By Sharad Mattu
Daily Sports Writer
After 17 grueling innings of softball, Michigan’s Grace Leutele had one thought: “Let’s get out of the cold!”
But the Wolverines weren’t just happy to warm up – they were also thrilled to escape with a pair of extra-inning wins over Northwestern.
In the second game, the two starters, Nicole Motycka for Michigan and Brie Brown for Northwestern, matched each other out-for-out until the seventh inning.
But in the end, Michigan’s Marissa Young single handedly finished off the Wildcats in the eighth inning – first with her bat, and then with her arm.
With two outs in the eighth inning, Young lined a singled to left field, driving in two and giving Michigan a 3-1 lead.
Young took that lead to the mound, and after left fielder Melinda Moulden provided the team a reason to laugh when she tripped going after a routine fly ball, the hurler struck out the side to wrap up the sweep.
Young also got Michigan out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, Young retired the next three batters to end the threat.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was pleased to see Young bounce back from a tough weekend on the mound and close the game out strong. Young, now 11-1, suffered her first loss on Friday against Illinois and allowed four runs (2 earned) in seven and a third innings in the first game yesterday before Motycka relieved her.
“I thought her presence when she came back in was excellent,” Hutchins said. “She just seemed to have a little swagger that she lacked for a good portion of the first game.”
Young was happy to get another chance on the mound.
“I was just determined not to let them come back and get in the game,” Young said.
“Nicole came and bailed me out in the game before, so it was my turn to return the favor.”
Young was the hero in the first game as well. She led off the ninth inning with a solo homerun to centerfield, giving Michigan a thrilling 6-5 win.
In both the sixth and eighth innings, Michigan was behind and relied on timely hitting to extend the game.
With one out in the sixth and the Wolverines down 3-2, Jessica Merchant was hit by a pitch and moved to second on Leutele’s sacrifice bunt. Courtney Bentley and Tiffany Haas followed with singles to tie the game.
Michigan found itself behind 5-3 in the eighth inning, but struck back immediately. After a single down the right field line by Merchant, Leutele got a chance to hit and made the most of it, smacking a homer to tie the score.
Yesterday’s doubleheader sweep completed a 3-1 weekend for the Wolverines. Michigan split two games with Illinois, losing its home opener 4-0 on Friday before bouncing back with a 12-4 win Saturday.
Tomorrow, Michigan visits Kalamazoo for a pair of games against Western Michigan.
Hutchins hopes to see the same resiliency from her players throughout the season.
“You can’t let anything that doesn’t go your way affect you, and we did a great job of that,” Hutchins said.
“Our intensity, our enthusiasm; they really had it. I’m just really pleased. That was a great series.”