When the public address announcer introduced freshman Stacy Delaney as the new Michigan pitcher in the bottom of the sixth inning against Canisius on Sunday, the crowd gave a large roar in anticipation.
And Delaney didn’t disappoint.
Entering the pitcher’s circle at Alumni Field for the first time donning a Michigan uniform, Delaney struck out the first Griffin hitter of the inning with a sweeping curveball that danced off the outside corner of the plate as Brittany Bonetto half-heartedly swung at the pitch.
“It was a great feeling to actually pitch a game at Alumni Field,” Delaney said. “It was definitely a different atmosphere than when I pitched in high school. But it’s great to be here and to be able to pitch here.”
After walking the next Griffin batter, Delaney settled into a groove, getting Rachelle Barrientos to ground out to senior third baseman Grace Leutele and striking out Ashley Bonetto.
The freshman continued to exude confidence in her pitches during the seventh inning. She struck out the side with two of the Canisius batters only able to watch as the ball snapped into senior catcher Becky Marx’s glove and the umpire signaled the strikeout call.
Not only did Delaney get a taste of Michigan softball in the Wolverines’ first game on Sunday, but Michigan coach Carol Hutchins also had her start the following contest against Eastern Michigan.
Delaney began the game against the Eagles where she left off after shutting down the Canisius hitters.
In the first inning, she got off to a rocky start, allowing Lauren Clark to reach first base on a single. But Delaney didn’t let the disappointment of allowing her first hit of the day affect her, and she struck out Nikki Denman to end the Eastern Michigan threat.
As Delaney continued to cruise through the Eagles’ lineup, she also got a much-needed boost from junior catcher Tiffany Worthy in the second inning.
With Heather Han on first base and just one out, the Eagles were poised to score. But when Han tried to steal second base, Worthy gunned her down with a perfect throw.
In Delaney’s last inning of work, she once again surrendered a base hit when an Eagle reached first on an infield single, but the freshman buckled down again and struck out the next batter and got the final Eagle to face her to ground out to Leutele.
Although Delaney allowed a base runner in all five innings that she pitched, she managed to keep the Eagles from capitalizing on their chances to score.
“I thought that she pitched better in the first game than the second,” Hutchins said. “She looked like she was steering her pitches a little bit (in the second game) and getting behind hitters. She’s going to help us, but she has to improve.”
Though the action Delaney has seen during the fall tournaments has not been as intense as it will be when the season starts in the spring, she said she realizes that she can benefit from the fall by learning how to pitch at the collegiate level and finding techniques and mechanics to adjust.
The freshman also said that, with the increased pressure, she will need to improve her mental approach to pitching by not letting the little things that go wrong affect her while she stands in the pitcher circle.
“I definitely have things to work on,” Delaney said. “I need to work on being able to consistently throw my pitches when I want. I also need to strengthen my mental make-up. But things can only get better from here.”