The Michigan softball team should have seen what it was getting into with their doubleheader against No. 11 Ohio State when former head football coach and associate athletic director Lloyd Carr throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The ball skidded off the dirt far left of home plate. And from that pitch on, balls were flying all over the diamond Wednesday.
Tied for the Big Ten lead, it was the biggest series of the season for both teams, and they didn’t wait to go after each other. Two batters into the game Ohio State’s Sam Marder got the scoring started with a home run that bounced off the flag pole in left field. It was the second time in three games that junior Nikki Nemitz had given up a first-inning run.
“You can’t get out of shape because that’s when everything starts tumbling and its one after another and that when it’s dangerous,” Nemitz said.
The eighth-ranked Wolverines bounced back the following inning, scoring three runs to take the lead. Michigan would add another three runs in the fifth with a Maggie Viefhaus double and a Nemitz home run and pull out a 6-3 victory.
“For some reason, I knew we were going to win,” Nemitz said. “You hate going from behind, but knowing it’s going to happen … it’s just relaxing.”
The second game seemed startlingly similar, with an Ohio State home run early in the game. Down once more, Michigan (16-2 Big Ten, 40-9 overall) responded again with three runs in the following inning. And for the second time, Viefhaus played an integral part with a two-run single to center. Michigan added two more in the fifth to take the game 5-2.
The sweep of the Buckeyes (14-4, 42-9) gives Michigan sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. And with two games left in the regular season, the win also ensures them at least a share of the title.
“We didn’t look at the standings, we did not care,” Viefhaus said. “We have to win our games in order to be champions anyway, so all we needed to worry about was the game we were playing at that time.”
Leading the way for the Wolverines was Viefhaus, fresh off of a four-RBI outing against Iowa. She went 4-for-6 on the day with five RBI in the doubleheader. She leads the team with 35 RBI while also leading the Big Ten in batting average at .417.
“I’m just treating it like batting practice,” Viefhaus said. “Seeing the ball and hitting it. Most of all, I’m waiting for my pitch. I don’t hit the pitcher’s pitch, I hit my pitch.”
Michigan’s final two games come against in-state rival Michigan State. The two play in Ann Arbor this weekend with not only the Big Ten title on the line, but Michigan’s 20-game win streak as well.
“We’ve had longer winning streaks,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “I only care about winning the next game. I don’t care what the streak is, I am just pleased with the kind of softball we’ve been playing.”