In the bottom of the sixth inning, Penn State’s Kate
Gentile led off with a hard grounder to the left side. The shot
went between Michigan’s shortstop and third baseman and
rolled out into left field.

Michigan Softball
Michigan junior Nicole Motycka pitched two shutout games, tallied 12 strikeouts and gave up just one walk this weekend. (MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily)

It wasn’t a spectacular hit, but it was significant. Until
that point, Michigan pitcher Nicole Motycka had pitched a perfect
game, and, when Gentile got on, there was a chorus of cheers from
the Penn State bench. Motycka retired the next three batters to get
out of the inning, and the Wolverines (8-0 Big Ten, 33-6 overall)
won the second game of yesterday’s double-header, 2-0.

“Any time you throw a one-hitter, I think that’s
pretty good,” coach Carol Hutchins said. “I think the
best thing about Nicole’s game is her poise and her
confidence.”

No. 9 Michigan beat Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, 3-0 and
1-0, before defeating Penn State yesterday in a doubleheader, 7-0
and 2-0. The wins keep Michigan atop the Big Ten by one game game
over Iowa.

Defense was, once again, the story of the game. On a foul ball
that looked like it was going well out of play, shortstop Jessica
Merchant reached over the third-base wall and made the grab. The
defense set the tone on a day when the offense struggled to get
started.

The Wolverines have been prolific with their home runs all
season long, but appeared to be in a drought this weekend. They hit
two against Ohio State, including a game winner by Merchant, but
the Nittany Lions kept them inside the park all day yesterday.
Michigan had to rely on other methods for manufacturing runs. Five
Wolverines laid down sacrifice bunts on the day in an attempt to
get more runners into scoring position.

“We’ve been known for our home runs lately,”
catcher Monica Schock said. “(But our) strategy is to move
runners, and whatever way we can do that is the way we want to do
it.”

Motycka had eight strikeouts and walked one in her complete-game
shutout. She has pitched four times in the last two weeks after
taking time off of the mound to nurse a leg injury.

“I felt great,” Motycka said. “I am still
coming off my injury so I am getting back into it. It’s just
fun to be out there.

“I think we have great confidence right now. Everyone is
hitting the ball well. It just didn’t happen this game. But
we have seen it all weekend.”

Hutchins said that Motycka has been great this season for the
Wolverines. She added that her attitude has played a large part in
her getting results.

“I go back to the fact that she’s enjoying the
moment,” Hutchins said. “She’s out there enjoying
herself. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that
she’s pitching well.”

Motycka was able to help herself out a little bit, too. She was
also 2-for-4 with two singles. She started a rally in the second
inning and scored the first run of the game. In the third, with two
outs and runners on first and second, the junior hit a hard line
drive over third base. But Jessica Merchant was tagged out at
third, and Michigan couldn’t manufacture any runs.

“I thought that in the second game we made some mistakes
… and I think we need to get more runs out of that,”
Hutchins said. “If you get nine hits, you need to get more
than two runs. In general, I still think we are playing good
softball.”

The softball team has won with strong pitching all season, and
Motycka wasn’t the only pitcher shining for the Wolverines.
The Michigan pitchers didn’t give up a single run all
weekend.

“I’m very pleased,” Hutchins said. Our
pitching is shutting them out. I don’t care who you are
playing, a shutout is a great performance. And most importantly,
our defense is making plays. And it’s tough to beat a team
when you don’t give up very many runs. It makes us tough to
beat.”

The Wolverines haven’t lost since March 14, and they have
given up a total of only three runs in their last 10 games.
Hutchins said that she is very pleased with the way her team has
been playing recently, but she was worried that the team might
become overconfident if the players aren’t careful.

“I still think we are playing good softball,”
Hutchins said. “I like the fact that we are loose and
confident, but you don’t 0want to get too loose.
There’s a lot of season left. We’ve accomplished
nothing yet.”

Michigan will look to improve on its 16-game winning streak
Wednesday at Eastern Michigan, and then over the weekend at Big Ten
conference foes Illinois and Iowa.

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