Yesterday”s battle was the Michigan softball team”s fiercest of the season.

Paul Wong
Melissa Taylor knocked in the game winner.<br><br>BRAD QUINN/Daily

In front of the biggest home crowd of the year, the Wolverines downed Michigan State 2-1 in eight climactic innings.

The team was in a tight race with Iowa for the Big Ten”s top spot heading into the weekend. After yesterday”s win, Michigan was tied with the Hawkeyes. But then Iowa lost to Northwestern 2-1 yesterday, and Michigan gained sole possession of first place and the right to host the Big Ten Championship.

It was in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and runners on first and second when Melissa Taylor did exactly what Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was commanding her players to do all game she hit a hard grounder past Spartans” thirdbaseman Brittney Green that sent Kim Bugel home for the win.

“She worked her butt off all summer, in the weight room three times a week, and she has really stepped it up,” Hutchins said of Taylor, who was invited to the National Team Camp from leading the team and conference with a .451 batting average.

“I am really pleased that she is being rewarded by having such a great season.”

The Wolverines had a chance to score in the first when Monica Schock hit a fly deep to right field that was barely inside the foul line. But Kelsey Kollen and Taylor, on second and first, got excited and calls got confused, resulting in Schock getting tagged.

“At first, (Hutchins) said go. Then, when I was halfway there, I saw Taylor start coming back,” Schock said. “And then she went again I picked my head up and ran because I saw her going. Finally, when it was time for me to come back, coach just said to stay there, because there was really no point in me getting in the pickle.”

Michigan State”s one run came in the second when Lacy Hauxhurst grounded to first on an error by Kollen. She then stole second and was knocked home on Andrea Goldsworthy”s line to center.

Michigan pitcher Marie Barda, who allowed just four hits, gave up ground balls for the first five innings to leave infielders with all defensive duties.

Barda “started out shaky she was one pitch away from us changing pitchers,” Hutchins said. “After that, she settled in and was fine.”

Earlier this week, the Wolverines beat Eastern Michigan 7-6 and 8-0 on Wednesday Marissa Young and Kate Eiland combined pitching duties for the season”s first no-hitter. They also topped Detroit 2-1 Thursday, and Michigan State 1-0 Saturday.

“What makes the champions are the 1-0 wins and the 2-1 wins,” Hutchins said. “That”s why we”re champions.”

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