Watching their team down 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the crowd started to clear, anticipating Michigan’s first loss in the Big Ten. But the Wolverines didn’t back down.
Facing a 3-2 count with two runners on base, senior MacKenzie Nemitz swung hard, finding a gap between center and right field that propelled the Wolverines (27-10 overall, 9-0 Big Ten) to a 7-6 walk-off victory over Indiana (28-13, 3-6).
“It’s a great win,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “Hopefully we take confidence from it, we should take a lot of good things. But they should take our energy in the seventh inning that we had. We were all one heartbeat. Every kid in that dugout was on point. And that’s how you win big.”
But this win was by no means pretty.
On a gameday dedicated to her, senior first baseman Alex Sobczak made sure that her impact was felt right in the first inning. After an infield single by fellow senior Natalie Peters, Sobczak hit a high fly ball to center field. However, instead of making the catch to end the inning, the Hoosiers’ Taylor Lambert dropped the ball, giving an RBI double to Sobczak for the first run of the game.
On the very next at-bat, Sobczak got help from another senior, this time Nemitz, who sent Sobczak home on a triple, giving Michigan an early 2-0 lead at the end of the first.
But after a silent second inning by both squads, Indiana came to life. After getting a runner on base on a perfectly executed bunt, the Hoosiers tied the game at two off a two-run homer to left field by Grayson Radcliffe.
Michigan, however, recovered with a home run of its own on the flip side of the third inning. And it was none other than the red-hot Sobczak who went yard. With freshman Lexie Blair sitting on second base off a two-out double, Sobczak drove a high-flying ball over the center field wall and was bombarded by her teammates at home plate as she rounded the bases for a second time today, putting the Wolverines back in the lead, 4-2.
In the top of the fourth, Hutchins, hoping to get four innings out of today’s starter, freshman right-hander Alex Storako, was forced to substitute her out for Beaubien in an attempt to limit Indiana’s hits. However, Beaubien could not find her All-American form, giving up an RBI double to Katie Lacefield before hitting Juvia Davis and walking Taylor Lambert, which loaded the bases for Indiana with just one out.
Then Radcliffe, who hit a home run earlier, drilled a single to left field. However, rather than scooping up the easy grounder, Blair took her eyes off the ball too early as the single rolled past her and turned into a bases-clearing triple, giving the Hoosiers a 6-4 lead after the fourth.
And right when Beaubien, who threw for five strikeouts and no more runs the rest of the game, finally locked in, the Michigan offense could not string together a series of hits to spark any sort of comeback – until with one out in the seventh inning.
Senior second baseman Faith Canfield took a solo shot straight to center field, reigniting a team and crowd that seemed to have lost all life. All of a sudden, Peters found herself as a tying runner with a shallow double down the left field line.
After giving an intentional walk given to Sobczak, Nemitz made sure Michigan came out still standing at the top of the Big Ten.
“If our pitcher struggles, we need to come through,” Nemitz said. “If we struggle, our pitchers need to come through. We complement so well and the whole game, I had a weird inkling that we were going to get it done together. As a team.”