Michigan’s offense was impressive yesterday, but the real drive behind the Wolverines doubleheader sweep of Minnesota and their current seven-game win streak has been pitching.
Senior Jennie Ritter and junior Lorilyn Wilson combined for 11 shutout innings against Minnesota yesterday, giving Michigan six shutouts in its last seven games.
Wilson has been especially lights out of late. Following five innings of one-hit ball yesterday, Wilson is riding a streak of 29 and one-third consecutive shutout innings.
“I’m just trying to hit my spots when I pitch,” the Salem, Ore., native said. “All I can do is just pitch it where I’m supposed to.”
Going into the fifth and final inning of Sunday’s second game, Wilson was looking to preserve a no-hitter. But Minnesota second baseman Valerie Alston spoiled the chance when she ripped a line drive into left-centerfield to lead off the inning. It would have been Wilson’s second no-hitter in four games.
Ritter and Wilson have been dominant, but some credit goes to the defense playing behind them.
Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 21-9 overall) has committed just one error in its last six games, all victories. The error came in the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader, on a hard-hit ball to freshman shortstop Teddi Ewing that could have been ruled a hit.
The strong performances in the circle are a positive sign for Michigan as it continues through the Big Ten season.
“We need (Ritter and Wilson) to do what we want to do,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Their job is to keep us in the game and wait for the offense to get it done.”
Blue on the blues: Tiffany Worthy was shocked, Carol Hutchins was frustrated and the crowd was plain mad. All of these emotions were in response to a questionable call in the bottom of the fourth inning of the first game yesterday.
Worthy came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. A hit would have given Michigan the eight-run lead needed to end the game after five innings. With the count at 2-2, home plate umpire Otis Walker rung up Worthy on a pitch that appeared to be well outside. The call sparked a surprised look on Worthy’s face, a comment from Hutchins and a chorus of boos from the faithful at Alumni Field.
But that wasn’t the only questionable call yesterday. In both games, Minnesota and Michigan struggled to adjust to an inconsistent strike zone.
Although she struck out 12 batters, Ritter saw a number of close calls go against her. At the same time, some Wolverines struck out looking on pitches that, to many on the field and in the stands, were clearly outside the strike zone.
In the second game, it was a shrinking strike zone that got on Wilson’s nerves.
“Today was hard because I was working from behind (in the count) a lot,” Wilson said. “The ump wasn’t helping me any.”
Big time Big Ten: Michigan opened its Big Ten season with yesterday’s doubleheader against Minnesota (0-4, 11-18). Last season, the Wolverines went 18-2 in the Big Ten, winning the regular-season title and the conference tournament.
After spending the last two months traveling around the country to take on the competition in warm weather, the Wolverines are pleased to be at home, taking on conference opponents.
“(The Big Ten season) is what we’ve been working up to all preseason,” Wilson said. “I like it because it’s so competitive. Every game counts just as much as the next.”