After the Michigan softball team lost ace Jordan Taylor to graduation, the Wolverines looked to their bullpen to find a replacement for the record-setting pitcher.

Last weekend, they just may have found her.

Freshman pitcher Sara Driesenga earned her first two wins at the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La., pitching against Louisiana Tech and No. 22 LSU.

On Friday, the right-hander gave up two runs on two hits in four innings, but Driesenga came back Saturday and pitched her first complete game, tallying two strikeouts against the Tigers — not to mention carrying a no-hitter through five innings.

Her performance garnered her co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, which she shared with Iowa shortstop Megan Blank, as well as a spot on the All-Tournament team with three other Wolverines.

Having to fill the large shoes of Taylor — a current member of USA Softball — is a tough task, but the seniors on the team have faith in the freshman.

“I think (Driesenga is) really confident in herself, which is something pitchers have to be in order to be successful,” said senior centerfielder Bree Evans. “She’s doing a really good job on moving the ball and hitting the corners. She’s letting the defense help her and she’s doing her part on the team.”

Senior third-baseman Amanda Chidester, who was also named to the All-Tournament team, agreed with Evans.

“I can’t wait to see her get better and better every game,” she said. “You can tell she loves the game, (and) I definitely think (she can put us over the top) if she continues to improve. She can definitely have an impact on our team.”

Driesenga has already made her mark on the team in her very first week of varsity action and has a promising career ahead of her.

She and the rest of the squad will be back in action this weekend when they travel to Boca Raton, Fla. to play in the Florida Atlantic Kickoff Classic.

MORE FRESH MEAT: In addition to Driesenga, the Wolverines have three other freshmen on the squad, including another freshman pitcher who has shown similar potential to Driesenga.

Lefty Haylie Wagner also saw action this past weekend, relieving Driesenga in the match against Louisiana Tech. She also made her first start against Penn State, recording 11 strikeouts in the five-inning game.

Chidester sees the same potential in Wagner that she does in Driesenga.

“I think her and Sara will work well with each other,” she said. “She’s just got to keep coming out (and) working hard.”

The two other rookies are catchers Lauren Sweet and Becca Garfinkel. Sweet trades time with sophomore Caitlin Blanchard and started against Louisiana Tech and LSU last weekend.

“Lauren (is) just awesome to be around,” Chidester said. “(She’s) a hard worker and she competes. She’s very athletic and it’s great to have that confidence behind the plate.”

Garfinkel joined the team as a walk-on. Though she hasn’t seen much game action, Garfinkel has an important role warming up Michigan’s pitchers as the bullpen catcher.

STAYING CLASSY: On Wednesday, Evans was named one of 30 candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

Her selection for the Senior CLASS Award comes after Evans was named to the Watch List for USA Softball Player of the Year before the season.

In order to qualify for the award, “a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition,” according to the Senior CLASS Award website.

Evans was a 2011 Academic All-Big Ten selection and has raised over $140,000 for breast cancer research and awareness, in addition to her consistent on-field production.

The finalists will be narrowed down to 10 later in the season.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.