For 11 innings yesterday, Michigan was wondering if it would ever start hitting Andrea Kirchberg. But then the combination of Melinda Moulden and Lisa Mack came to the rescue.
The duo that drove in 12 runs total in two games against Central Michigan on Wednesday hit a pair of doubles in the fifth to start a rally that would propel Michigan to a 4-0 win in the nightcap of yesterday’s doubleheader against Wisconsin. The Wolverines fell 2-0 in the opener, but swept Minnesota 11-1 and 5-3 on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to go 3-1 on the weekend.
Michigan (8-2 Big Ten, 31-8 overall) went into yesterday’s doubleheader alone in first place in the Big Ten after Iowa split a two-game series with Ohio State. But after their split the Wolverines stand tied for the conference lead with Iowa – with Ohio State right behind them at 9-3.
“This was a big weekend,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “I told the kids we would like to be 4-0 but we’re happy to be 3-1. It’s really tough to take all four from top teams.”
With the nightcap scoreless, Moulden led off the fifth with a double off the wall in center field before Jessica Merchant bunted to move her to third in hopes of just getting Michigan on the scoreboard.
Mack hit a pop fly that fell in the gap in right center for a double to score Moulden. Then Mary Conner, who came into the day batting .136, bunted to Kirchberg, who threw the ball away into right field, allowing Mack to score. The Wolverines never looked back.
The rally in the fifth inning was the first time Michigan had scored off Kirchberg after she had thrown more than 150 pitches.
After Marissa Young (17-6) gave up a two-run homer over the left-field fence to Kristin Zacher in the third inning of the first game, the Wolverines thought they would come back just like they did against the Gophers on Saturday. But Kirchberg gave up just four hits and struck out five in the opener. She had given up just two singles through four innings in the nightcap before giving up the double to Moulden.
“I just let them hit me,” Kirchberg said. “And that was the key because once they start hitting they start scoring. They’re a good hitting team.”
While Kirchberg was dominating Nicole Motycka was throwing a gem of her own. After being taken out in the third inning of Saturday’s game, Motycka came out with more confidence and pitched a two-hitter, recording her second shutout of the season.
“She lightened up on herself a little bit,” Hutchins said.
Motycka (14-2) allowed only three runners into scoring position and two base runners in the game’s final five innings. The freshman struck out seven, including five in the first three innings.
‘I came out a little more confident because I knew I would do a little better than I did yesterday,” Motycka said.
Motycka”s performance was huge considering all the innings Young had on the mound over the weekend. While Michigan’s ace did not rival Kirchberg’s 24.2 innings, Young did put in five innings of work on Friday and Saturday, striking out 16 and allowing just one hit. Young the came out again in yesterday’s opener and went the distance.
On Saturday, the Wolverines came back against Minnesota after Motycka gave up three runs in the first three innings. Michigan scored four runs to take the lead in the fifth. The rally was capped off by a Monica Schock single up the middle, which scored Kelsey Kollen and Stefanie Volpe on a play at the plate.
‘(Saturday) was such an emotional day,” Hutchins said following yesterday’s doubleheader. ‘We were so excited. You never want to get too high and you never want to get too low, and we got too low. It’s was an emotional hangover.”