MINNEAPOLIS — The No. 1 Michigan softball team can score runs. Just give them time.
The Wolverines proved this again yesterday when they followed up their 4-0 win in the opener with an 11-0 mercy victory to close out their doubleheader against Minnesota.
“I would not want to have to pitch against our lineup,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We have some good hitters. (Their pitchers) brought it near the plate, and we hit it. We were aggressive.”
For the second time this weekend, it took until the second game for the Wolverine bats to heat up. Michigan (7-1 Big Ten, 40-3 overall) earned an 8-0 mercy win over Wisconsin on Saturday after a close 3-2 decision over the Badgers on Friday.
After limiting the Wolverines to four runs on two homers in the opener yesterday — one from junior third baseman Grace Leutele and one from senior designated hitter Nicole Motycka — Minnesota starting pitcher Lyn Peyer allowed three runs and was pulled after just one-third of an inning of work in game two.
The rally started with three consecutive singles from freshman Alessandra Giampaolo, senior Jessica Merchant and freshman Samantha Findlay. Leutele later drove in Findlay, the final run of the inning, with a double into left centerfield.
The Wolverines didn’t let up in the second inning, when they added six more runs off Golden Gopher pitcher Mandy Valadez. With the bases loaded, Merchant lined a Valadez pitch to centerfield, where Minnesota’s junior Stefanie Watt misplayed the ball, allowing three runs to score and Merchant to advance to third.
“That first game, we seemed to be pressing and a little bit uptight,” Hutchins said. “We just seemed a little more relaxed in the second game, and we got into some grooves. Hitting can be contagious because, once a couple of hitters hit, the pressure is off. Once you get a couple of runs in, there’s not as much pressure to swing.”
Michigan added two more runs in the third, and that was more than enough for sophomore pitcher Lorilyn Wilson, who picked up her third victory on the weekend with a complete game one-hitter.
Perhaps more importantly, it was junior Jennie Ritter who scattered five hits in her complete game shutout to win game one, while the Michigan bats were still relatively quiet.
Ritter has become accustomed to the pressure that comes along with pitching in the opener — where she matches up with the opposition’s best pitcher.
“It puts a lot of stress on me, but it just forces me to be tougher,” Ritter said. “We were actually talking about it in the dugout — how strange it was. I’ve got to be prepared for that, and I just go out there and expect it to be tough.”
Ritter was in that same situation on Friday, pitching against Wisconsin’s Eden Brock. Ritter matched Brock ― who kept the Michigan hitters off balance with off-speed pitches ― for most of the game, but gave up two unearned runs before Wilson came on in relief in the seventh inning.
Samantha Findlay’s RBI single in the top of the eighth gave the Wolverines a 3-2 lead, and Wilson retired all five batters she faced to get the win.
Once again the Michigan offense gave Wilson plenty of run support in its 8-0 victory on Saturday. The Wolverines jumped to a three-run lead on Merchant’s three-run homer in the bottom of the third inning and never looked back.
“I think we’re starting to come around again,” Ritter said. “I think we’re starting to hit as well as we were earlier in the season. I think it’s just adjusting and getting better.”