A 62-game season means that in college softball, losses can’t be dwelt upon. The No. 8 Michigan softball team looked past the game it dropped against No. 1 Florida and compiled three consecutive wins to end its first regular-season series of 2015.
The Wolverines lost 2-1 to the Gators on Saturday in the USF Classic in Tampa, Florida, and then beat host South Florida in the nightcap. On Sunday, the Wolverines were more dominant, beating Hampton and Illinois State with ease.
Saturday’s loss to the Gators came in uncharacteristic fashion against the defending national champions. Florida’s winning run came as the result of a wild pitch from Michigan senior left-hander Haylie Wagner.
Wagner, who surrendered just two hits in 6 2/3 innings of work, put together a strong outing that was simply marred by an untimely mistake.
“I was just sticking to the same game plan,” Wagner said. “After (the wild pitch) I knew I would sulk on it for five minutes, then I had to be ready for the next situation I’m in.”
The only previous instance when the Gators scored came in the form of a single run in the fourth inning. Michigan was scoreless until sophomore outfielder Kelly Christner batted in the tying run by lacing a double to right-center field.
With the game tied, Wagner issued back-to-back walks to start the bottom of the seventh inning. A subsequent sacrifice bunt and ground out put the winning run at third with only one out. Florida then hit a three-run home run, which was negated by a illegal substitution, giving the Wolverines another chance.
“(The Gators) didn’t re-enter a kid on offense, and one of our coaching staff noticed it,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “She hit the home run, then we brought it up to the umpire who confirmed that (Florida’s coach) didn’t re-enter her, so it was an illegal substitution.”
But the third and final out was never recorded. Wagner’s next pitch was too high for the catcher, and allowed Florida’s runner to score from third, dashing any hopes for extra innings or a Michigan comeback in the marquee matchup of the weekend.
“Turns out it didn’t matter, because the next pitch was wild and they won the game,” said Hutchins.
Saturday marked the second consecutive year Florida defeated the Wolverines at the same USF tournament. Last February, the Gators were able execute a comeback performance in extra-innings.
Minus the wild pitch, Wagner was every bit as effective as Florida freshman pitcher Aleshia Ocasio, who limited Michigan to just one run and two hits through a full seven innings of work. Aside from Christner, freshmen first-baseman Tera Blanco recorded the only other Michigan hit.
After being stymied by Florida, Michigan beat each of its next three opponents in USF, Hampton and Illinois State by scores of 4-3, 9-2 and 4-1, respectively.
Senior right-hander Sara Driesenga was consistent with her superb work in the circle over the weekend. She notched wins against both South Florida and Illinois State, allowing just one earned run in the process.
“You just have to stay confident,” Driesenga said. “I go out there and keep pitching how I know I can pitch.”
Sophomore right-hander Megan Betsa pitched the win Sunday morning against Hampton, allowing one earned run on a hit and five walks.
Against USF, the Wolverines finally found some offense in long-ball fashion. Junior outfielder Kelsey Susalla and Christner hit back-to-back solo home runs.
Junior shortstop Sierra Romero also recorded her first home-run of the year in the game against Hampton, where she was 3-4 at the plate and had four RBI.
Since her All-American season last year, Romero has had to adjust with the willingness of opposing teams to walk her in order to keep her bat cool.
“It’s not frustrating (to be walked),” Romero said. “Yeah I want to hit, but I know that taking my walk is as good as a single.”
Despite picking up three wins on the weekend, Hutchins was not entirely satisfied with how her team looked on the field.
“I thought we played tentative,” Hutchins said. “I don’t think we came out attacking.”
According to Hutchins, there’s plenty of room for improvement that picking up wins early on has the tendency to hide.
“The biggest problem is when you win, it doesn’t sting as much,” Hutchins said. “We have to make improvements, otherwise we’re going to lose some games.”