Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins will have no choice but to smile if her team can repeat its success from this past weekend, when its swept Ohio State.
The 20th-ranked Wolverines took all three contests against the Buckeyes in Columbus, riding offensive explosions from junior second baseman Ashley Lane and sophomore left fielder Nicole Sappingfield. In addition, the team had a season-high 16 hits in the second game of the series.
“They came to play all weekend,” Hutchins said on Sunday. “That third game got a little ugly — too many errors, too many little gifts. I thought in general we were competing, we were playing to win.”
Michigan (8-1 Big Ten, 27-10 overall) hopes to continue its offensive success when it returns home to play Western Michigan (4-2 MAC, 17-12) on Tuesday.
“Our offense is our strength right now,” said junior shortstop Amy Knapp. “Everyone in our lineup can get a hit. Everyone can hit someone in and everyone can get on base. This success is going to continue.”
If this season has shown anything, it’s that Knapp is right — the Wolverines’ success is going to continue.
Michigan is undefeated at home through five games, including four mercy-rule wins. With three of their next four games at home, the Wolverines have the recipe for success.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Hutchins said. “We play one inning at a time, (and) we keep moving forward.”
With the Broncos next up on Tuesday, Michigan will continue the one-pitch focus that Hutchins has stressed all year.
“We did our best when we had our patient hitting,” Hutchins said. “Hopefully it will continue.”
At the beginning of the season, the Wolverines looked uncomfortable when they were at the plate, but the team’s newfound confidence has guided them to wins in 10 of their last 11 games. Before playing its first home game on March 21, Michigan had a .249 batting average, but is now at .292.
“(Recently), I think we’ve been pretty comfortable,” Hutchins said. “It’s a team effort, (so) it takes all of us to win. We’re not a superstar team, (but) when our whole team comes and plays for each other, we’re a very solid team.”
In addition to the offensive power, the pitching from freshman left-hander Haylie Wagner and freshman right-hander Sara Driesenga has helped pull Michigan out of their midseason slump.
The Wolverines will need to rely on their pitching to handle the Broncos’ offensive stars, senior pitcher Meredith Whitney and senior outfielder Courtney Rousseau.
Over the past week, Rousseau has been hitting well, batting .471 over the last six games.
With offense a strong area for both teams, Michigan hopes to see Wagner and Driesenga stifle Western Michigan’s momentum in the 2011 NCAA Regional rematch.