Softball tramples Broncos with eight-run first inning

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By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 9, 2013

For the second time this week, the No. 12 Michigan softball team scored eight runs in the first inning in Tuesday’s victory over Western Michigan.

While the Wolverines (9-0 Big Ten, 32-7 overall) were held scoreless in each of the next four innings, the early lead was enough for sophomore pitcher Haylie Wagner to earn an 8-0 win. The left-hander needed just 81 pitches through five innings to secure her second shutout and 11th win of the season.

Michigan sent 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, stringing together seven hits and four walks from Western Michigan pitcher Becca Shemberger.

The Wolverines’ patience paid off — they scored five of their eight runs with two outs. Following a triple from senior third baseman Amy Knapp, sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga, who was the designated player, and freshman first baseman Kelsey Susalla worked two walks to load the bases for the ninth batter in the lineup, junior center fielder Lindsay Doyle. Doyle knocked in two runs with a single up the middle to put Michigan up 4-0.

“We had to keep playing our game,” Hutchins said. “We have to keep building on what you’re good at no matter who the opponent is. We had an opportunity to swing our bat, and we swung well in the first.”

Junior catcher Caitlin Blanchard fought off 11 pitches in her second at-bat of the frame before sending a line drive into right field for her second hit of the game. The single put the Wolverines up 8-0 and knocked Shemberger out of the game.

Senior second baseman Ashley Lane loaded the bases once more for Michigan, but a strikeout from freshman left fielder Sierra Lawrence ended the inning and left the runner stranded.

The Broncos threatened with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the second, but Wagner paired two strikeouts and a force out at home to work out of the jam without yielding a run.

After an outstanding weekend at the plate, Susalla earned her second start in as many games, while Blanchard — who is the usual starter at first — got her second start of the season behind the plate in place of sophomore catcher Lauren Sweet.

“I’ve made a few adjustments to my swing. I’ve been trying to focus more on seeing the ball and hitting with my backside,” Susalla said. “Keeping those things in mind has definitely improved my hitting.”

Early-game scoring allowed Hutchins to insert freshman Brandi Virgil and senior co-captain Jaclyn Crummey into the outfield for Doyle and senior co-captain Nicole Sappingfield.

“We want to get people in as much as we can,” Hutchins said. “Susalla keeps getting better, and that is why I'm so pleased with her. She keeps improving even though she does get erratic playing time. Her start is a great credit to her. All those kids have worked hard so I’m really excited to see them get better at it.”

The win extended Michigan’s winning streak to 14 games. For the Wolverines, patience and balance in the batter’s box, paired with strong pitching in the circle has kept them perfect at Alumni Field.