In a theme that promises to be recurrent throughout the upcoming season, the Michigan softball team rode its pitching to a 5-1 exhibition victory against Eastern Michigan on Tuesday night at Alumni field.
Junior Hilary Payne, senior Jordan Taylor and sophomore Stephanie Speierman held the Eagles to one run off of six hits in a game that was scheduled to go nine innings instead of the usual seven.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the game for the Wolverines was Payne’s bounce back performance. Payne, a transfer from Loyola Chicago, was lit up for six runs last time she took the hill. Since that was the first outing (albeit in an exhibition) of her Michigan career, no one was quite sure what to expect this time around.
Payne struggled with command out of the gate, but calmed down enough to throw three dominant innings, allowing only one hit and striking out two. Payne showed her ability to get outs by forcing many Eagle popups and seemed to recover from the butterflies that plagued her last time.
The other up-and-comer of the Michigan trio is Speierman, who continued to impress after throwing three innings of no hit ball in the last exhibition she played in. Speierman allowed one run on two hits while striking out four and looked to have better command of her formidable fastball.
Taylor, the wily veteran of the group, is looking to build on her stellar junior season in which she posted a 1.42 ERA and was named co-Big Ten player of the year. Taylor pitched three innings, allowing no runs and two hits with three strikeouts.
Last season, Taylor could look to now-graduated Nikki Nemitz for help, but these days she is the eldest of the group and has different responsibilities.
“Usually as a pitcher you are a leader before your senior year,” Taylor said after the game. “But it is definitely different without Nikki here. We aren’t used to each other yet, but it looks good and we have a lot of really good, young players. I think we will be just fine.”
On the offensive end, the Wolverines took advantage of a lack of control from the Eagles’ pitchers by scoring many of the runners who got on base due to walks. Freshman Mandy Gardner blasted a two-run home run after senior Dorian Shaw was walked, and junior Stephanie Kirkpatrick drove in freshman Lyndsay Doyle with a single after Doyle was walked.
Shaw, a first baseman, had a hand in a lot of the offensive production by getting on base twice. After leading the team with 21 home runs last season, she figures to be a integral part of the team for the upcoming year. Shaw is one of only six seniors on this year’s team, but she doesn’t see the Wolverines’ youth as an impediment.
“There is no reason we can’t accomplish our goals,” Shaw said. “Our goals are always to win the College World Series and to win a Big Ten championship. There’s no reason we can’t do that with five freshmen on the field.”
“It’s just a matter of not getting caught up in using the freshman label as an excuse.”
The next exhibition for the Wolverines won’t be for another four months, but this game gives them something to build on during the winter off-season.