Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins raised eyebrows when she started sophomore pitcher Jordan Taylor instead of junior Nikki Nemitz, who gave up only three hits to Alabama’s nationally-ranked offense in the Wolverines’ first World Series matchup.
Even Florida coach Tim Walton was surprised.
It wasn’t the first time Hutchins has had one of her decisions questioned. But like most choices the Hall of Fame coach makes, it worked out, as Taylor went 4.1 scoreless innings before Nemitz was called out of the dugout.
Unfortunately, Nemitz saw the game unravel an inning later, giving up the only run of the game as Michigan fell 1-0 to the top-ranked Gators.
“It came down to a one-pitch game but my pitchers pitched their hearts out,” Hutchins said. “I thought we did a great job of containing their great offense. I thought both of them did a great job.”
Nemitz struck out four Gator hitters, increasing her total on the season to 304. She is the fifth pitcher in Michigan history to reach that mark.
Nemit’z one mistake was to Gator sophomore Megan Bush, who hit a tape measure home run off of a 0-1 pitch. That run was enough for Florida pitcher Stacey Nelson to shut down the Wolverines.
“It was a changeup, and I’m pretty sure it slowed my body speed and I kind of gave it away,” Nemitz said. “I sent it fat right down the middle, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a great hitter.”
There was no decision Hutchins could have made to slow down Florida’s ace Stacey Nelson. The only hit she gave up to Michigan was a chopper in the fourth by freshman Bree Evans. Nelson struck out every hitter in the Michigan lineup except for junior Angela Findlay and sophomore Dorian Shaw.
The one-hit performance matches a season low for the Wolverines, who mustered only one hit against Washington, a competitor who they may meet in this year’s World Series, earlier in the year.
The one opportunity the Wolverines had came in the fourth inning with two runners in scoring position, but Nelson promptly shut the Wolverines with two straight strikeouts.
“I thought (junior) Roya (St. Clair) had a great at-bat and (Nelson) pulled the trigger on her,” Hutchins said. “We just didn’t get the timely hit and that’s what it comes down to.”
Hutchins has been in this situation before. Her 2005 national championship team lost to Tennessee in its third game of the tournament, but rebounded to knock off the Volunteers in the following game.
If Michigan wants to win the College World Series, there is no doubt that it is going to have to go through Florida to get there.
That task will continue at 7 p.m. when they play the winner of the Georgia and Missouri elimination game. In order to save themselves from elimination the Wolverines will have to win two games on Saturday.
“It’s going to take Saturday,” Hutchins said. “That’s the only day we are worried about.”