A grand slam and a combined one-hitter in Michigan’s game against Florida Atlantic showcased what this year’s women’s softball team can be — explosive.
The 15th-ranked Wolverines kicked off their season by going 3-1 at the USF Tournament in Tampa, Fla. this weekend, where they faced four different opponents.
Play began on Friday with ‘Team 36’ taking on Marshall. Sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga, an All-Big Ten selection last year, dominated on the mound in a complete-game effort. She was perfect through five innings and struck out 10 while allowing only three hits and one walk.
“(It was) definitely very big,” Driesenga said. “It’s just a really good thing that our defense played well. … We just played tough and everyone stayed down on it, and kept attacking it.”
On the offensive side, the Wolverines put up their first run in the bottom of the first inning without putting the ball in play. Junior centerfielder Lyndsay Doyle walked, stole second, and came around to score on two consecutive illegal pitches. Michigan would tally on five more runs over the remainder of the game, all of which came with two outs, to defeat Marshall, 6-1.
Doyle and junior left fielder Nicole Sappingfield, who hit in the first and second spots in the lineup, combined for four of Michigan’s six runs.
“That’s what (Doyle and Sappingfield) are there for,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “We talk a lot about just doing your part and what your role is, and the top two in the order, that’s their job. They have good at-bats and get on base for us.”
On Saturday, in their first of two games, the Wolverines exploded against Florida Atlantic, winning 10-2 in five innings.
A trio of Michigan pitchers combined for a one-hit performance, while the Wolverines put up 10 runs in the fourth inning. The biggest contribution came from freshman shortstop Sierra Romero, who came up with the bases loaded and three runs already on the board in the inning. She took the first pitch she saw over the left-center field wall for a grand slam, putting Michigan up 7-0. It never looked back, scoring three more runs in the inning.
“I think Romero comes in with a lot of hype,” Hutchins said. “She’s not the only hitter in our lineup that we’re going to rely on, but her part is certainly to bring home some runs. … She certainly is a good middle-of-the-lineup hitter for us.”
The only shortfall during the weekend for Michigan was a 3-2 loss to No. 12 South Florida — the second game of its Saturday doubleheader.
The Wolverines got on the board first thanks to Romero’s second homerun of the weekend — a two-run shot in the top of the first. That would prove to be Michigan’s only runs.
In the circle, Driesenga pitched well, giving up just two earned runs on six hits, but an unearned run on a defensive error would prove to be the difference.
In the weekend finale on Sunday, the Wolverines found success again, blanking Samford, 4-0, with the help of some fine defense and another great pitching performance. Pitching in her fourth consecutive game, Driesenga went the distance on the mound, collecting five more strikeouts — giving her 18 over 23 innings during the weekend.
“I think Sara is just going to another level here in her sophomore year,” Hutchins said. “She has really progressed forward. … She really gave us what we needed because we needed her to throw a lot of innings. Her job’s just to keep us in the game until our offense can win it and she did that all weekend long.”
Against Samford, Michigan played small ball, padding a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth using two hits, a sacrifice bunt, a fielding error, and a sacrifice fly to score two more, putting the game at its final tally.
The weekend tournament showcased a strong Wolverines team, one that will hope to continue its success at the FAU Kickoff Classic in Boca Raton, Fla. next weekend. But Michigan is not content with one weekend of strong play.
“It doesn’t matter how good we are right now,” Hutchins said. “It only matters how good we become.”