EAST LANSING — As dominant as senior right-hander Alex Storako can be, she’s often liable to the big hit.
Storako has given up a slew of home runs in recent outings, often costing the No. 23 Michigan softball team. But pitching against Michigan State on Wednesday, she never surrendered that big hit.
Storako delivered a one-hit complete gem, leading the Wolverines (27-13 overall, 7-6 Big Ten) to victory over the Spartans (21-24, 1-13), 3-0. Storako carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and fanned 13 batters. The bats finally broke through mid-game to provide run support, and Michigan moved above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time this season.
“I’m just staying in my process,” Storako said. “I’m not focusing on the results.”
After opening the game with a four-pitch walk, Storako dominated. She recorded the first six outs and eight of the first 10 via the punchout. Though the leadoff hitters reached base in the first two innings, she never wavered, remaining composed and preventing any damage.
“Just having that control is something that can hinder me and has,” Storako said. “But what makes me a strikeout pitcher is just being able to spin the ball through the zone.”
In the top of the third inning, the Wolverines’ bats gave Storako her first run support. Freshman outfielder Ellie Sieler pushed a leadoff double into the opposite field gap, setting up the inning’s scoring. Graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhardt followed that up with a double into the same left-center field gap, scoring Sieler. Two batters later, senior catcher Hannah Carson doubled to that gap again, bringing Burkhardt home to give Michigan a two-run lead.
Junior outfielder Audrey LeClair then led off the fourth inning with a bloop double into shallow left field. She advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and freshman shortstop Ella McVey drove her in on a fielder’s choice.
“I thought (Spartans pitcher) Ashley Miller did a really good job against us,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We had a good couple innings of trying to hit the ball (to opposite field).”
But the rest of the way, the bats fell silent. The game evolved into a pitcher’s duel, and Storako refused to be beaten.
Storako cruised through the next three innings, punching out five more batters. Despite walking two more batters, neither advanced past first base. In command the whole time, Michigan State’s hitters appeared entirely helpless against her.
Until the bottom of the seventh inning, that is. Spartan first baseman Cam Wincher blooped a single to right field, finally ending Storako’s no-no bid. But she remained undisturbed, and retired the next three batters in order to end the game.
“It just goes to show that there’s always something you can get better at,” Storako said.
Even with something to improve on for the future, Storako’s performance did more than enough to lead the Wolverines to a rivalry win.
And with Storako completing her stellar one-hit outing, Michigan finally completed its first series sweep of the Big Ten season.