Wolverines Use Hot Bats to Claim Season-Opening Wins at Houston Invite

Feb. 12, 2011

• Boxscores: Southern Illinois | Houston
Notes & Quotes

Site: Houston, Texas (Cougar Stadium)
Event: Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational
Scores: #11 Michigan 19, Southern Illinois 4 (5 inn); #11 Michigan 10, Houston 3
Records: U-M (2-0), Southern Illinois (1-1), Houston (0-1)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, Feb. 12 -- vs. Ohio - Houston Invitational (Houston, Texas), 9 a.m. CST

HOUSTON, Texas -- The No. 11-ranked University of Michigan softball team opened its 2011 campaign with back-to-back decisive wins at the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational on Friday (Feb. 11), rolling past Southern Illinois, 19-4, in five innings before using a pair of big innings to knock off host Houston, 10-3, at Cougar Stadium.

Powerful and frequent hitting headlined Michigan's opening-day effort as 11 different Wolverine batters tallied hits on the afternoon, including seven who registered a multi-hit effort in one of the contests. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane (Escondido, Calif./Escondido HS) and junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) each registered four hits to pace U-M on the day, including three-hit effort in the opener vs. Southern Illinois. Lane knocked out a pair of home runs -- the first of her collegiate career -- with a third-inning grand slam against the Saluckis. In all, four different Wolverines recorded home runs on the afternoon.

With plenty of run support, senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) cruised to the victory against Southern Illinois, striking out six batters and allowing five hits -- all in the third inning -- and two earned runs. Sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman (Columbia, Va./Hammond HS) made just her fourth collegiate start in game two, allowing three hits and striking out three through four innings of work. Entering in relief against Houston, Taylor fanned four and gave up two hits en route to her 10th career save.

Michigan boasted its greatest offensive production in 10 seasons against Southern Illinois in the season opener, scoring 19 runs off of 19 hits and a pair of walks. The Wolverines scored at least two runs in each of inning of the abbreviated game, including five in the first frame to establish an advantage they did not relinquish. Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) followed Evan's leadoff triple with an RBI double to leftfield in her first collegiate at bat before senior rightfielder Marley Powers (Owosso, Mich./Owosso HS) and freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield) drove in two runs apiece on subsequent doubles of their own.

The Wolverines took advantage of the long ball to earn the bulk of their runs in the remaining innings. Junior third baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS) went deep over the fence in centerfield to drive in three runs in the second, Lane lifted her third-inning grand slam high over the leftfield fence, while senior outfielder Alycia Ryan (Morristown, N.J./Morristown HS) tallied her first career home run in the fourth, leading off the inning with a pinch-hit solo shot down the leftfield line.

The Saluckis scored the entirety of their runs in the third, earning singles from five of the inning's first six batters to push three runs across -- one unearned after a misplay in the outfield. Southern Illinois added its fourth score -- again unearned -- on a two-out wild pitch.

Michigan used another long ball to break open its second slate against the host Cougars in the third inning as senior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS) took advantage of back-to-back Houston errors to belt a towering three-run shot over the fence.

After Houston pulled back into the game with a two-run fourth, scoring both runs on a two-out single, the Wolverine bats exploded again with two outs in the sixth inning as U-M manufactured seven runs on four hits, two walks and a pair of errors. With the bases loaded, Michigan pushed across runs in three consecutive at bats. Shaw drove a two-run single to the wall in centerfield -- and later came home on a wild pitch -- Chidester knocked in a run on a successful fielder's choice, and Lane capped her team's scoring with her second homer of the day, driving a two-run blast to rightfield.

Michigan continues action in the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational on Saturday (Feb. 12), facing Ohio at 9 a.m. CST, and Stephen F. Austin at 11 a.m. CST, at the Cougar Stadium.


• With the wins today, Michigan improved to 5-2 in the all-time series against Southern Illinois and 2-2 in the series against Houston. The latter win ended a two-game losing streak to the Cougars.

• The Wolverines have won six consecutive season openers, dating back to the 2006 season.

• Michigan's 19 runs and 19 runs against Southern Illinois were the most in both categories since U-M earned a 20-1 victory over Kent State on March 26, 2000. The 19 runs represent the second-greatest run total in Wolverine program history.

• Sophomore Ashley Lane doubled her career hit total with her four hits today, while her two home runs marked just the second and third extra-base hits of her career.

• Senior Dorian Shaw homered against Houston to bring her career home run tally to 47. She ranks second on Michigan's all-time home runs list, 15 homers behind record holder Samantha Findlay (62, 2005-08).


Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On the Wolverines' explosive run output ... "Now we're just two game in, but if you would have told me we'd score 29 runs all weekend, I would have had a hard time believing it. It was fun to see, and I think the kids are really excited. Our energy all day was fabulous. We've really worked hard at staying in our process, and they certainly looked like they were in their process. We just coming at the other team, and even when we did have a bad swing or a bad at bat, we'd come right back and pick it up. Both the young kids and the kids waiting in the wings -- like Ashley Lane, Alycia Ryan and Amy Knapp -- came up with big hits. We saw a lot of good things along with things to build on. The thing with a day like this, it's kind of like a loss, you have to put it behind you. We still have a ways to go. But it was definitely good to see that we can score runs."

On opening the season on a big high ... "You can either come out of the gate seeing the ball big, because you're in the batting cages, or you come out tight, because you haven't seen much live pitching. The key will be how we respond tomorrow. We want to continue playing good softball and putting the ball into play. I think that's the key. Coming into today, a lot of kids didn't know if they were starting or if they were playing or where they'd be playing. Roles start to evolve, and I think, hopefully, that will be one of the pluses for us this year -- we are going to move thing around. I think that will keep them on their toes. They're going to keep competing and keep working hard. That's what we want."

U-M Senior First Baseman Dorian Shaw
On the Wolverines' offense ... "It takes a lot of pressure off the pitchers and a lot of pressure off the defense. We played really loose today, and I can't really explain it. It almost resembled how we played in the heart of the Big Ten season last year. We were scoring a lot of runs and everyone had a smile on their face. It was good to get that offensive production, and we got it from everyone -- people who haven't played a lot and people who weren't even necessarily expecting to play a lot. They're all taking their cuts, and it's great to see that everyone is of that mindset -- we have to attack on offense."

On getting a glimpse some of the team's unknown quantities ... "It's hard to go into the season with so many unknowns; it's hard to do that and feel super confident with everything. But when you see that kind of performance, it lets you know that regardless of who is playing and where, we have a lot of talent and there's no reason to worry. If everyone is taking care of their role and what they're supposed to be doing, the game is going to take care of itself."

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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