Having played six tournaments on the road to begin the season, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins and the Michigan softball team can’t be blamed for wanting to get a head start on their home season.
On Monday, the 20th-ranked Wolverines (17-9 overall) announced the addition of a regular nonconference game against Eastern Michigan for Wednesday at Alumni Field. Michigan holds a 52-8 all-time advantage over the Eagles, and the team won last year’s matchup, 9-7, in one of the Wolverines’ closest regular-season games.
“We thought we would take advantage of the great weather we have been having,” Hutchins said. “After our games were rained out this weekend, we have the opportunity to add a game to our schedule. This will be a great chance for our fans to get out and catch us in action for the first time.”
With the weather predicted to reach an unseasonably high temperature in the 80s on Wednesday, conditions should be similar to the warm weather of Florida and California the Wolverines have seen already.
Michigan is coming off a two-game losing streak after losses to No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 5 Arizona State, and it will be looking to gain much-needed confidence before its Big Ten opener against Penn State this weekend.
Eastern Michigan enters Alumni Field with a 9-14 record on the season. The Eagles won three of their last four during the Miami (Ohio) Tournament and are led by a pair of pitchers, junior Jenna Ignowski and sophomore Lauren Wells. Both pitchers carry an ERA under 3.00 and have combined for a total of 82 strikeouts throughout the season. Ignowski, who threw a no-hitter over the weekend, will look to take advantage of a Michigan team in an offensive slump.
But Michigan has a pitching ace of its own in freshman Haylie Wagner, who holds a 1.26 ERA and a 12-4 record coming into Wednesday’s matchup. Eastern Michigan has also been unable to succeed offensively so far this season, as it has a combined team batting average of .235. The key, though, will be how Wagner’s arm holds up after pitching 21 straight innings over the weekend. Hutchins will turn to another freshman, Sara Driesenga, to close out the game and provide relief for the Wolverines.
Michigan relies on senior third baseman Amanda Chidester and senior center-fielder Bree Evans to spark quality at-bats and get runners on base. The captains have been an important part of any offense the Wolverines have produced this season. Junior second baseman Ashley Lane is also a critical piece of the Wolverine offense, being the major source of power and a contributor of seven home runs this season.
Michigan hopes to return its “one pitch at a time” mentality to the diamond as well — something Hutchins has yet to see as of late. The Wolverines have combined for 127 strikeouts on the season and just 66 walks.
The Wolverines will see the Eagles later again in two weeks in one of four games against Mid-American Conference opponents.