In its 10th annual “Pink Game” to raise awareness for breast cancer, the Michigan softball team capped off an undefeated regular season home record with an 8-0 run-rule victory over Western Michigan Tuesday.
The win gave the Wolverines (38-10-1 overall, 17-3 Big Ten) a perfect home record of 17-0 to end the season, a feat it hasn't accomplished since 2009.
Western Michigan (21-26, 9-12 Mid-American) entered the game hoping to play spoiler, as winners of five of its last six. But in a swift, one hour and sixteen minute affair, Michigan emphatically took care of its business against its MAC foe, pairing 11 hits and five extra-base hits with a shutout start from Tera Blanco. The junior right-hander shut down the Broncos in efficient fashion, allowing just four baserunners and needing to throw just 63 pitches to put the Broncos away.
Sophomore second baseman Faith Canfield sparked the blowout early with her seventh home run of the season in the bottom of the first. With the first two runners on base, Canfield took an 0-2 pitch on the outside corner and shot the ball to right-centerfield on a line, just clearing the fence.
And it was off to the races for a Michigan offense that has barely left the track in nearly two weeks.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, senior third baseman Lindsay Montemarano skied a high fly ball down the left field line which landed in the bullpen just right of the foul pole. The power could be a welcome sign for Montemarano, who is now hitting .500 in her last nine starts after hitting .226 prior to that stretch.
The senior attributes that improvement to her emphasis on the lower body.
“I’ve been working on getting some whip in, using my legs a lot more than I had been in the beginning of the season,” Montemarano said. “I was using way too much upper body, I formed a couple of bad habits due to a couple of things going on.
“But I feel really loose and really strong in my lower half, and I’ve been working really hard on getting some whip back. I’m seeing the ball well and trusting the work that I’m putting into it.”
Added Michigan coach Carol Hutchins: “(Montemarano’s) working. She’s coming in early, and she’s accepting constructive criticism, and she’s accepting ideas. She’s had better energy, and I think as you play better, you get better energy. Hopefully hitting her stride. Good time to hit it.”
Sophomore catcher Alex Sobczak capped the game off with a solo home run to right-centerfield in the bottom of the fifth. The sophomore has forced her way back into the lineup after losing the catcher battle to start the season to sophomore Katie Alexander.
“Alex is another one who just stayed on course even though things didn’t go her way throughout a good period of the year,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “I’m happy some of her hard work is paying off, because she’s worked hard.”
With three more home runs Tuesday, the Wolverines have now hit 11 in their past 4 games, and 14 over the past six games, with production coming throughout the lineup.
The next time Michigan will play at Alumni Field will be the end of next week, for the Big Ten Tournament. And for the first time possibly all season, Hutchins thinks her team is ready.
“I want consistency in our offense,” Hutchins said.
“And I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I sure feel like I’ve seen it these past couple of weeks.”