By Max Bultman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 19, 2014
After watching her team suffer its first defeat in more than a month the day before, Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins expected her team to respond with urgency.
The third-ranked Wolverines did just that, topping No. 2 Minnesota, 3-1, Saturday at Alumni Field to even the weekend series between the Big Ten’s top two teams.
Michigan, which had just ended a 20-game unbeaten streak, rebounded behind strong pitching to get back in the win column Saturday.
Junior right-hander Sara Driesenga and junior left-hander Haylie Wagner combined to strike out 10 batters, and senior center fielder Lyndsay Doyle had two RBI to lead the Wolverines to victory.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Michigan (13-1 Big Ten, 35-7 overall) had two runners on base, but Doyle, who came to the plate 0-for-2 with a strikeout, hadn’t looked like herself all series.
That time, though, she delivered, lacing a two-run double to center field to chase Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenwegen and ultimately win the game.
The Wolverines came out with a fire lit beneath them. Driesenga struck out the first two Minnesota batters swinging in the top of the inning, then sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero hit an RBI double to the right-center gap to put Michigan ahead 1-0 early.
Romero stood up from her slide into second base and clapped her hands together, shouting, “Let’s go!” at her dugout.
“When (Romero) hit that ball, I just knew she was into it,” Hutchins said. “And it’s not that she’s ever not into it, but we just had that going on. It was like, ‘Come on you guys, we’re gonna get this.’ ”
Groenewegen, who closed out Friday’s game and entered the series undefeated, looked strong for 4.2 innings, striking out six.
The Golden Gophers (11-4, 33-7) struck back from Romero’s double in the top of the third after Driesenga worked herself into a jam by allowing two singles and a walk to load the bases with only one out.
Driesenga got Groenwegen to ground into a fielder’s choice for the second out and appeared to strike out Minnesota’s Taylor LeMay to end the inning, but home plate umpire Marc Drouillard called the pitch ball three. LeMay took advantage, drilling the next offering into left-center field to tie the score at one.
Driesenga loaded the bases again in the top of the fifth inning, prompting Hutchins to bring in Wagner with one out.
The Big Ten’s ERA leader induced a fly out on her first pitch that looked like it would score a runner from third. But Doyle delivered a frozen rope to the plate, and junior catcher Lauren Sweet tagged the runner out for the double play.
“Honestly, I did not (think she would be able to throw out the runner),” Doyle said. “But as I saw the ball going I was like, ‘We have a shot, we have a shot.’ And we (tagged her out.)”
Visibly fired up after Doyle’s throw, Wagner was perfect the rest of the way too, setting down six more Golden Gophers to seal the win for Michigan.
“I just went out there and completely attacked,” Wagner said. “I had this mindset that I wasn’t going to let anyone get on base.”
According to Hutchins, that was the mindset Wagner lacked Friday, saying that the junior looked like she was “playing to not lose.”
It was the first loss for Wagner of the season and she, like the rest of her teammates, couldn’t have responded more to Hutchins’ liking.