga, second baseman Ashley Lane and coach Carol Hutchins discussed their season coming to a close.
The Wolverines' first trip to Oklahoma City since 2009 featured a memorable late-night-turned-early-morning victory against Arizona State — a game that forced Hutchins to take back her blanket statement to her team that nothing good happens after midnight.
And with several key components returning — including one of the game's premier young players in Romero — Michigan looks poised to make another run to the WCWS again in 2014.
“Our team has gained a lot of confidence, and what (Hutchins) will tell you, swag,” Romero said. “I think we're going to carry that into next year, and I'm really excited to see what happens next year with the team.”