The No. 14 Michigan softball team improved to 15-5 after winning four of five games at last week’s Citrus Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Wolverines knocked off then-No. 14 UCLA and then-No. 19 Auburn, 5-3 and 4-0, respectively. Michigan holds a 4-1 record against ranked opponents this season. Last year, the Wolverines played just four top-25 teams the entire season.
Michigan was certainly ready to play when it began the Citrus Classic.
“We were so excited to play,” said freshman catcher Lauren Sweet. “I thought that we just came out as a team.”
This excitement was something that Sweet said was not present in previous games.
“The couple games before that, we weren’t as pumped up for the games, and you could tell,” Sweet said.
This sentiment was not singular, though. By starting the tournament against two ranked opponents, the Wolverines needed a hot start.
“I agree with Lauren, we just came out ready to play,” said freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner. “We all had the energy. Everyone’s energy fed off of each other.”
Though the Wolverines went 4-1 in last week’s tournament, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins did not see the same level of effort on Saturday as on Friday against UCLA.
“I just thought we played really up to our competition on Friday,” Hutchins said. “I don’t think we were as present on Saturday and there’s no excuse for that.”
A major reason for the excellent play against UCLA was the amount of quality at-bats.
“We think we had 25 quality at-bats and only seven non-quality (at-bats),” Hutchins said.
WAGNER A BIG WINNER: After going 4-0 this past weekend at the Citrus Classic, Wagner won the Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time.
Wagner recorded a 0.36 ERA over 19.1 innings, allowing only one run and six hits in the tournament.
Perhaps her most impressive appearance in the tournament came in the victory against UCLA. Coming in as a reliever in the fifth inning, Wagner pitched out of a one-out bases-loaded jam to limit UCLA’s lead to 3-1. Michigan then proceeded to score two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a 5-3 lead. With Wagner on the mound for the rest of the game, the Wolverines closed out the Bruins.
Wagner followed this performance up the next game as Michigan shut out Auburn, 4-0. In addition to having a complete-game shutout, Wagner also contributed with the bat, hitting a solo home run to open up the scoring for the Wolverines.
To top it off, Wagner hurled a one-hit complete game the following day against Virginia, as Michigan won 7-1.
Performances like these don’t come without praise.
“She’s just simply doing her part (and) trusting her pitches,” Hutchins said. “She works very hard and does the things that we ask her to do.”
SWEET SWING: While freshmen pitchers Sara Driesenga and Haylie Wagner have received a lot of attention for their performances thus far, it’s hard to ignore the play of another freshman— Lauren Sweet.
In addition to being the backstop for the Wolverines, Sweet has a team-leading seven games with multiple hits this season.
Two of those games came last week against Virginia and Temple, as Sweet collected three hits against both teams. Overall, Sweet recorded seven hits in 14 at-bats and drove in five runs last week.
A possible reason for Sweet’s recent success could be her calm demeanor at the plate.
“I think I go up there not expecting to do much,” Sweet said. “Before, there were so many things going through my head, and now, I just clear my head, go up there and just hit like I know I can. Just do my best.”
As Sweet continues to play at this level, Hutchins will rest easy playing her consistently behind the plate.
“The game doesn’t know if you’re a freshman or a senior, but it is really interesting who is getting it done for us because the freshmen are just doing their part,” Hutchins said.