Nearly every softball oddity was seen in Michigan’s playoff opener against a visiting Wright State — a rain delay, illegal pitches, illegal base running, a hit batsman, controversial pitching changes and a lightning delay.
But in the end, the Wolverines finished on top, mercy-ruling Wright State 11-2 in six innings.
On Friday night, the top-seeded Wolverines were beating the fourth-seeded Raiders 8-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning. Senior catcher Roya St. Clair reached base on a two-out infield single, and play was suspended when the sky opened up as junior first baseman Dorian Shaw stepped to the plate.
The game resumed from that spot on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.
Wright State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, but it didn’t take long for Michigan to respond. In the bottom half of the inning, the Wolverines tallied eight runs, taking a commanding lead as they batted around the order.
The Raiders changed pitchers three times in the inning, which provoked Michigan coach Carol Hutchins to confront the umpires. After Wright State’s starting pitcher exited, two other pitchers saw time, and then the starting pitcher came back in. In softball, this is known as the flex rule, in which a defensive player can leave the game and come back in later on. This can only be exercised once.
But Hutchins claimed that that there was a violation in using the same pitcher twice in the inning, and she argued with the umpires for five minutes.
And when the inning was over, she retrieved a rulebook from the clubhouse and held it up in the home plate umpire’s face.
“Probably within the last 15 games, I would say in over half of them we’ve thrown three pitchers in one game,” Wright State coach Linda Garza said. “It’s not uncharacteristic for us. It may be uncharacteristic for other people.”
Hutchins never got the call that she wanted, but her team didn’t seem too flustered.
Junior first baseman Dorian Shaw highlighted the scoring that inning with a two-run blast into the right field bleachers, and she added another in the sixth to give Michigan a nine-run lead to end the game.
Senior lefthander Nikki Nemitz got the win, giving up two runs on seven hits.
Prior to the matchup, No. 2 seed Notre Dame battled against No. 3 seed Illinois State. The Fighting Irish came out on top, 1-0, in an extra-innings affair. Michigan will play Notre Dame at 1:00 p.m., and Illinois State will face Wright State at 3:30.