Notebook: Shuffling the lineup, National Player of the Year finalists announced

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By Max Bultman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 13, 2014

The Michigan lineup wasn’t broken, but Carol Hutchins still wanted to fix it.

Hutchins had moved sophomore left fielder Sierra Lawrence to the cleanup slot for games on Wednesday and Friday to fill in for slumping senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard. But with Blanchard returning to form Friday and Lawrence looking what Hutchins described as “uncomfortable,” the sophomore was back in her usual place for the final two games of the series against Michigan State.

“I like to extend the order,” Hutchins said. “Sometimes getting moved around gets you going.”

That was exactly the result for both Lawrence and Blanchard. Lawrence hit a three-run homer over the scoreboard in left-center field in the third inning Sunday and followed it up with two more RBI and two runs scored in a booming seventh inning.

The Wolverines piled up 10 runs in that inning, including a pinch-hit grand slam by junior right-hander Sara Driesenga, finishing off a 14-0 win.

TURNING TWO: Driesenga was bailed out in each of the first three innings Saturday by timely double plays from her defense.

Freshman second baseman Abby Ramirez caught a sharp liner and relayed a throw to Blanchard in the first inning after Driesenga gave up a leadoff single, starting a series of twin killings.

Blanchard snagged one unassisted in the second, and freshman third baseman Lindsay Montemarano got Driesenga out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, showing off her reflexes.

Montemarano fielded a well-hit grounder, then threw home to junior catcher Lauren Sweet, who pegged the batter in the back, getting her out by way of runner interference.

“Our defense plays outstanding,” Hutchins said. “Everything we do is repetition. What we hope is that that’s how they practice and that’s how they play.”

Driesenga, who hasn’t allowed a run since March 21, was able to recover from her early jams and settle back in to complete an 8-0 run-rule victory in five innings.

“(Being bailed out by the defense) was huge for my confidence, and huge for the team,” Driesenga said. “It keeps the momentum going our way, which is huge when we’re here at (Michigan State).”

MAKING THE CUT: Wednesday, junior left-hander Haylie Wagner and sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero were named among the top 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

Romero is third in the nation in batting average (.511), eighth in slugging percentage (.879) and leads the country with an on-base percentage of .636.

The pre-season All-American helped her cause in the weekend series, hitting 5-for-8 with three RBI and seven runs.

Wagner gave up one run in five innings in a 9-1 victory Friday and closed out the seventh inning Sunday to lower her earned-run average to 0.95 and bump her record to 19-0 this season.

The two should be co-favorites for the Big Ten Player of the Year, but the national honor may be out of reach at this point in the season because of the Wolverines’ weak schedule within the conference.

Florida State’s Maddie O’Brien, who leads the nation in home runs (16) and slugging percentage (.959), and Lacey Waldrop, who boasts a 0.70 ERA and 195 strikeouts, look like the frontrunners.