ORLANDO, Fla. — For the Wolverines to come out of their NCAA Regional alive, they needed to win two straight games over the course of a long Sunday in the Orlando heat.
So they wasted no time to get the first one out of the way.
The Michigan softball team (38-17, 14-8 Big Ten) defeated South Dakota State (42-12) to avoid elimination in a simple 4-1 victory on the back of top-of-the-order offensive production.
The Wolverines promptly opened the scoring with their first three batters, as a deep fly ball from senior outfielder Lexie Blair advanced graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhardt and junior outfielder Audrey LeClair, and a throwing error allowed Burkhardt to slide into home. With fly outs from senior catcher Hannah Carson and fifth-year third baseman Taylor Bump, however, that would be the only run of the inning.
The Jackrabbits didn’t match that score, as senior right-hander Alex Storako led off the day with two strikeouts and an infield pop out.
As for Michigan’s offense, it was just getting started. A single from graduate second baseman Melina Livingston and a walk from freshman shortstop Ella McVey turned the lineup over in the second, and Burkhardt stepped up to the moment with a three-run blast.
After the top of the second inning ended, both teams traded quick three-batter innings. Though the pattern broke with another McVey two-out walk in the fourth inning, Burkhardt failed to make any action happen this time around.
South Dakota State broke its hitting drought in the same inning. A single from shortstop Rozel Carillo after a walk from outfielder Peyton Daugherty put runners on with no outs, but the Jackrabbits didn’t manufacture any runs out of it.
Though singles from Carson and Bump loaded the bases for the Wolverines, a strikeout from pinch-hitting sophomore Keke Tholl meant that they met the same fate to start the fifth inning.
Storako held strong through this whole stretch, not letting an eventually-overturned hit-by-pitch situation in the bottom of the fifth inning faze her. With two more strikeouts, Michigan turned to the sixth inning with ease.
Another hit from Blair and a reach on an error from Bump made the seventh yet another scoring opportunity, but South Dakota State executed a double play off of a Livingston grounder to turn to its final at bats without any further deficit.
A solo shot from Jackrabbits infielder Cylie Halvorson briefly signaled a possible change of rhythm to lead things off, but after a Livingston pop-up and two more Storako strikeouts, it proved futile.
Now with the Jackrabbits out of the way, Michigan turns to the second game of its regional comeback.