The Michigan softball team (6-0 Big Ten, 21-11-1 overall) continued its dominance in the Big Ten this weekend by sweeping the state of Indiana in four games.
The Wolverines defeated Indiana by the mercy rule, 15-3, in five innings yesterday after squeaking by the Hoosiers, 2-0 on Saturday. Friday saw Michigan take both games of a doubleheader against Purdue, 6-1 and 4-3.
Yesterday, the Wolverines were the beneficiaries of an extremely poor Indiana defense. The left side of the Hoosiers” infield struggled throughout the afternoon, allowing Michigan back-to-back six-run innings en route to its highest run total of the season.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was impressed with the solid performance by the Michigan hitters, who scored their 15 runs on 14 hits, tying their season high that was set last weekend against Illinois.
The Wolverines were all over Indiana pitchers Alison Cooke and Jen Smith, with Kelsey Kollen, Stefanie Volpe and Tune each recording three hits on the day. Volpe was 3-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs.
The easy victory gave Hutchins a chance to play almost everyone on the team, as 13 Wolverines went to the plate. But the game was stopped after the fifth inning to the dismay of Hutchins.
“I would like to do away with that eight run rule. They don”t stop a baseball game, they don”t stop football when we”re ahead 40 to nothing,” Hutchins said. “I think it”s a dumb rule. Let”s play.”
Marie Barda was the winning pitcher for Michigan with Kate Eiland who is continuing her comeback from hip surgery pitching the final inning.
“Well, we hit the ball hard a lot of times, and that field is really tough,” said Hutchins, noting that the Michigan fielders also struggled. “It”s hard, and you”re going to get a lot of hits on that.”
Michigan shortstop Rebecca Tune, who had two errors on the afternoon, agreed that the infield made fielding ground balls difficult.
“I think I was upset at myself because I let the ball play me rather than coming and getting it,” Tune said.
“Once I saw it was rough on the other shortstop as well, I made the decision that I had to come in and get it I couldn”t be timid.”
On Saturday, Indiana was a different team, with solid defense and pitching that held Michigan scoreless for the first five innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, Michigan loaded the bases with nobody out only to see pinch hitters Courtney Betley and Chrissy Garza hit hard line drives right at Indiana fielders.
“We came through with some good cuts, and Betley had a great cut at the ball I mean, what else can you do,” Hutchins said.
Leadoff hitter Kelsey Kollen came to the plate and slapped a grounder over third base, scoring the only two runs of the game.
Kollen, who usually bunts or slaps when she is at bat, has been swinging away more often recently.
“Swinging away has been what I”ve been most comfortable with this year,” Kollen said.
“I”ve been working on it a lot in the off-season and even still during practices, and I think I”m becoming more of a hitter but definitely not to get RBIs, I”m not used to that.”
Michigan pitcher Marissa Young had one of her best outings of the season on Saturday, allowing only four hits and striking out 11 in the shutout.
“Marissa was awesome today. I told her, “You”re the durable one,”” said Hutchins of her All-American, who also pitched a total of 8.1 innings on Friday night.
Purdue presented more of a challenge on Friday evening, especially in the first game.
Sophomore pitcher Leighann Burke allowed only one earned run in over four-and-two-thirds innings. Burke uses an unorthodox angled delivery and grunts on every pitch, providing an extra distraction for the hitters she faces.
Yet Hutchins was happy with the way her team handled Burke, who likes to throw a lot of pitches out of the strike zone and force hitters to chase balls.
“I think we were a little bit more selective we had a few bad at-bats. But the key is to just have good at-bats and always put the pressure on them,” Hutchins said. “We haven”t been swinging at a lot of bad stuff lately, so I”m really pleased with that.”
Kollen and Melissa Taylor led the Wolverines at the plate against the Boilermakers, going 4-for-9 and 4-for-5, respectively, in the two games.
With the four victories, Michigan ran its winning streak to nine games and held on to its conference lead over Iowa.