In the final inning of Michigan’s regional matchup with Notre Dame, there was both a likely and unlikely hero.
Down 1-0 junior Maggie Viefhaus, a clutch performer in the past with a grand slam in both of the previous two postseasons, stepped to the plate. Then, trailing 1-2 in the count, she took the next pitch deep down the right field line.
“I had two strikes on me, so I was just trying to get extended and put the ball in play,” Viefhaus said. “She gave me a middle-inside pitch that I could drive pretty well. … I was excited to keep the game going.”
Viefhaus has picked up where she left off in the regular season, where she led the Big Ten in doubles. After getting on base in all three of her series against Miami, she went two-for-three against Notre Dame.
Four batters later it was freshman Bree Evans, 0-for-3 on the day, who had the chance to shine.
With runners at first and second, Evans sent an outside pitch to left field scoring Viefhaus and grabbing the victory. It put the Fighting Irish in a one-game elimination and ensured that the Wolverines would need to lose two straight games to lose the regional.
“I knew if I got it to the outfield Kristen (Larson) was going to score,” Evans said. “So that’s all I was trying to do.”
Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf would later admit it was a fielding error on left-fielder Erin Marrone that brought pinch runner Kirstin Larson around to score.
“They had all heart that game,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “It doesn’t matter when you score, every pitch of the game counts and we really showed it.”
Evans has started every game of her freshman campaign, but has bounced between the first and second positions of the order but has hit leadoff in both games of the postseason.
All of the seventh-inning offense may have turned the logical star of a 2-1 game, the pitcher Jordan Taylor, into the unsung hero of the afternoon. After she came in and threw two perfect innings in relief of Nikki Nemitz earlier in the morning in the Wolverine’s 11-3 win over the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, Taylor went the full seven innings against Notre Dame allowing one run and striking out 11.
After struggling early in the season, Taylor has rebounded into her All-American form of a year ago. She has posted double digit strikeouts in her last five starts.
Hosting a regional for the eighth straight time, the Wolverines used the home crowd to their advantage.
“What’s so great is the atmosphere on that field is so loud,” Hutchins said. “It lets the other team know we’re coming at them, whether we are or not, we’re putting that in their heads.”
Michigan will be looking for a new hero in the regional final Sunday against in a rematch with Notre Dame.
Check the Daily Sunday night for results of Michigan’s rematch with the Irish.