The Falcons of Bowling Green were served as a midweek appetizer for the Michigan softball team on Wednesday at Alumni Field, just a few days before the beginning of Big Ten competition.
The Wolverines (25-4) batted through the lineup in the first inning, garnering five hits and a three-run lead. Freshman first baseman Tera Blanco delivered a single that scored junior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence. A groundout by freshman designated player Amanda Vargas allowed junior second baseman Sierra Romero to come home from third and firmly established an upper hand for Michigan.
The Wolverines, who won by a score of 8-1, were one run short of winning via run-rule in the bottom of the fifth inning before Michigan coach Carol Hutchins began a series of substitutions in order to get more players meaningful in-game experience.
“We got a chance to get a lot of kids some playing time, and that’s a good day,” Hutchins said. “You never know when they’re going to be somebody you have to count on. If you get a lead, you want to give them a chance to play because they want their opportunity. I thought they did a great job.”
With an 8-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, junior outfielders Mary Sbonek and Olivia Richvalsky pinch-hit for the big bats of junior left fielder Kelly Christner and Romero, the beginning of several position changes on both sides of the ball that gave the fans at Alumni Field a look at some of the Wolverines’ less-familiar faces.
Before the substitutions began en masse, Christner and Romero hit back-to back home runs to right-center field in the bottom of the fourth inning. Christner’s homer scored Lawrence and was Christner’s sixth longball of the year.
Romero’s solo shot extended Michigan’s run total to eight and gave the slugger 11 dingers so far.
“I was telling (Christner) how last weekend, after she hit that home run against Kent State, that I wanted to hit a home run against Kent State and I popped up,” Romero said. “I was like, ‘See I can’t do that, I can’t try to hit it out.’”
Against the Falcons, Michigan seemed to have resolved many of the issues that had been nagging during the Kent State series, where the Wolverines suffered a rare loss. Wednesday, Michigan recorded 12 hits and zero errors in addition to the eight runs.
In five innings of work, senior left-hander Haylie Wagner was just short of superb, picking up the win in her first start since Saturday’s loss.
A first-inning triple and a deep home run blast to the top of the center-field bleachers in the top of the third inning were the only hits and runs allowed by Wagner.
“I wasn’t trying to rush anything, just stay relaxed,” Wagner said. “I have been a lot tighter when I go out there, so that’s what I’ve been working on. My confidence and our confidence is going to be great, and we’re excited for the Big Ten.”