Staying focused on the next pitch is the No. 7 Michigan softball team’s mantra this season and the Wolverines put their pitch and plate discipline on display this past weekend. Michigan won all four of its games at the Easton SEC/Midwest Challenge in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“(Playing one-pitch softball) helps you be able to control the pressure,” senior pitcher Nikki Nemitz said. “If (the game) gets tiring or tough, you know that you just have to be great for that one pitch. It’s an easier way of thinking of the game, than thinking ‘Okay, were going to be on the road for eleven days and going to play ten games.’ That’s tough.”
The Wolverines (14-4) showcased one-pitch softball in Friday’s 5-2 win against No. 8 Alabama. Michigan was down 2-0 after the third inning, but stayed focused to rally back. The Wolverines scored one run in the fourth, one run in the sixth and three runs in the seventh to eventually overtake the Crimson Tide.
Following what Michigan coach Carol Hutchins called “an emotional win,” the Wolverines bats were quiet in a 1-0 win over South Carolina on Saturday. But again, Michigan adjusted its approach to manage a win, this time behind senior Nikki Nemitz’s solid seven innings.
“Good teams find ways to win,” Hutchins said. “The first Alabama game Friday night was a big win (and) Saturday morning we were definitely flat against South Carolina. Give their pitcher credit, but we didn’t make adjustments at the plate. But we played defense and held them, which is what you have to do until your offense can win it. Then we turned around and had another big game against Alabama.”
Michigan faced Alabama for the second time on Saturday, with the Wolverines winning the contest 4-2. Senior outfielder Angela Findlay had Alabama’s number this past weekend, with two hits, one run scored and two RBI on Friday. She added two hits and two RBI in Saturday’s contest.
“I’m just really focusing on going up there and doing what I need to do for my team at the plate,” Findlay said. “Whether that’s getting on base, driving people in, or putting a bunt down for the runners, my focus is just going up there and getting good at bats.”
Michigan defeated South Carolina 8-0 in just five innings in Sunday’s finale. Nemitz pitched two scoreless innings before freshman pitcher Stephanie Speierman got the call. Speierman picked up her first win of the season, as she tossed three innings, giving up no hits or walks, while striking out three.
“All the coaches agreed we wished that we wouldn’t have ended the game early with our offense,” Hutchins said. “(Speierman) was just getting going. We haven’t had a lot of opportunity to really see what she can do, but we were pleased with her performance. She maintained, made her pitches work, and she got them to make outs.”
As the Wolverines head to Louisville, Ken. to play in the Red and Black Tournament next weekend, the team looks to build on their complete performances from this past weekend.
And with their bats heating up this past weekend, Hutchins would like to see the Wolverines build on their recent offensive successes.
“We’re beginning to play with some consistency,” Hutchins said. “We’re 18 games into the season, and our hope is to get consistency in all areas of our game. Our pitching has been pretty consistent and our defense has been pretty consistent. Its typical that the offense is the last to go, but I’m starting to see some things and some good at bats.”