After smacking two home runs in the first game of yesterday
afternoon’s doubleheader against Purdue, sophomore Grace
Leutele lived up to her name by becoming the “saving
Grace” for the No. 9 Michigan softball team.

“I really thought that Leutele was a better player this
weekend,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “I was
really pleased with her. She is really starting to hit. I think
that she had a lot of confidence, and that’s been an area
where she’s needed help.”

The starting third baseman also contributed to the
Wolverines’ 4-1 victory over Indiana on Saturday. Up to bat
with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning, Leutele
faced an 0-2 count. After fouling off several pitches, she got the
job done with a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in
Michigan’s first run of the game.

“It was a good at-bat,” Hutchins said. “She
hit every ball where it was pitched — she pulled the inside,
she set the outside, and she got on base … She had some of
our key RBIs this weekend. So that was key for us and key for
her.”

In the first game against the Hoosiers, Leutele’s
offensive prowess made the difference in Michigan’s narrow
3-2 win. The sophomore hit an RBI single in the fourth inning,
allowing senior Monica Schock to score from second base.

Leutele has been a bright spot in Michigan’s bottom half
of the batting order. Hutchins has expressed concern about the
offensive performance of batters five through nine, but lately the
Wolverines have made significant improvements, as demonstrated by
Leutele’s recent hitting surge.

Leutele’s only setback this weekend came when she jammed
her hamstring after sliding into second base in the first game
against Purdue. She sat out the second game.

“Today I was most disappointed that (Leutele) injured her
leg a little bit,” Hutchins said. “It didn’t seem
to be anything serious, but she just didn’t get to play in
the second game.”

Going, going, gone!: Jessica Merchant could be the next
face on the Wheaties cereal box after her recent display of power
hitting.

In the first game of the Purdue series this weekend, the junior
shortstop hit her 12th home run of the season. She now has 22
career long-balls and is just one shy of tying Michigan’s
single-season record of 13. Merchant also moved to third place on
the program’s all-time home run list.

But the humble Merchant isn’t concerned with breaking any
records.

“I don’t really think about it,” Merchant
said. “If it happens, it happens. But honestly, I just want
to win the Big Ten, and I have bigger goals than breaking the home
run record. So that’s really not on the top of my head
ever.”

At Michigan’s home opener against Bowling Green on March
25, Merchant hit three home runs, including one grand slam. She
currently has a slugging percentage of .826 for the season, and was
just named Big Ten Player of the Week.

With games against Ohio State and Penn State on the horizon,
Merchant believes the team has not yet reached its hitting
potential.

“I think we can always improve,” Merchant said.
“Some of our at-bats weren’t as good as they could have
been — me in particular. So that’s something that we
can get better at. We have a week of practice to go and become as
good as we can.”

There’s no place like home?: Even after the
team’s successful homestand last week, Michigan didn’t
seem to mind playing away from Alumni Field this weekend. The
Wolverines’ victory over Indiana extended Michigan’s
conference-road-opener win streak to seven. The Wolverines now hold
a 15-7 all-time record in Big Ten road openers. The win also
improved the team’s all-time Big Ten opener record to
12-10.

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