The No. 21 Michigan softball team has been dominant throughout the past month, and heading into Wednesday’s game against Miami, there seemed to be no reason for its success to subside.
And although the Redhawks (11-10) are almost a carbon copy of the competition that the Wolverines (18-7) have dominated against so far — a mid-major with a mediocre record, none of that mattered on Wednesday. Miami was the one that took care of business, as Michigan fell, 7-3.
Everything that had recently been instrumental to Michigan’s success of late failed to surface. Senior right-hander Alex Storako didn’t pitch well; batters failed to make contact; runs were hard to come by.
“I don’t care how many games we won before, we were playing today and we didn’t play for six innings,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said.
Both teams struck early, trading runs in the first inning.
But Miami wasn’t done, quickly seizing the upper hand in the second inning. The Redhaws were aided by the fact that Storako wasn’t her usual self: she opened the inning by walking Redhawks designated player Maggie Murphy in four straight pitches before moving her to second on a wild pitch.
The sequence initiated a rare mound visit for Storako: she was rattled.
The next batter smacked a deep single to right field, scoring Murphy. First baseman Holly Blaska then drove a hanging pitch deep to right field, sneaking over the fence to put Miami up, 4-1. The blast ended Storako’s outing early, in favor of freshman right-hander Lauren Derkowski.
“(Storako) didn’t have her stuff,” Hutchins said. “She didn’t have her attitude or her edge. It was up to our offense to pick us up. … Our offense has got to get grittier.”
While Michigan’s offense continued to sputter, Miami came back for more in the top of the fifth. Derkowski walked sophomore outfielder Kate Kobayashi, who then moved to second on a wild pitch. Senior outfielder Lily Wilmot grounded one to Mcvey and a fielder’s choice ensued. Kobayashi seemed to be caught in a pickle, but escaped it and safely returned to second. Outfielder Karlee Juarez then hit a bouncing infield single, loading the bases to end Derkowski’s outing, this time in favor of fifth-year left-hander Meghan Beaubien.
But Beaubien didn’t fare much better, looking unsettled as a single, a walk and a drive that popped off of McVey’s glove scored three.
“We’ve got to be settled, and (Beaubien) is a fifth year,” Hutchins said. “We don’t have an inning to warm up, because it matters. … I need the upperclassmen to give us hope, to give us inspiration, and to show (the freshmen) how to do it.”
The Wolverines responded in the bottom of the fifth with a deep home run from sophomore designated player Sierra Kersten, her fifth of the season, but it wasn’t enough as Miami ended the inning up 7-2.
Things looked promising for the Wolverines following a two-hour rain delay midway through the sixth inning. Michigan scored a run, loaded the bases and had the tying run at the plate. But it was too little, too late, as the Wolverines failed to bring things even.
“We just got our rear end handed to us, and yet, we had a chance to win the game,” Hutchins said. “We were one swing away from being tied up. I was pleased with that, but I said, ‘It’s not acceptable to not have that in the first six innings. Play every inning one inning at a time.”
And so Michigan’s six game win streak, its dominance at home and Storako’s perfect record all came crashing down.
“We need to look at everything as an opportunity,” Hutchins said. “And honestly we’ve got to get that burden off of us that we’re supposed to be, you fill in the blank. You gotta play for it.
“We need to get grittier.”