Early in the first inning, senior first baseman Alex Sobczak hit a line drive single to right field to move senior second baseman Faith Canfield to home plate.
And the runs kept coming.
With 13 walks and 12 hits for the No. 23 Michigan softball team, the Wolverines shredded Toledo on Wednesday, 24-3, running through the batting order almost four times in the first two innings alone to win by run rule. By the end of the second inning, several walks with bases loaded resulted in more runs than hits and a 19-0 lead for Michigan.
Starting the game with a big first inning, the Wolverines ran through the batting order, with four walks contributing to six runs on the inning. But Michigan’s avalanche of runs didn’t take shape until, up 2-0 off a walk that forced senior outfielder Natalie Peters home, junior Haley Hoogenraad hit a ground ball to third base. The Rockets’ third baseman tossed the ball to the catcher, who dropped it, allowing Sobczak to slide home on the error, along with senior Mackenzie Nemitz. A line drive hit by senior Faith Canfield also increased the score to 6-0.
“We took advantage of 23 free bases,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “You can score six runs in the first inning and not score again, so it doesn’t necessarily carry over, but as you have runs on the board, your hitters can be a little more loose and confident and not feel that pressure and get tight, so you see some of that.”
But the day’s real highlight was the second inning.
After freshman Lexie Blair hit a fly ball for the inning’s first out and Sobczak slammed a double into center field, Toledo’s pitcher walked Nemitz, foreshadowing the end of the inning.
Though junior Haley Hoogenraad hit a line drive for two RBI, the Wolverines’ next six runs all came in on walks or players hit by pitches with bases loaded.
During the onslaught, Hutchins started putting in bench players, and freshman catcher Hannah Carson stepped to the plate. For her first home run as a Wolverine, Carson blasted a grand slam to right-center field to empty the loaded bases and move the lead to 19-0. As she rounded the bases, Hutchins threw an M&M at her.
“I didn’t know at first because it was a low line drive, but then when I saw it go out I was just super excited because I’d never hit a grand slam before,” Carson said. “It was really exciting.”
Even after that monster inning, Michigan’s power didn’t diminish. For her first college home run, freshman infielder Gianna Carosone hit a flyout. Hits by Hoogenraad and Carson brought the score after the third inning to 24-0.
And the defense thrived as well as the offense. Before leaving the game after the third inning, freshman right-hander Alex Storako allowed no hits.
After the bench took over the infield, Michigan allowed three runs and scored none in the fourth inning, but the win nonetheless remained a blowout.
“I told them to come back tomorrow and be ready for a hard practice because I like confidence, but you don’t want to get soft,” Hutchins said. “I love home runs, but it’s just fun that everybody but (sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien) got in that game and held their own and did well.”