No matter the records, the rankings or the rosters, a Michigan-Ohio State matchup is always highlighted by the rivalry.
And despite coming off a close win over Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and a rough weekend at Wisconsin, the No. 2 Michigan softball team showed its true colors on Wednesday night as the Wolverines faced the Buckeyes in a conference double header.
Michigan (14-2 Big Ten, 47-4 overall) won both matchups by twice forcing the mercy rule, 9-1 and 8-0, respectively.
“When the team has fun, they are at their best,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “They love each other, they love Michigan, they love playing ball here. And we are at our best, and it’s very contagious.
“We get a few hits, get some runs on the board and it seems like it’s easier to do it when they are (playing at their best).”
Senior pitcher Jordan Taylor pitched in both games, striking out 18 batters in 12 innings. This was the first time in her collegiate career that she was asked to take the mound in back-to-back games.
Michigan broke the first game open in the bottom of the first inning to go up 4-0. After junior center fielder Bree Evans scored the first run on an infield error, sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane launched a three-run home run over the left-field wall to top off the inning.
It was just the beginning for the Michigan offense, as junior third baseman Amanda Chidester gave the Wolverines an even bigger cushion with a two-out grand slam in the second inning, crushing the ball down the left-field line.
The Buckeyes (2-12, 13-31) were rocked back on their heels in just two innings.
“We’re swinging better,” Hutchins said after the games. “I thought we had some good cuts at some bad balls, but I really liked our aggressiveness today.”
Michigan’s bats were hindered for several innings after Ohio State center fielder Brittany Goodchild took the mound to relieve pitcher Karisa Medrano.
Taylor continued her dominance on the hill, as did Goodchild, despite letting up one Buckeye run in the fourth.
A deep sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth by senior first baseman Dorian Shaw gave Evans room to tag up and score, ending the game early with a score of 9-1.
“The runs always help, because you don’t have to throw careful,” Taylor said of the offensive support. “When you have to throw careful, you can’t make a mistake. And that’s when mistakes happen.”
Taylor rested for about twenty minutes before retaking the mound for game two, facing off against Ohio State pitcher Kasie Kelly. At the start of the game, Taylor and Kelly had both given up 117 hits this season — Taylor, however, had pitched twice as many innings (180.1) compared to Kelly (92.2).
Once again, Michigan broke the game open first when senior designated hitter Alycia Ryan knocked a solo home run over the right-center field wall.
The Buckeyes could not seem to break Taylor, as she prevented any movement around the bags for the visiting squad.
A three-run third and two-run fourth inning for the Wolverines pushed their lead even further to a 6-0 mark.
With 16 strikeouts at that point, Taylor looked to her team to end the game early once again.
Ryan chipped in a second solo home run in the fifth, and Chidester singled to bring Evans home in the sixth to finish the game, 8-0.
“We always want to get a lot of run support for our pitchers, no matter who’s on the mound,” Ryan said. “We just like to come out and score a lot of runs. It’s definitely been contagious for us and when some people hit, it all follows through.”
The two wins moved Michigan back into a first-place tie with Indiana in the Big Ten, as the Wolverines head into a conference matchup this weekend against Minnesota.