Michigan defense shines in shutout of Valparaiso

By Nate Sell, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 17, 2013

Sophomore right-hander Sara Driesenga and the Michigan softball team’s defense showed just how dominant they could be on Friday in a 5-0 win over Valparaiso to kick off the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines started the game with five straight 1-2-3 innings in which Driesenga pitched lights out. She had just four balls in each of the first five innings and had a perfect game through 5.2 innings. She ended the game with six strikeouts and allowed just two hits in the shutout.

“The defense is doing a great job and I just trusted them to do their job,” Driesenga said. “If (the perfect game) happened then it happened, and if it didn’t, which it didn’t, which is fine. We still won.”

No. 8 Michigan (46-10) got the chance to not only play in the NCAA Tournament, but also serve as one of two hosts from the Big Ten with Nebraska. Playing at Alumni field, where the Wolverines remain 17-0, proved to be a big advantage against Valparaiso (34-26).

“It was a lot of fun,” said freshman shortstop Sierra Romero. “I love the night games, and I love playing on Alumni Field. Just having our crowd out there is a great time.”

Offensively Michigan gave Driesenga plenty of breathing room. Junior left-fielder Lyndsay Doyle knocked a double into center-field into her first at-bat, and was later brought to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior outfielder Nicole Sappingfield. Romero was walked and senior second baseman Ashley Lane made the Crusaders pay for it by hitting a three-run home run over the left-field wall to put the Wolverines up 3-0 in the first inning.

Michigan got back on the board in the third inning when Romero blasted a double and later advancing to third off a wild pitch. Lane once again came through for Michigan, hitting a single into left field to drive Romero home and push the Wolverine lead to four. Lane was pulled at the end of the inning, but Michigan coach Carol Hutchins “expect(s) her to return.”

Freshman outfielder Sierra Lawrence got on base in the fourth with a single before stealing second. Doyle then drove Lawrence home while getting to second base off of a Crusaders’ error. The Wolverines were unable to bring home Doyle and finished the inning with a 5-0 lead.

Valparaiso second baseman Amanda Wisniewski dropped a single into right field with two outs in the sixth to break up the no-hitter. Driesenga responded by striking out the next batter to move onto the seventh inning.

“She did a nice job of keeping the ball down all day, and we tried going other places in the box, tried to be patient with her,” said Valparaiso coach Jordan Stevens. “We got more aggressive as the game went on, but she just hammered it down and got the ball inside and we weren’t able to get it.”

Neither team was able to put points on the board in the sixth inning and the Wolverines headed into the seventh just three outs away from a win, and four batters later they walked off the field with a ‘W’.

On Saturday, Michigan will play No. 18 California, who defeated Central Michigan earlier in the day, 8-1.

“I’m okay with anybody because we’re in the second game and that’s the game you want to be in,” said Hutchins.