ANN ARBOR, Mich. | The Valparaiso softball team couldn’t touch Michigan right-hander Sara Driesenga, no matter how hard it tried.
Driesenga carried a perfect game into the sixth inning until junior Amanda Wisniewski dropped a two-out single into right field to spoil the night. The stellar pitching performance by the sophomore ultimately proved too much for the Crusaders, falling 5-0 to No. 8 Michigan in their NCAA regional opener.
Driesenga, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, threw a complete game, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out six.
“She did a nice job of keeping the ball down all day,” said Valparaiso coach Jordan Stevens. “We tried going other places in the box, tried to come out and be patient with her and got more aggressive as the game went on. She just hammered it down on us and we weren’t able to get to it.”
The Wolverines gave their pitcher room to work with early in the game.
The first batter, junior Lyndsay Doyle, began the game with a softly hit ball to center field that she turned into a double. A walk to freshman shortstop Sierra Romero put two runners on base for senor first baseman Ashley Lane. Lane blasted a home run to left field to give Michigan an early 3-0 lead after the first inning.
In her first postseason game, freshman left-hander Taylor Weissenhofer calmed down following the first inning. Weissenhofer surrendered eight hits and five runs while managing only one strike out.
“I think it was nerves,” Weissenhofer said. “I didn’t really know what to expect from them, but once I went through the lineup at least once, I knew what I could do and pitch around them.
“It’s a little different, huge crowd here, but it was a more of a nervous excitement feeling I had today.”
The Wolverines added to their lead in the third inning when Romero hit a double to lead off before Lane hit an RBI single.
Driesenga forced Valparaiso to hit into easy ground balls as the game progressed, preserving her third complete-game shutout of the season. The Crusaders swung early and often in counts late in the game with the hope of gaining any momentum, but it wasn’t enough to spark a rally.
Michigan tacked on the final run of the game when Doyle hit in freshman right-fielder Sierra Lawrence in the fourth inning.
Valparaiso, playing in its second consecutive NCAA Tournament, faces elimination today when it takes on Central Michigan — who fell to California, 8-1, in the first game on Friday.
But the Crusaders are familiar with the do-or-die scenario. After losing the first game of the Horizon conference tournament, they strung together five consecutive wins to capture the title.
“The only thing that I can tell them after the game is that we have to do everything we can to play another game,” Stevens said.