Damage control was the name of the game when junior Jennie Ritter entered the Iowa game Friday afternoon. When sophomore Lorilyn Wilson couldn’t manage to get out of a tough second inning, Ritter was brought in to keep the Wolverines in the game. Little did she know that she would be pitching for 20 straight innings from that point on. Ritter started Saturday’s game and also the opener of yesterday’s doubleheader.
The rally Michigan was hoping for never occurred, but it wasn’t on account of a bad performance by Ritter. She faced 16 batters and subsequently retired each one.
“My job was to go in there and shut them down,” Ritter said. “We needed to give them the opportunity to score, and that’s all we can do on defense.”
Although the offense could not rally on Friday, it did its part for Ritter yesterday against Illinois. After another solid performance early on — allowing just two hits through the first six innings — Ritter’s bid for a second straight win looked to be in jeopardy. Protecting an 8-3 lead, she faced LeeAnn Butcher with two outs and runners on second and third. But Ritter struggled to get the elusive third out, and Butcher singled up the middle to make it a four-run game. Shanna Diller followed by clearing the bases with a three-run home run, putting the tying run at the plate.
“It looked like she might have run out a gas a little there in that 20th inning of work,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said.
But Ritter’s tank had not hit empty.She was able to regroup and gain her 11th strikeout of the game to put an end to the Illinois comeback attempt. She sent Jenna Hall back to the dugout with her bat still on her shoulder after painting the outside corner to end the game.
“Obviously, (Sunday) was a little bit rougher than the other two,” Ritter said. “But I had to just stay focused and keep pitching my pitches.”
Ritter ended up with 28 strikeouts in her 19 and one-third innings of work, putting her one strikeout shy of 500 for her career. Although her six earned runs hurt her impressive 0.75 ERA, Hutchins was impressed with the junior’s ability to step in and pitch quality innings when others weren’t on top of their game.
“With (Wilson) having a bad day (on Friday), we really looked for Ritter to pull us through,” Hutchins said. “I’m really proud of what she’s been able to do for us.”
In her start against Iowa on Saturday, Ritter started until she found her rhythm.
After surrendering a solo home run to Kylie Murray and a subsequent double to Brandy Sargant in the second inning, Ritter put an end to any other scares. She got out of the second inning and allowed just one more hit on the day, retiring the final 13 Hawkeye runners en route to Michigan’s 3-1 win.
Of the 19 complete innings Ritter pitched, she threw 1-2-3 innings in 14 of them. By allowing baserunners in just five innings over the entire weekend, she limited the opposing team’s chances to score. Her effort this weekend improved her season record to 16-0 with 162 strikeouts on the season. She looks well on her way to besting her 24-8 record and 269 strikeouts posted last season — both career bests.