OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Michigan already has gone through two Southeastern Conference teams.
One more, and the Wolverines will have their second national softball championship.
Sierra Lawrence had a two-run double in the sixth inning and Michigan beat LSU 6-3 on Sunday to advance to face defending champion Florida for the Women's College World Series title. The best-of-three series starts Monday.
Michigan won its only national title in 2005, when it became the first program east of the Mississippi River to win it all. And, though most of the talk heading into the tournament was focused on the SEC's five qualifiers, the Big Ten's Wolverines are still standing while Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee are done for the year. Michigan enters the championship series with 28 consecutive wins.
"We're about Michigan," Wolverines coach Carol Hutchins said. "You can play no matter what, no matter where you're from. Our school's made a huge commitment, and the schools that make commitments produce competitive teams."
The Gators won both meetings with Michigan in the regular season, but Wolverines pitcher Haylie Wagner looks forward to the matchup.
"We're as excited as we could be, but I think the toughest thing it's going to be a really, really tough game," she said. "And we have to go out there and attack. Florida is a great hitting team, a great defensive team and they have everything for them. And we just have to come out and attack and play with our heart and soul because we're just as good."
Michigan has not been shy about saying it wants to win the title.
"I think I really believe that if you set a goal you have to own it," Hutchins said. "If you can't say it out loud, you don't own it. It's not whether or not we win the championship, it's whether or not we go for it."
Michigan had to deliver some late-game heroics to earn the shot. The score against LSU was tied at 3-all when Lawrence's hit knocked in Tera Blanco and Olivia Richvalsky. Lawrence stole home for the final run.
Blanco, Lindsay Montemarano and Abby Ramirez each had two hits and Sierra Romero hit a home run for Michigan (59-6). Megan Betsa got the start and Wagner earned the win for the Wolverines.
Michigan now will have to deal with Lauren Haeger, the national player of the year. The first player in NCAA history with 70 home runs and 70 pitching wins has three wins and two home runs at the World Series.
LSU coach Beth Torina wouldn't pick a winner, but she's impressed by both teams. LSU's losses at the World Series were to the two finalists.
"I think they both have so many things going for them," Torina said. "They have great offenses, they're both strong on the mound, they both have great defenses. Michigan has an extremely deep lineup one through nine. Florida kind of has the X-factor in Lauren Haeger. They've been here before and they know how to win it."
LSU could be a threat next year. Just one starter and three players are seniors, and the Tigers have a strong recruiting class coming in.
"I hope none of my players are hanging their heads today," Torina said. "I think the sadness is not necessarily the way that it ended or how it ended, but the fact that it had to end."
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Posted on Mon, June 1, 2015
by CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer