With the sky permanently stuck in a depressing shade of gray and the stadium bleachers nearly empty, all throughout the game, the Michigan softball team resumed its quest for Big Ten supremacy during yesterday’s doubleheader against Penn State.
With the temperature in the 40s in State College, it was the Wolverine bats that impressed the miniscule crowd of 75 as Michigan won 9-1 and 11-3.
The wins were Michigan’s first in Big Ten play. After two losses to then-No. 14 Northwestern on the opening weekend of Big Ten play, Michigan (2-2 Big Ten, 24-9 overall) was ninth in the conference. The two wins put Michigan back into the middle of the pack.
With no postseason conference tournament for the first time since 1994, the regular-season games have added pressure.
“If we did (feel pressure), we didn’t show it,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We can’t get caught up in the standings. Our goal is to make it and have a deep run into the postseason and have a chance to get it to the (Women’s College) World Series, so we need to play every game like we’re fighting for that.”
Junior catcher Roya St. Clair, who hits fifth in the lineup, led the way at the plate. She was 4-for-7 and hit a home run in the first game, her fourth this season.
“We need that from Roya,” Hutchins said. “She’s in the RBI slot in the lineup. We need her to stay consistent at the plate … however she did it, I hope she stays with it.”
After sophomore pitcher Jordan Taylor gave up three runs in the first inning of the second game, Hutchins swapped one All-American for the other, bringing in junior Nikki Nemitz, who won the first game.
Nemitz went on to throw six scoreless innings and ten strikeouts against the Nittany Lions (0-6, 9-17)
Junior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus picked up where St. Clair left off in the batter’s box in the second game, going 3-for-4, driving in five runs and adding her fifth home run of the year.
“I’ve been striking out a lot lately,” Viefhaus said. “I was just trying to put it in play and she put it over the plate, and I got the good part of the bat, and it went out.”
Michigan will have just two days to prepare before Purdue comes to Ann Arbor for a two-game series this weekend. The Boilermakers are 3-1 in Big Ten play and sit at second in the conference behind Northwestern.
“Getting games in helps us more than anything,” Viefhaus said. “We’re at the point in the season where you don’t really need to practice anymore. You’re either on your game or you’re not.”
The Wolverines will play in their optimal weather conditions again as the forecast projects the temperature in the high 40s this weekend. The only difference from yesterday is that it looks like more than 75 people will likely be in attendance at Alumni Field on Saturday.