Down 3-1 in the count, senior captain Samantha Findlay took a hard whiff.
The crowd let out a loud sigh.
On the next pitch, she swung just as hard. This time she didn’t miss.
Findlay’s shot barely cleared the fence in left-centerfield, bringing in two runs to make her the Wolverines’ all-time RBI leader with 186.
More importantly, she gave the Michigan softball team an insurmountable 4-1 lead in its 4-3 win over Central Michigan yesterday afternoon.
“I didn’t even know, to tell you the truth,” Findlay said about the record. “It’s great and I don’t want to shun it aside, but I’m worried about winning the game.”
Michigan’s pitching almost gave them a reason to worry as sophomore pitcher Nikki Nemitz struggled against the Chippewas.
Despite striking out the side in the first inning, Nemitz couldn’t keep that edge.
Central Michigan (5-1 MAC, 13-12 overall) came out aggressive against the sophomore. And while the offense couldn’t figure her out the first time around, it didn’t take long soon after. Chippewa hitters combined to put up eight hits and three runs in her 4.2 innings. Even though Nemitz is one of the most composed on the squad, Hutchins said the sophomore didn’t have that same thick skin yesterday.
“Part of it was losing my edge, but a lot of that was that I was trying to guide my pitches,” Nemitz said. “I wasn’t trusting them, letting them rip and believing that I could actually do it.”
Central Michigan took the early lead in the third when a grounder rolled through Nemitz’s legs to drive in the runner from second.
But luckily for Michigan (7-1 Big Ten, 33-4), the senior captains played longball.
With a runner on second in the bottom of the third inning, senior Alessandra Giampaolo had the best at-bat of the afternoon. After fouling off four pitches, one to the left and three to the right, Giampaolo smacked the ball 10 feet inside the right foul pole for her first home run of the season.
Other than the two home runs, the Michigan offense had just one more hit the rest of the game.
And as Nemitz continued to let runners on in the fifth, the lack of Michigan offense became a growing concern.
After getting two outs on back-to-back Chippewa batters, Nemitz allowed three straight singles and two more runners crossed home. Hutchins had no choice but to put freshman Jordan Taylor in the circle.
It turned out to be a good decision
Taylor threw a four-pitch strikeout with two outs in the fifth against the first batter she faced. But despite notching seven-strikeouts in 2.1 innings, she hit trouble in the seventh frame.
Taylor allowed a one-out single to Central Michigan’s Christina Novak. During the next at-bat, Novak stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch without Taylor even knowing.
But Taylor quickly recovered and struck out the next two batters to seal the win.
Though Michigan came out with the victory, Hutchins expects the Wolverines to come out today with more emotion against Bowling Green at 4 p.m. today.
“I was most disappointed that we didn’t have the passion and enthusiasm that you need to have when you walk out onto this great field in that Michigan uniform,” Hutchins said. “We were fortunate with the win. We got the right people out at the right time, we hit the ball over the fence and got some big RBIs.”
And none were bigger than Findlay’s.