With the expectations higher than ever before, the No. 1 Michigan softball team hoped to jump out to a hot start to begin its first post-NCAA Championship season. A 3-2 record wasn’t quite what it had in mind when the team headed south to Gainesville, Fla. to play in the GRU Classic this past weekend.
The Wolverines sandwiched a pair of one-run losses to Florida and Penn State on Saturday between stompings of No. 21 DePaul and Longwood – outscoring them by a combined 15-2 – on Friday and a 4-0 redemption win over Florida yesterday.
In their first game against Florida, the Wolverines battled through five shutout innings. In the top of the sixth with senior Tiffany Haas on second base, the Gators intentionally walked sophomore first baseman Samantha Findlay. Sophomore centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo doubled into left on the next pitch, scoring both runners.
But it wasn’t enough. In the bottom of the seventh, Florida made its move.
The first Gator batter made it to first on an error by senior third baseman Grace Leutele. Senior pitcher Jennie Ritter then walked the next hitter before being replaced by junior Lorilyn Wilson. Ritter finished the game with three hits, no earned runs, 11 strikeouts and 3 walks.
Wilson struck out her first batter before walking the next to load the bases. The following Gator batter grounded out, but all three runners advanced. Lindsey Cameron singled into left, emptying the bases, for a Florida win. Wilson got the loss.
Wilson started later that day against Penn State. She walked the leadoff hitter in the second inning. Penn State pinch runner Kari Lucas advanced to second base on a passed ball by junior catcher Tiffany Worthy and then stole third. Her score on a two-out single was all the Nittany Lions needed. They went on to win 1-0 after Michigan left the bases loaded in the fifth. Despite pitching all seven innings and giving up just one run on four hits and one walk, Wilson recorded her second-straight loss.
In its first weekend on a softball diamond since the fall, Michigan saw both its losses decided by fielding mishaps.
“It was an example of tentative ball,” Ritter said. “(We) thought too much. (It was) a little sloppy. When you think too much, that’s what happens.”
The Wolverines – especially senior catcher Becky Marx – rebounded well from the losses. Marx – who was 1-for-6 in the two losses – had two hits for four RBI yesterday. Her second hit helped Michigan overcome its struggles with the bases full. After stranding three runners late against Penn State, the Wolverines had the bases loaded in the first two innings yesterday, but didn’t score either time. Marx drove in the game’s first run in the third.
But later that inning, Michigan loaded the bases and again failed to score. Marx came to the plate in the fifth, with the bases loaded yet again for the Wolverines, and doubled in all three runners.
The strong hitting came from an unlikely source. Marx hit just .233 with 6 homeruns and 26 RBI last year, but her six RBI last weekend were a Michigan best.
“I’ve always been capable,” Marx said. “I’ve been working hard this off-season. It didn’t surprise me or the coaches, actually. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come, not just a spurt . (Michigan coach Carol Hutchins) gave us a talk on it (all being a process). I was expecting too much. Expectations will kill you. I thought of having a plan each time I was up there and was able to put it into better practice the second game (against Florida).”
Ritter held the lead for her second win, pitching four and a third scoreless innings in relief of freshman starter Stacy Delany.
Michigan opened the weekend with a 10-2 victory in five innings over DePaul. Ritter got the win by pitching all five innings, giving up four hits, striking out eight and walking none.
The Wolverines shut out Longwood 5-0 later on Friday. Wilson pitched the entire game, gave up three hits, struck out 10 and walked two.