- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 4, 2013
As spring break kicked off, the Michigan’ softball team packed its bags and headed down to Orlando, Fla. — but Mickey and the crew at Disney World weren’t on their itinerary. Instead, for the fourth weekend in a row, the 14th-ranked Wolverines arrived in the Sunshine State for a weekend series — this time facing five opponents in three days at the Citrus Classic.
More like this
Michigan (13-5) was matched up against its toughest competition of the year, taking on three opponents ranked 11th or better prior to the weekend. In their two losses, against No. 11 LSU and No. 10 Oregon, the Wolverines allowed a combined 27 runs — in their three wins, Michigan pitchers gave up only four combined runs.
“We were very enthusiastic (during the weekend),” freshman Sierra Romero said. “Because of the traveling we’ve become more of a team. We’ve gotten to know each other better and gotten to play with each other in tougher situations. … We’re definitely coming together as a team.”
In the weekend finale against Oregon on Sunday, the Wolverines gave up six home runs to the Ducks in just as many innings, falling 13-4. Sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga was relieved after 3.2 innings after she surrendered six runs (four earned) on nine hits. Offensively, Michigan managed just three hits, but took advantage of poor Oregon fielding to scratch out four runs.
On Saturday, Michigan split a double header by defeating James Madison, 9-1, and falling to LSU, 14-6. In the matinée against the Tigers, the Wolverines got on the board first with freshman Sierra Lawrence and senior Amy Knapp scoring in the bottom of the second inning. But LSU came back quickly with six runs in the third, five off of Driesenga, who lasted only two innings before being relieved by senior Stephanie Speierman. Speierman, who pitched an inning, and the Wolverine who came on after, freshman Alice Fitzpatrick, both struggled in the circle. They surrendered a combined nine runs.
But when Michigan’s pitchers were getting it done this weekend, so was the team.
On Friday, Driesenga, who pitched 25.2 total innings over the weekend, was at the top of her game. In their first game against Georgia Tech, the sophomore struck out 15 batters — striking out the side in three innings. Michigan started fast on offense, with five of the first seven batters collecting a hit. Junior Lyndsay Doyle led off with a single and scored two batters later on a base hit off the bat of Romero. Senior Ashley Lane came up with a two-out hit to score Romero on a single down the leftfield line, and scored on Lawrence’s single up the middle after. Before the final out of the inning, junior Caitlin Blanchard plated Lawrence to put the Wolverines up 4-0 before they even took the field. Michigan surrendered one run in the second half of the first and would add two more in their frame of the seventh inning to get the 6-1 victory.
“As soon as one person hits then another person hits and it’s very contagious,” Driesenga said. “We just kept feeding off of each other. We get really good energy from that, and then we go out (in the field) and get three up, three down and then we come back in and keep it going.”
The Wolverine’s most impressive showing came against Texas A&M on Friday. Thanks to dominant pitching and an offensive surge, Michigan handed the Aggies their first loss of the season, ending the 9th-ranked team’s 19-game win streak.
The Wolverines used four hits and two runs to go up 4-0 in the first, and never looked back. They added to their lead in the second with runs from Doyle and junior Nicole Sappingfield. Romero helped stretch the lead with a home run to deep center field in the fourth, and Lane one upped her in the seventh with a two-run dinger to put Michigan up seven. In the circle, Driesenga fanned the first three batters she faced, and struck out ten in total, allowing two runs on seven hits in a complete game effort.
Michigan will face Boston College and UCF on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in a rare midweek matchup — giving them seven games in only six days.
“Mentally you need to prepare yourself for the next day,” Romero said. “You might be tired but you just can’t really let that affect you. (We) just need to focus on the next game.”