Ten days slowly passed and Alumni Field remained empty and covered with tarp.
There certainly was a void in the heart of Marissa Young – she just wanted the opportunity to play some competitive softball.
The opportunity came this weekend, as the Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten, 25-8 overall) were able to escape Ann Arbor’s erratic climate and win four games in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“We were just happy to get on the field and play,” Young said. “We had really nice weather, and we’re just happy to play whether home or away.”
Young was certainly inspired to make up for the week-and-a-half intermission, belting a grand slam in the first inning to knock in the only runs of the game.
“I was just really glad that my teammates got on base ahead of me and that I can do my job,” Young said.
Pouncing on opponents early has been key to the Wolverines’ success, as they have scored seven runs in the first inning in the last five games.
“I definitely think that (scoring early) is important,” Young explained. “We get things going before the other team gets a chance to get some momentum. They try to get settled, and we take them out of their game.”
Sophomore Nicole Motycka sustained the lead as she pitched a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning against a strong Minnesota offense.
The four early runs were all Michigan needed.
“We have to hold them down until you can get something going,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Sometimes it’s the middle (of the game), sometimes it’s late, but the goal is to keep them down.”
Unfortunately for Michigan, game one was a different story. Minnesota brought the heat – starting pitcher Piper Marten entered the weekend No. 2 in the Big Ten in strikeouts – and Michigan could not get anything going early offensively.
“The first game was a pitchers’ duel,” Young said. “(Marten) was pitching well. Things were going really quick: three up, three down.”
It wasn’t until the sixth inning when the Wolverines finally found the spark that they needed. Senior Melinda Moulden knocked a two-run homer over the leftfield fence, her fifth of the season.
“I knew it was going to come down to one swing to win the game,” Young said. “We kept people off the bases, and that ended up working for us.”
The Gophers answered with a solo-shot by Jordanne Nygren, but Young held off any other attempts to score as she threw three more strikeouts to end the game.
Michigan’s other two victories earlier this weekend came against Wisconsin, 3-0 and 2-1 on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The four wins weekend put Michigan a top the Big Ten, a half-game ahead of Iowa (7-2, 28-9). The Wolverines had their only two games of the season against Iowa cancelled last week due to inclement weather.
But the Wolverines are not concerned with the rankings. The only thing Young and the her team want is the opportunity to play as much as possible – weather permitting, of course.
“We obviously can’t control the weather,” Young said. “The games we play count. At this point in the season, we’d rather be playing than practicing.”