Big first and third innings were key to Michigan's win. Tess Crowley/Daily.  Buy this photo.

The Wolverines scored six runs — in the first inning.

And then again in the third. 

Junior outfielder Lexie Blair came away with the first run for the 18th-ranked Michigan softball team in its bout against Rutgers. After beating out a throw to first to reach base and beating out yet another one sliding into third, Blair took home on a wild pitch from Scarlet Knight left-hander Jaden Vickers.

The Michigan dugout erupted. In the same at-bat, senior infielder Taylor Bump clubbed one to right field where Rutgers outfielder Taylor Fawcett dove for the ball at the track, coming up far short. Bump came in to third standing up and scored two on the hit. Again the dugout had a reason to erupt.

The Scarlet Knights already appeared weary. With no outs on the board, the Wolverines held the dagger in their hands before Rutgers could even make it through its batting order.

The next batter, junior catcher Hannah Carson, proceeded to blast one towards Scarlet Knight shortstop Kiana Workman, bouncing off her arm and into the outfield, allowing Carson to reach first and Bump to score.

Then, a rope by Jimenez took one hop and redirected off Rutgers third baseman Payton Lincavage’s arm and trickled into the foul area near the Scarlet Knight’s dugout, advancing Carson to third and Jimenez to second. 

With two on, Lexi Voss hit a hard single into right field, scoring Carson and resulting in a close play at home where Rutgers catcher Kiersten Withstandley failed to apply the tag despite the throw beating Jimenez to the plate. With that, the Wolverines were up 6-0 after just one inning, two short of the run-rule threshold of eight. 

Already, Michigan had double the amount of runs it put up just the day before. It was an offensive explosion that exposed Rutgers weaknesses and highlighted the Wolverine strength.

“They made some really good adjustments, from the pitcher we saw last night, facing her today,” senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien said.

The six runs appeared demoralizing for the Scarlet Knights, the energy from their dugout clearly lacking. The team chants that rung out loud and clear had ceased. The players that remained in the dugout leaned quietly on the fence or sat down staring at the floor, and the ones in the field took a quiet lackadaisical warmup. 

After a scoreless second inning, Michigan got more than what it needed to set up the mercy in the third. Voss opened up the frame with a slow floating ball that climbed over the fence in left field for a home run that extended the lead to seven. 

“I think one of the biggest things that they did is that they didn’t stop at four, they didn’t stop at eight, they never stopped pushing,” Beaubien said.

Next up, sophomore designated player Lauren Esman hit a sharp ball back at Rutgers right-hander Izzy Berouty who threw it too low to first where it hopped past the base, turning an out into a double on the error. Another mistake by the Scarlet Knights came on a sharp hit to third that was fielded incorrectly, resulting in senior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad reaching first.

The deluge continued, and the inning began to look like another crushing one for Rutgers. The Wolverines level of play was in a whole different tier than theirs.

“I mean we are such a good hitting team, and we’re very contagious once we get going,” freshman catcher Keke Tholl said. “There’s no stopping (us).”

Following an out and a walk taken by senior infielder Natalia Rodriguez, senior first baseman Lou Allan faced bases loaded — she delivered. Allan ripped one down the left field line, scoring two runners and putting her on first and Rodriguez on third.

Bump took hold of the opportunity and raked one over the bullpen in left field for a three-run homerun, raising her RBI total in the game to five.

At the end of the inning, Michigan was up 12 and had 11 more runs than Rutgers had hits, and by the end of the game, eight different Wolverines had a hit and 10 had reached base at least once. 

“Well I don’t know how many bases we had today, but I think it speaks for itself,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We had a lot of bases. The goal of the weekend is to get bases. You get bases, you get runs. We’ve got a lot of bases.”

Michigan put up one more run in the fourth on a solo home run by Tholl, the final one in the 13-0 run-rule victory that went into effect after five innings.

After the first inning, the Wolverines had already dealt the final blow. After the third, they proved their superiority.

At no point did the Scarlet Knights exhibit an ounce of control in the game. It was objectively lopsided, and Michigan displayed the difference between the top of the Big Ten and the bottom.