LOUISVILLE, Ken. — After sweeping all four games in Alabama last weekend, the No. 5 Michigan softball team looked to keep its offense rolling in Louisville this past weekend. Michigan (16-4) showed it was up for the challenge, as the Wolverines beat No. 18 Louisville 9-5 and Hofstra 4-3 in extra innings on Saturday.
Michigan extended its winning streak to 10 games on Sunday with a 3-1 win against Hofstra and a 7-3 win against Louisville in eight innings.
The pitchers have been the Wolverines’ most consistent unit this season — both on the mound and in the batter’s box. And at the Red and Black Tournament, it was senior pitcher Nikki Nemitz that gave the offense a lift. Nemitz combined to go 4-for-5 in both games on Saturday at the plate.
Against Hofstra, Nemitz drilled a two-run homerun in the top of the second inning, giving the Wolverines a 2-1 lead.
“I love being a hitting pitcher,” Nemitz said. “I get to help myself and contribute to the team on both ends of the game. It felt good. It feels good to finally be back where I’m at and help my team out.”
In both of Saturday’s games, the Wolverines trailed early and had to mount comebacks to get the wins.
Against Louisville, Michigan quickly found itself down 5-0 after the second inning, but the Wolverines rallied back in the top of the third on a Cardinals error and a three-RBI double from Nemitz. Junior pitcher Jordan Taylor settled down in the bottom of the third and kept the Cardinals scoreless for the rest of the game.
“We have a lot of people returning from last year,” Nemitz said. “Last year, we went on losing streaks or had a lot of tough games where we were down and had to fight back. This team knows how to win. The game’s not over until the seventh inning and third out. We’re used to fighting back. I think it’s just something we’re good at.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins stressed the importance of Nemitz’s role as the seventh hitter in the lineup, as Nemitz continues to bat behind junior slugger Dorian Shaw.
“We’re starting to see teams pitch around (Shaw),” Hutchins said. “She’s doing a good job of managing the zone and taking walks. We’ll take her on base. Anything they give us, we’ll take. So, we’re pleased with that in the middle of the lineup, especially when we’ve got someone like (Nemitz) hot behind her. That’s a good combination to have.”
Saturday’s second game against Hofstra went into extra innings, and this time, it was senior catcher Roya St. Clair’s plate discipline that helped the team score first in extra innings.
St. Clair came up to bat with runners on first and third base with one out. After fouling off multiple pitches, St. Clair reached on a fielding error, scoring both runners to give Michigan a 4-2 edge. Although Hofstra came back to score one run in the bottom of that frame, the Wolverines held on to get their second win on Saturday.
“During an at-bat, no matter what happened in the previous pitches, it’s only about one pitch to make something good happen,” Hutchins said. “(St. Clair) has done a really good job of trying to do what she’s capable of doing. We needed her to put the ball in play and put it down. Fortunately, it worked out that we got two runs. I give Roya a lot of credit for battling through that at bat. She was down and behind, but she found a way to make it go our way.”
After a two-hour rain delay on Sunday, the Michigan offense was quiet in its second game of the weekend against Hofstra. The Wolverines put up a three-spot in the bottom of the second inning, but had difficulty converting hits into runs for much of the game.
But even though Hofstra slowed the Wolverines’ offense, Taylor’s solid seven innings and Michigan’s three runs were enough to get the win.