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Michigan softball aims to please

Sidney Krandall/Daily
Freshman pitcher Sara Driesenga is splitting time on the mound for Michigan. Buy this photo

By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 16, 2012

After a pleasant weekend against Michigan State, the No. 20 Michigan softball team will travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich. today to take on Central Michigan (5-6 MAC, 20-18 overall).

This game will be the Wolverines’ (11-1 Big Ten, 30-11) fourth against MAC teams this season and first since Michigan’s loss to Western Michigan, 1-0, last Wednesday.

After that game, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was very adamant about her disappointment with her team. But after her team posted 19 shutout innings against Michigan State, Hutchins was quick to praise the performance.

“Holding (Michigan State) to zero was the name of the weekend,” Hutchins said. “It gives me more confidence.”

The two particular players responsible for restoring Hutchins' confidence were freshmen pitchers Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga.

Due to Wagner’s weekend performance, which was highlighted by a complete-game shutout on Sunday, she was given the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award for the fourth time this season.

“All my mechanics are working,” Wagner said. “I’m just back in my zone.”

Overall for the weekend, Wagner pitched 13.2 shutout innings, earned two wins and picked up her second save.

In addition, Driesenga was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time as a result of her all-around performance at both the plate and in the circle.

In the series, Driesenga batted .600 with a home run and two RBIs against the Spartans, and she threw 5.1 scoreless innings while striking out two. Driesenga also played small ball for the Wolverines, laying two sacrifice bunts in the series finale.

Hutchins, who does not like to classify her players by the year they are in school, had a lot to say about her two young hurlers.

“They’ve got 41 games under their belt,” Hutchins said. “I don’t think they’re inexperienced anymore.”

While Michigan leads the Big Ten in ERA with a 1.82, Central Michigan boasts a 2.64 ERA. A big reason for this is sophomore pitcher Chelsea Sundberg, who picked up three wins for the Chippewas last week against Oakland, Toledo and Bowling Green. In her three games, she struck out 13 batters and recorded a 2.19 ERA.

At the plate, Central Michigan has two .300-plus hitters in junior Macy Merchant and senior Molly Coldren. Merchant is seen as the power hitter for Central Michigan because of her team-leading seven home runs.

On the other hand, Merchant is the speedster of the team, with 44 of her team-leading 48 hits being singles and nine stolen bases. Overall, the Chippewas have 48 stolen bases for the season — 15 more than Michigan.

Though the Wolverines seemed to bounce back this past weekend against Michigan State, their hitting is not at the level of consistency that Hutchins expects.

An example of this was Saturday in Michigan’s mercy-rule-shortened 8-0 victory against Michigan State. While the eight runs were the most the Wolverines scored in any game in the weekend series, they all came in one inning — something that Hutchins was not the biggest fan of.

“We scored eight runs (Saturday) in one inning. We really struggled the other innings,” Hutchins said.

Earlier in the season, Michigan beat MAC opponents Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green, 10-2 and 12-2, in shortened affairs.

The Wolverines will attempt to win a third in this style at 3 p.m. today.


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