Softball looks to continue streak against Iowa

Patrick Barron/Daily
Buy this photo

By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 17, 2013

Even with ominous clouds looming over Ann Arbor, the Michigan softball team is shining bright and clear.

The Wolverines will hope for better weather this weekend when they host Iowa in a three-game series at Alumni Field. A game against Michigan State was postponed last weekend due to inclement weather, and on Tuesday, the second game in a doubleheader with Indiana was rained out.

Riding 18 consecutive wins, No. 10 Michigan holds the longest current streak in the country. It also has 13 consecutive wins against Big Ten opponents — its best streak versus conference foes since 2010.

Iowa (4-8 Big Ten, 24-16 overall) has certainly played better softball than a season ago. It has beaten six ranked opponents this year, including then-No. 15 Stanford and No. 24 Oregon, but the Hawkeyes have struggled since Big Ten competition began. When they have lost, it has been because of their inability to score runs — in 14 of their losses, they’ve scored three runs or fewer.

When their offense gets going, though, it’s largely in part to sophomore Megan Blank. Blank, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday, is hitting .440 with 49 RBI.

In the circle, Michigan will likely see a lot of junior right-hander Kayla Massey. Massey has pitched the bulk of Iowa’s innings this season while posting a 2.52 earned-run average and striking out 82. She can hit, too, owning a .322 batting average for the year.

The Wolverines have handled opposition well throughout their current winning streak, though, winning several games in come-from-behind fashion.

“This team is all about fight,” said senior third baseman Amy Knapp. “We attack, we fight and that’s my favorite part about this team. That’s why we get so excited. We don’t get down when we’re down, and we keep fighting.”

Offensively, Michigan (13-0, 36-7) is putting up some record-breaking numbers. Last Friday in its first game against Michigan State, the Wolverines scored 21 runs — setting a new record for most runs scored in a Big Ten game.

Senior second baseman Ashley Lane has been a big help in the lineup all year. She crushed her 11th home run of the season on Tuesday against Indiana — her 40th career blast — putting her in a tie for fifth place for most home runs in Michigan history.

At this point in the schedule last year, the Wolverines had four more losses in three fewer games and had dropped a game to a Big Ten opponent.

This year, freshman shortstop Sierra Romero, who received her fourth consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week award earlier this week, and freshman left fielder Sierra Lawrence have provided a big boost in the lineup and in the field. The two have hit .412 and .377 this season, respectively, and own a combined 83 runs scored — more than half of what opponents have scored against Michigan all year. Defensively, Romero leads infielders on the team with 103 assists, while Lawrence leads outfielders with nine.

Historically, the Wolverines have had trouble with the Hawkeyes. Iowa is the only Big Ten team that leads the all-time series against Michigan, 50-54-1. But past records, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins will assure you, mean nothing now, as the Wolverines look to extend their streak to 21.