U-M Tops Tulsa, UMass to Advance to Championship Game at FAU

Feb. 19, 2011

• Boxscores: Tulsa | Massachusetts
• Photo Galleries: Tulsa | Massachusetts

Site: Boca Raton, Fla. (FAU Softball Stadium)
Event: FAU Kick-Off Classic
Scores: #11 Michigan 4, Tulsa 3; #11 Michigan 3, Massachusetts 0
Records: U-M (9-0), Tulsa (2-5), Massachusetts (1-2)
Next U-M Event: Sunday, Feb. 20 -- vs. Massachusetts - FAU Kick-Off Classic Championship Game (Boca Raton, Fla.), 1 p.m.

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After cruising to lopsided wins in its first seven games of the season, the No. 11-ranked University of Michigan softball team battled through a pair of closer affairs, defeating Tulsa, 4-3, and Massachusetts, 3-0, on the second day of competition at the FAU Kick-Off Classic on Saturday (Feb. 19) at FAU Softball Stadium.

Senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) extended her shutout-inning streak to 23 straight frames with a complete-game one-hitter against the Minutewomen. The Wolverine ace struck out 10 -- her second double-digit strike tally of the weekend -- and allowed one walk to improve to 4-0. Sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman (Columbia, Md./Hammond HS) claimed the victory in the first slate against Tulsa, improving to 5-0, striking out five while giving up six hits and a walk through 4.2 innings. Taylor entered the game with a runner on and two outs in the fifth and removed U-M from a jam, registering four strikeouts and a pair of hits allowed en route to her second save of the season.

Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS) and freshman designated player Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) recorded solo home runs to pace the Wolverines past UMass, while junior catcher Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS) tallied a two-run double to headline Michigan's offensive efforts against Tulsa.

Chidester's double initiated a three-run first inning for the Wolverines in the first slate as U-M scored the entirety of its runs in the opening two frames. Junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) and freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) led off the contest with back-to-back singles through the infield, and Chidester took advantage of the speedy duo on the basepath, pulling a screamer down the leftfield line to push both across early. Chidester came home herself when junior shortstop Stephanie Kirkpatrick (Plainfield, Ill./Central HS) doubled to leftfield two batters later.

Sophomore third baseman Amy Knapp (St. Joseph, Mich./Lakeshore HS) took advantage of Hurricane miscues to score in the second inning, singling up the middle to put herself aboard before advancing and then scoring on a pair of wild pitches.

Tulsa narrowed the gap in the top of the third, scoring a run after a pair of base hits, including a run-scoring single up the middle from third baseman Jill Barrett, and pulled within just one run with a two-run fifth. The Hurricane used a walk and a hit-by-pitch to put two runners on with two outs before scoring their runs on shortstop Samantha Cobb's run-scoring single up the middle and a wild pitch. The offensive surge induced Michigan's pitching change; Taylor issued a four-pitch strikeout to end the threat.

The Wolverines earned a similar early lead against Massachusetts when Shaw towered a two-out solo home run to deep centerfield in the first inning. Michigan struggled to keep the offensive attack alive, going down in order in the next four innings until Blanchard connected with the second pitch of the sixth and driving a solo blast over the rightfield fence for her second home run of the season. Knapp reached on a fielding error before scoring on a Sappingfield single down the leftfield line.

Taylor lost her no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the fourth but retired the next 12 UMass batters to close the game.

The Wolverines will wrap up play at the FAU Kick-Off Classic tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 20) with an appearance in the championship game against Massachusetts at 1 p.m.


Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On Michigan's two close wins ... "I expect us to have plenty more close games this season. We've had some big wins as far as out-manning our opponents, but we had two tough opponents today, and we really had to tough it out to win both games. I was pleased to see our toughness, because I know that we are tough. Hopefully we'll get better from it; we need to. When you're winning, sometimes the kids get start thinking they're going to score a lot runs every game. Our discipline needs to improve as well as our focus and intensity. When the pitchers are tough, we need to be better. But I was happy. That's what you want in the preseason; you want to be tested like that and still win the contest. We did both, so I'm pleased."

On the lineup changes ... "We're just mixing it up a little bit. Chiddy had been catching mostly [Stephanie] Speierman, and we thought she should catch Jordan [Taylor]. We need to find a place for Amy Knapp. We had her at third today, but we might put her somewhere else tomorrow. I've said all along that I don't expect our lineup to be set for a while, but it's starting to settle in. We're starting to see some obvious emergence of who's going to play. The good thing is we're versatile. As the opponents get tougher, you start to see who is going to step up. But as I tell the kids, win or lose, we've got work to do."

On senior RHP Jordan Taylor ... "I thought Jordan [Taylor] was outstanding. She came in and got us out of a jam in the fifth inning against Tulsa. We were on the ropes, and she stepped up as good leaders do. She had a great performance against UMass, and I knew we'd need it because their pitcher is good. We knew we weren't going to score a lot of runs, so the game plan is don't give up any. She was outstanding all day."

On freshman Caitlin Blanchard ... "Caitlin gets better every time she walks on the field. She's a quiet player and she's kind of one of those players that you don't really notice, but she comes up big. That was a huge home run today, and she does a nice job behind the plate. I can't say enough about her. She's a real student of the game. We tell these kids the same thing every day, and we only tell Caitlin once. She doesn't always get it done right away, but she works at it. I'm excited about the kind of player Caitlin can become here. She could really become something."

U-M Junior Amanda Chidester
On today's close games ... "I think it's great. It challenged us. Because we are so young, it's good for us to be in those types of situations in preparation for the rest of the season and for when we face some of the top teams. The UMass pitcher, outside of Dorian's home run, shut us out for most of the game until we came back in the sixth inning. It was good test to see if we would come together and make the adjustments we needed to make. Towards the end of the game, we did that, and it was great to see that. In the first game against Tulsa, they came back at us, and that was a good test for our defense to buckle down a little bit and keep the game close."

On whether she feels more pressure as a veteran player ... "I think all of us are really just focusing on playing one game at a time. The biggest thing for this team is just going out there, having fun and playing. No one is putting pressure on themselves to do it all, which is important. In that Massachusetts game, we really came together in that sixth inning, stood up, cheered loudly, and we ended up scoring two runs. It's about all of us working together. We know that we're young, and we know that we have to work together to win. That's what we've been doing."

On the Wolverine pitching staff ... "They've been amazing. Hutch complimented Jordan [Taylor] after today's game. She did a great job. That Massachusetts game was 1-0 for a long time, and Jordan just kept mowing everyone down. She was throwing her pitches and staying with it. It's great to have those pitchers stay strong throughout the whole game. It gives us, as an offense, an opportunity to get it going. They've stayed positive and encouraging. You can feel that on the field. It's a comforting feeling. You don't feel like you have to press as much when you have one of the top pitchers in the country right there for you. But you can't ride on that too long; we have to do our part too."


• Michigan improved to 7-4 in the all-time series against Massachusetts. Its morning slate against Tulsa was the first-ever game between the programs.

• With her shutout against Massachusetts, senior RHP Jordan Taylor upped her career total to 33, moving to the fifth spot among Michigan's all-time leaders in the category, where she is tied with Kelly Kovach (1992-95). Taylor has recorded shutouts in each of her last three starts.

• Taylor claimed her 11th career save in the day's opening game, adding to her own school record in the category.

• Taylor also upped her career strikeout total to 926 and sits just one strikeout shy of the second spot on Michigan's career strikeout list, currently held by Marissa Young (927, 2000-03). Jennie Ritter (2003-06) holds the Wolverines' strikeout record with 1,205.

• Taylor has recorded double-digit strikeouts in each of her last two starts, fanning 13 against Long Island and 10 against Massachusetts.

• Michigan's slate against Tulsa was the first game in which U-M did not hit a home run. The Wolverines boast 16 homers through the opening nine games. Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw has homered in four of U-M's games this season and already boasts six homers on the year.

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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