BY DAVID VANDEVUSSE
Published April 2, 2006
Super sophomore Samantha Findlay needed just three at-bats to tie a Michigan softball record.
She knocked in all eight Michigan runs in the second game of yesterday's doubleheader against Minnesota, matching Stephanie Volpe's record for RBI in a game, set in -2002 against Northwestern.
But Findlay's offensive production didn't come easily.
In the first game, she struck out swinging three times and reached based just once, on a walk in the fourth. Gopher pitchers threw outside to Findlay in each of her four at-bats, and she got caught chasing pitches out of the zone.
"I wasn't taking good pitches, and I wasn't hitting them," Findlay said.
But it was a different story in game two.
After sophomore centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo walked in the first, a determined Findlay stepped to the plate.
She smacked the second pitch she saw into the gap in right-centerfield, earning a stand-up double and scoring Giampaolo to give Michigan the lead for good.
"They told me to hit the ball to rightfield," Findlay said. "My swing felt good, so I just came out swinging."
But Findlay was far from finished.
With the score still 1-0 in the third, the sophomore first baseman came to the plate with runners on first and second. She hit a towering three-run shot to straightaway center that nearly landed in the outfield of the Fish.
The home run gave pitcher Lorilyn Wilson a few insurance runs and warmed the freezing Michigan fans.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins applauded Findlay's improvement from game one to two.
"She quit trying so hard, and she recognized she needed to quit pressing," Hutchins said. "There's a lot of pressure on a kid who - every time she comes up - the whole world expects her to hit a home run."
Expectations certainly didn't hurt Findlay in game two. Her third-inning blast was not her last.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Gophers made a pitching change after a walk loaded the bases with Findlay coming to the plate.
When she stepped into the batter's box with the bases juiced, one thing was on everyone's mind: a grand slam.
The excitement faded when Findlay fell behind early in the count, taking two outside strikes and a ball.
But Findlay made the 1-2 pitch count. She smacked Rene Konderik's fastball high and long for a grand slam that looked almost identical to her third-inning blast.
"I just wanted to wait for a good pitch and hit it," Findlay said. "And that's what I did."
The home runs were numbers five and six on the season for Findlay.
And her eight RBI gave her 34 for the 2006 campaign, surpassing former team leader Becky Marx.