If this weekend was any indication, junior pitcher Nikki Nemitz has put last postseason’s struggles firmly in the rearview mirror.
Nemitz allowed just three runs in 16.2 innings of work, propelling Michigan to a 4-1 record and the Florida Atlantic University Kick-Off Classic title. She was named tournament MVP for her efforts.
After splitting innings in the pitching circle with sophomore Jordan Taylor throughout the 2008 regular season, Nemitz gave up eight runs in 11 playoff innings for the Wolverines.
But Nemitz (2-0) didn’t waste any time making her case as the Wolverines’ ace this season.
In Michigan’s first game Friday, a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh, she tossed eight innings of three-hit ball and racked up 18 strikeouts — a career high and just one short of the Michigan single-game record.
“We figured out a weakness on the other team and we just kept attacking it,” Nemitz said. “Once they caught on, we started changing it up a little bit.”
Saturday, after Taylor (2-1) dominated in a 4-0 win over Maryland, Nemitz started against Long Island but with less favorable results. She yielded six hits and two runs (one earned) in just three innings of work before ceding the ball to Taylor.
But Nemitz’s work wasn’t done just because she was finished in the pitching circle. Her fourth-inning double scored freshman Amanda Chidester and gave the Wolverines a 3-2 lead. They would eventually add three more runs, though Taylor’s pitching performance — no baserunners in the game’s final four innings — rendered the insurance scores unnecessary.
Sunday, the script was flipped. Taylor started the game against Massachusetts but lasted just 1.1 innings before Michigan coach Carol Hutchins called on Nemitz. The junior’s stat line (5.2 innings, one baserunner, seven strikeouts) was reminiscent of Taylor’s the day before, but Michigan’s offensive production was not. The Wolverines stranded eight runners en route to a 1-0 loss.
“Everyone needs to improve somewhere in their game,” Nemitz said. “No one is perfect yet. We just all need to find that little weakness in our game and work on getting better at that, whether it’s hitting or fielding or maybe some energy.”
In terms of hitting — and energy — Chidester already appears to be in midseason form. The freshman second baseman/designated player collected nine hits, five runs and six RBI in her first weekend of collegiate action.
“I was nervous, but the team is so supportive,” Chidester said. “Everyone was just like ‘Chiddy, relax, you’re fine, just have fun out there.’ The support we all have for each other, it’s just great.”
Hitting in the cleanup spot vacated by last year’s captain Samantha Findlay, Chidester scored the eventual winning runs against Pittsburgh and Florida Atlantic. She also knocked in the go-ahead scores with a double against Long Island and a triple against Maryland.