The No. 2 Michigan softball team has been close to perfect since the start of Big Ten play three weeks ago.
In that span, the Wolverines have gone 7-0, given up four runs total and scored more than 10 runs per game.
But when junior pitcher Jordan Taylor took to the mound on Saturday at Minnesota, she left no room for improvement. Taylor pitched the program’s first perfect game since 2008, as Michigan rolled 9-0 and 10-0 in the two-game weekend series.
“She was just shutting the other team down every pitch of the game,” senior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus said. “Her performance was really stellar.” .
Despite having to alter her pitching motion midseason as umpires have begun to crack down on the crow-hop rule, something she called the “hardest thing (she’s) ever had to do,” Taylor recorded 10 strikeouts in just five innings to pitch the sixth perfect game in Michigan softball history.
“I’ve thrown probably close to a million pitches in my career — so it’s always been the same way,” Taylor said after Sunday’s game. “It’s really cool to know that I can still be as effective if not more with completely rearranging my mechanics.”
Though this was the first perfect game of her Michigan career, Taylor said that she had thrown five such games in high school.
“It definitely didn’t take me until my junior year to throw a perfect game in high school,” she said.
Not to be outdone, senior pitcher Nikki Nemitz had a standout performance of her own on Sunday, posting a shutout.
Nemitz gave up just one hit and walked one batter to go along with four strikeouts. The lone hit was a routine pop into left centerfield.
“We definitely feed off the pitchers, as hitters, as defenders,” Viefhaus said. “If they are shutting the team down it’s going to make us feel better and more confident. They were just awesome this weekend.”
And that confidence showed as the Wolverines got it done at the plate as well, ending both games in the fifth inning due to softball’s eight-run mercy rule.
Michigan batters went a combined .340 in both games, with six different players batting in runs.
Viefhaus was one of the headliners, recording a two-run home run on Saturday and going 2-for-3 on Sunday with another RBI.
Other Wolverines also continued their solid hitting. Senior outfielder Angela Findlay had a two-run homer of her own while junior Dorian Shaw drove in a three-run long ball to end the game.
Viefhaus, Nemitz, sophomore outfielder Bree Evans and senior catcher Roya St. Clair each had multiple-hit performances.
With the sweep of the Gophers (1-5 Big Ten, 15-25 overall), the Wolverines (7-0, 30-5) continue to show their dominance in the conference.
“We’re so great because everyone in this lineup can get a hit,” Viefhaus said. “If somebody doesn’t get a hit, the next person will.”
After going through its difficult nonconference schedule relatively unscathed, Michigan has made the Big Ten season look like a cakewalk in comparison.
The Wolverines will take a small break from conference play when they take on Central Michigan this Wednesday before resuming their Big Ten slate against Northwestern over the weekend.
Still, Michigan knows that before obtaining its ultimate goal — a Women’s College World Series appearance and even a national championship — the team will have to prove itself in the Big Ten first.
“The Big Ten season means a lot to us,” Viefhaus said. “We want to win a national, uhh, Big Ten championship.”
Viefhaus’s quick mental slip up revealed the team’s ultimate goals, when she was asked if the national title was part of that grand design.
“Heck yeah, but we have to win the Big Ten first,” Viefhaus said.