The No. 8 Michigan softball team almost witnessed its first mark in the loss column after Wednesday’s matchup with the Dutch National Team.
But the contest was an exhibition game, allowing the Wolverines to clean up midweek play with a still perfect record.
“It’s great because it doesn’t go against our record, but overall it taught us to be aware of the field at all times,” freshman outfielder Nicole Sappingfield said.
During Wednesday’s game, the Dutch National Team put its first run on the board in the top of the first inning.
Michigan quickly knotted it after junior outfielder Bree Evans was batted home by junior third baseman Amanda Chidester in the bottom of the first, putting the Wolverines back in the game with a 1-1 draw.
Michigan (17-0 overall) couldn’t hold on, however, as the Dutch took a big lead during the third inning and never looked back. Outfielder Solange Starrenburg led off the inning with a double, and cluster of stolen bases put the Dutch up by four to give the Wolverines a 6-1 loss.
“The loss just gave us an idea about how we need to increase our intensity,” Sappingfield added about Wednesday’s game.
Despite Wednesday’s exhibition loss, Michigan had a successful doubleheader on Tuesday, picking up wins against both Valparaiso (5-5) and Central Florida (5-12) to close out the UCF Invitational.
The Wolverines faced the Crusaders first, resulting in Michigan’s closest win yet this season.
Evans and Chidester broke the ice early for the Wolverines for the first of two times this week – the second against the Dutch – after stringing together two singles to put up a tally for Michigan in the first.
Valparaiso tied the score in the third inning. Crusader shortstop Angie Doerffler moved around the bases after being hit by a pitch to lead off the third. The game then remained scoreless through the top of the seventh inning with each team earning only two hits apiece.
It looked at though extra innings may in the near future when freshman catcher Caitlyn Blanchard walked up to the plate, as the Wolverines had two outs against them.
The bases were loaded, however, after Sappingfield led off the inning with a single and senior first baseman Dorian Shaw and sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane both incurred walks.
Blanchard hit a hard grounder to between third and shortstop for what should have been an easy out. The ball instead bounced off Crusaders third baseman Sadie Conner’s glove, allowing Sappingfield to hit home plate with the walk-off run.
“We’ve talked a lot about all the freshmen we have since we lost so many seniors last year and we need some of them to contribute,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Nicole Sappingfield and Caitlyn (Blanchard) certainly are doing that.”
The error gave the Wolverines the 2-1 victory and sophomore pitcher Stephanie Speierman her eighth straight win.
“It felt great,” Sappingfield said of scoring the winning run. “I was so happy, especially that is was Caitlyn (Blanchard) who hit the ball. For us to win was just great – the feeling was sort of indescribable.”
Tuesday night’s game faired a little easier for Michigan as its offense picked up against Central Florida for the second time this spring break.
The Wolverines overran the Knights early in the game, putting three tallies on the board in the second inning. Evans notched the first offensive move as her single up the middle sent senior DH Marley Powers across the plate. Sappingfield batted next, using a single up the right side to send in two more runners.
The runs just kept on coming for Michigan, as it scored three in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth to send the game into run-rule territory.
In the top of the sixth inning, sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp hit a three-run double off the wall in centerfield to wrap up the Wolverines’ sixth mercy decision of the season. The 10-1 decision also gave senior pitcher Jordan Taylor her eighth straight win as well, after retiring nine batters through strikeouts.
Michigan will stay in Clearwater, Fla. this weekend for the USF Under Amour Invitational, kicking off play against Villanova on Friday.