Samantha Findlay stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning during the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader against Minnesota. With the entire crowd anxious for a grand slam, the sophomore did what she does best, crushing a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield fence.
The blast capped off No. 12 Michigan’s dominating sweep of Minnesota (the Wolverines won a pair of 8-0 games). Michigan kicked off the Big Ten season in style at Alumni Field, running its winning streak to seven in the process.
Neither contest went the full seven innings. The first game was called after six innings and the second ended after five, thanks to the run rule, which ends games if one team is leading by eight or more runs after five innings of play.
“It’s always important (to get off to a good start in the Big Ten),” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing Minnesota or Northwestern, every game counts the same.”
The grand slam put the cherry on top of a ridiculous game for Findlay, who hit a three-run shot in her previous at-bat, and finished 3-3 with eight RBI, tying a Michigan record for most runs driven in during a single game.
Findlay’s record-tying performance grabbed all the attention, but it was the one-two punch of senior second baseman Tiffany Haas and sophomore centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo at the top of the order that sparked the Wolverines (2-0 Big Ten, 21-9 overall) to two easy wins. The two combined to go 6-for-10 from the plate with ten runs scored and two RBI in the two victories.
“The key to (yesterday) was Haas and Giampaolo,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “They’re the table setters, and our offense goes as they go.”
Haas and Giampaolo made it clear from the beginning that they would be a problem for the Gophers (0-4, 11-18) all day long. Haas slapped a double down the rightfield line to lead off the first game of the doubleheader. Giampaolo followed with a seeing-eye opposite-field single to put runners on the corners with no outs for the heart of the order. Two hit batters and a wild pitch later, Michigan had a 2-0 lead with both Haas and Giampaolo crossing the plate to score.
“It’s great to score early,” Hutchins said. “I love a team that scores in the first inning, because it puts the opponents on their heels.”
After striking the first blow, the senior-sophomore combo didn’t let up. Haas followed up senior Stephanie Bercaw’s two-out double with a walk to put runners on first and second in the fourth inning. Following a Gopher pitching change, Giampaolo hit a frozen rope down the rightfield line, scoring Bercaw. Both Haas and Giampaolo came around to score on a Becky Marx single two batters later to push the Michigan lead to six.
In the second game, Giampaolo gave Michigan the chance to strike first, drawing a walk to get on base for Findlay, who sliced a double to right-centerfield to put the Wolverines up 1-0.
Haas singled, and Giampaolo walked to lead off the third inning, forcing Minnesota to pitch to Findlay. The sophomore made them pay by driving a pitch over the centerfield fence to put Michigan up four.
The duo followed the same script in the fourth to set up Findlay’s grand slam.
The production of Findlay, Haas and Giampaolo provided more than enough cushion for pitchers Jennie Ritter and Lorilyn Wilson. Ritter overpowered Minnesota in the first game, striking out 12 Gophers in six innings to improve to 10-4 on the season.
Wilson (8-4) continued Michigan’s dominance from the mound, allowing just one hit and striking out nine batters in five innings to extend her scoreless streak to 29 and one-third innings. The Wolverines have shut out six of their last seven opponents.
“I’m pleased (with the pitching),” Hutchins said. “Lorilyn, I couldn’t be happier. She’s throwing better, and Ritter came out and was fabulous (yesterday).”