The Michigan-Eastern Michigan series may not be the most heated
rivalry in the state, but the No. 9 Michigan softball team refuses
to look past the Eagles.

The Wolverines (8-0 Big Ten, 33-6 overall) hope to extend their
16-game winning streak against Eastern Michigan (2-7, 12-17) in
today’s non conference doubleheader. Michigan is coming off a
successful homestand last weekend in which it took two games each
from Big Ten foes Ohio State and Penn State.

“We have non conference midweek games to stay sharp for
the Big Ten games on the weekends,” Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said. “Playing a game during the week is usually
more helpful than just having practices.”

Facing Eastern Michigan earlier in the season at the Florida
Atlantic Invitational on Feb. 21, Michigan handled the Eagles on
its road to first place at the tournament. Freshman pitcher Lorilyn
Wilson earned her first victory as a Wolverine in the matchup,
shutting out the Eagles 5-0. She allowed just two hits and a pair
of walks while tallying 10 strikeouts. Hutchins will give the
freshman hurler the start for today’s contest, as well.

“This game will give Lorilyn time to pitch, and provide
more playing time for

other players,” Hutchins said. “It’s a great
opportunity for the team to try

out new stuff and work on the basics.”

The Wolverines combined for a total of 13 hits against the
Eagles in their first game, with sophomore Tiffany Haas and junior
Jessica Merchant leading the offensive charge. Merchant tied
Michigan’s single-season home-run record on Saturday against
Ohio State.

Senior infielder Angie Churchill explained that the team has
been primarily focusing on its offense in practice.

“We need to get our hitting going and more
consistent,” Churchill said. “We’d much rather be
playing than practicing.”

The Eagles have struggled since playing Michigan early in the
season. They have posted a mediocre 10-15 record overall since then
and have managed just two wins in nine Mid-American Conference
games.

Nevertheless, Hutchins refuses to dismiss Eastern Michigan as a
team her Wolverines can simply roll over.

“We try not to get caught up with records and other
teams’ statistics and players,” Hutchins said.
“We are our own team with our own strengths and
weaknesses.

“We are going to work on making ourselves better rather
than the situation.”

Wilson could have her hands full with Eastern Michigan’s
senior Deanna Wisnieski and sophomore Nikki Denman, who each
tallied three home runs in five games this past week. The duo
produced 14 hits, 11 RBI and eight runs in two road series last
week against Detroit and Miami, and the Eagles posted a 2-3 record
thanks to the two consistent hitters. Wisnieski also had one of the
Eagles’ two hits against Wilson in the first game against
Michigan.

Today’s game marks the beginning of a weeklong road trip
for the Wolverines, who are coming off a four-game home stand last
weekend.

Fortunately for Michigan, playing at Eastern Michigan may feel
more like a home game.

“It’s really nice to be able to play near Ann Arbor
because classes are wrapping up for the girls,” Hutchins
said. “Time is precious, and any time we spend closer to home
is best.”

Michigan is also preparing to take on Big Ten foes Iowa and
Illinois later this week. The Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini are
currently in second and third place, respectively, in the
conference behind the Wolverines.

However, Hutchins doesn’t want the team to get ahead of
itself.

“We are going to worry about taking care of the
moment,” Hutchins said.

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