Spartans stun Blue in opening round of Big Ten Tournament

BY RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Writer
Published May 4, 2008

After claiming a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, the No. 6 Michigan softball team saw its hopes of post-season conference success slip away this afternoon in a 2-1 loss to unranked Michigan State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament in Evanston.

Despite scoring just one run on four hits, the Wolverines had plenty of chances to score. The usually potent Michigan offense had five walks, runners in scoring position in four innings and left seven on base.

The Wolverines (18-2 Big Ten, 48-6 overall) fell behind early when Michigan State's Lindsey Hansen scored on a throwing error by sophomore third baseman Maggie Viefhaus. Viefhaus fielded the sacrifice bunt and attempted to throw out Hansen. But instead, her throw went wide into left field.

Viefhaus responded for her miscue in the bottom of the fourth with a full-count solo home run over the left field fence at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

After a two-out double from senior Alessandra Giampaolo in the fifth, Michigan was just a step away from taking the lead.

Freshman pinch hitter Marley Powers walked to put runners on first and second for sophomore Angela Findlay. Findlay found the gap in left field for a hard line drive single. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins waved Giampaolo home, but the speedy Giampaolo was thrown out at home.

The Spartans (8-12, 27-28) scored their game-winning run with two outs in the sixth. With Michigan State's Caitlin Mahoney on second, Jessica Bracamonte sliced a hit over freshman first baseman Dorian Shaw's arm into shallow right field to score Mahoney.

Sophomore pitcher Nikki Nemitz started the game, but was pulled after two innings and giving up two hits and an unearned run. Freshman Jordan Taylor, one of 10 finalist for the USA Softball collegiate player of the year, replaced Nemitz in the third. Taylor allowed one run on five hits.

The Wolverines swept the regular season series against the Spartans with two five-inning mercy rule wins (11-3, 10-0). Michigan State, Hutchins's alma matter, has always been troublesome for Michigan. The teams are now 3-3 against each other in post-season play.

Regional hosts and participants will be announced at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.