The Michigan softball team must have had their Wheaties for breakfast Saturday.
With four home runs and twelve hits, the Wolverines’ power was on full display in their 8-0 win over Indiana (22-28 overall, 8-12 Big Ten) at Alumni Field.
Junior first baseman Tera Blanco launched her fifth and sixth home runs of the season to lead the Wolverines (37-10-1, 17-3) offensively with 4 RBI. Blanco’s first blast — a lining solo shot to leftfield in the second inning — opened the scoring, while her three-run blast to centerfield contributed to a vital fifth inning for Michigan.
Leading by just two runs, the Wolverines used that Blanco homer and five other hits to score five runs in the frame — more than enough to secure their sixteenth-straight home victory.
Blanco’s two home runs are further evidence of her second-half tear, as she’s hit .349 with 3 homers and 17 RBI in conference play.
“In practice, we’ve focused on swinging for the fences and everyone getting bigger,” Blanco said. “I swung to hit the ball over the fence today, and our preparation led to that.”
Added Michigan coach Carol Hutchins: “I’m really happy to see the return of the home run. We’ve underachieved in our power numbers, but we’ve worked on it and are making progress.”
The Wolverines also received solo blasts from sophomore catcher Katie Alexander and sophomore right fielder Natalie Peters. Peters — normally a slap hitter — led off the sixth inning with a drive that hooked around the right field foul pole, clinching the run-rule victory.
Alexander’s blast, meanwhile, added yet another wrench into a catcher’s battle that resumed this weekend.
After being benched in favor of sophomore Alex Sobczak in Friday’s double header, Alexander was reinserted into the starting lineup Saturday. And with both hitting well this weekend — Sobczak went 3-4 while Alexander went 1-3 — the starting role has remained unclaimed with just one week remaining in the regular season.
“I like Sobczak and Katie,” Hutchins said. “Katie comes and goes, but they’re our future. The more we can get them into play, the better.”
Senior pitcher Megan Betsa was again dominant for Michigan, striking out nine while surrendering just two hits.
She made quick work of Hoosier hitters for most of the afternoon. Indiana’s strongest threat to score coming with two runners on with two outs in the sixth inning. But Betsa relied on her improved deception, and escaped the frame with a groundout to keep her spotless line.
“I’ve done a better job of being a little bit more unpredictable instead of just (throwing the) rise ball and changeup,” Betsa said. “So I think that’s worked in my favor this year.”
With the sweep of the Hoosiers, Michigan moves to just a game-and-a-half behind Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten standings with only one series remaining. If the Wolverines are unable to make up that ground, it will be the first time they don’t win the conference in ten seasons.
But for the senior class, which was honored with a ceremony following the victory, the accolades are remarkable regardless of the outcome of the next week.
One of the most storied classes in program history, Michigan’s seniors have won 196 games, three Big Ten Championships and made two Women’s College World Series appearances. And on Saturday, they left Alumni Field with the result they have experienced so often at home.
“The kids had great energy today,” Hutchins said. “It was fun to honor the seniors. I really liked my team today. That’s the team I want to go into the postseason with.”