While many Michigan students polished fresh tans in the closing weekend of spring break, the No. 14 Michigan softball team (17-6) was busy at work in Louisville for the Red and Black Tournament.
Sophomore pitcher Haley Wagner earned her third win of the season in style in the first game of the tournament, striking out seven against Illinois State as she allowed only one hit in her first complete game this year.
“We’re going to have to ease (Wagner) into some innings,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “Whatever innings she gets, she needs to help us win. I thought she did a nice job.”
The offense loaded the bases in both the first and fourth innings, but failed to break the game open. Junior outfielder Nicole Sappingfield tied her season high with three hits.
The Wolverines’ first matchup against the Red Hawks was a 10-inning, 20-run thriller in the NFCA Classic in late February. In that game, freshman shortstop Sierra Romero drove a 3-1 pitch out of the park to secure the 11-9 victory.
On Saturday, in the two team’s second matchup, the score was tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh inning. Again, Romero was key with a two-out double that led to the winning run and 2-1 final score.
“Mentally you need to prepare yourself for the next day,” Romero said. “You might be tired but you just can’t really let that affect you. (We) just need to focus on the next game.”
Despite scoring three late runs, Michigan couldn’t complete a comeback, and fell, 5-4, to No. 13 Louisville on Friday. Sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga took the loss for the Wolverines after allowing five earned runs on seven hits. The loss is only the second to the Cardinals in program history.
“We just need get runners on,” Driesenga said. “We need to keep getting that base hit, and keep pushing through it, not letting ourselves get down. If we keep getting runners on then there’s going to come that big hit where we do score and we do get that extra run across the board that will push us over and help us win.”
The sophomore duo of Wagner and Driesenga combined for the win against Miami (Ohio) on Friday. Wagner allowed two hits and struck out three in five innings before being relieved by Driesenga. The right-handed sophomore — who has emerged as a valuable pitching asset this season — retired the first six batters in order to earn her first save of the season.
Driesenga also contributed at the plate, doubling in the bottom of the first inning to plate Sappingfield for a 1-0 lead. The Wolverines tacked on another run in the fourth to secure the 2-0 victory.
Michigan finished its week with a 7-3 record. As spring rolls into Ann Arbor, the Wolverines know they need to continue improving in order to claim a sixth-straight Big Ten title.
“The goal is Big Ten Championships and Women’s College World Series,” Hutchins explained at the beginning of the season. “We’re just going to shoot for the stars, and it’s our hope to get there.”