EAST LANSING – The eighth-ranked Michigan softball team is heading south.

Scott Bell
Freshman pitcher Nikki Nemitz allowed just one run against Michigan State yesterday after Michigan allowed the Spartans to explode for seven runs Saturday. (COURTEST OF TONY DING)

But the Wolverines’ hitting appears to be going north.

Michigan heads to Big Ten Tournament in Columbus next weekend as the third seed, its worst finish in the conference in a dozen years.

The Wolverines will play No. 6 seed Illinois Friday. Michigan (12-4 Big Ten, 42-10 overall) split a two-game set with the Fighting Illini in Champaign three weeks ago, blowing a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game.

Although the Wolverines lost out on hosting honors, Michigan will at least enter the postseason with some momentum.

The Wolverines shook off a 7-0 loss at Michigan State Saturday – their worst loss in more than four years – with a 9-1 run-rule thumping of the Spartans (7-9, 33-25) in five innings.

“I think we showed a lot of heart today with the way we bounced back,” said senior leftfielder Rebekah Milian, who went 3-for-4 with three RBI yesterday, through the athletic department. “I think that was the best we’ve played all year. We came back full force and played with a lot more passion than we’ve previously shown this year,”

All nine players in Michigan’s batting order reached base yesterday, ending their ice cold offensive streak. The Wolverines scored just 11 runs in their previous six games.

“I just think that the one thing I want to say is that clearly my team needs to know that I’m supporting them,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “I’m their leader. And I’m with them. I’m on their side. And that’s really the only thing that matters to me from here on out, is that we’re just one team together.”

Hutchins moved freshman Molly Bausher back into the lineup at second base after benching her last weekend and dropped sophomore shortstop Teddi Ewing down to the ninth spot in the order yesterday. The duo rewarded Hutchins with back-to-back doubles – two of Michigan’s five extra-base hits – and scored both runs in the second inning.

Junior centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo, Milian and Ewing all had multiple hits yesterday.

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