After losing on Wednesday, the Michigan softball team needed to have a strong weekend against ranked opponents in order to bounce back.
They had just that.
In the land of Mickey and Minnie, the Wolverines went 4-1 at the Citrus Classic, opening the tournament by defeating No. 14 UCLA and No. 19 Auburn on Friday. Michigan (15-5 overall) concluded the weekend with a loss to a tough Syracuse team and a win over Virginia on Saturday, followed by a victory over Temple on Sunday.
The Wolverines — who are now 4-1 against ranked opponents — used timely hitting in the fifth and sixth innings to rally from a two-run deficit to beat UCLA, 5-3.
Freshman catcher Lauren Sweet watched ball four go by to draw a bases-loaded walk, which tied the game in the fifth.
The magic happened in the sixth, beginning with senior centerfielder Bree Evans, who singled and then stole second base. Sophomore outfielder Nicole Sappingfield followed Evans with a single of her own. Evans, sprinting to third, was waved home by coach Carol Hutchins. Evans managed to elude the tag by the Bruin catcher while sliding in, but she missed the plate. Evans reached back quickly on her second effort, giving the Wolverines the lead.
Senior third baseman Amanda Chidister singled on the next play to score Sappingfield, extending the lead and sealing the victory.
Freshman Haylie Wagner led the Wolverines against Auburn, pitching seven scoreless innings and surrendering only four hits. Wagner also provided an offensive spark, hitting her first home run of her collegiate career and adding a single later on.
After scoring two more runs following two Auburn errors, the Wolverines increased the lead and secured the win.
The weekend became Goofy on Saturday, when Michigan fell into an early hole, giving up three quick runs to Syracuse. The Orange crushed the Wolverines’ momentum and created problems for the offense all game.
But Michigan rebounded nicely, led by Wagner, who pitched a one-run game against Virginia, and 1.2 innings of relief for the win against Temple.
With the two wins on Friday, the Wolverines demonstrated that they are indeed capable of competing with the powers from the south and west. Michigan has never lost more than five games to ranked non-conference opponents in any regular season, but it hasn’t fared as well in the postseason.
The Wolverines have opportunities to gain more experience against ranked opponents this season, beginning next weekend with No. 17 Louisville at the Red and Black Tournament.