Wolverines Win Close, Win Big to Extend Season-Opening Streak to 17

March 1, 2011

• Boxscores: Valparaiso | Central Florida

Site: Orlando, Fla. (UCF Softball Complex)
Scores: #8 Michigan 2, Valparaiso 1; #8 Michigan 10, Central Florida 1 (6 inn.)
Records: U-M (17-0), Valparaiso (5-5), Central Florida (5-12)
Next U-M Event: Wednesday, March 2 -- vs. Dutch National Team (Clearwater, Fla.), 6 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan softball team claimed a pair of midweek slates to extend its season-opening win streak to 17, walking off against Valparaiso, 2-1, before cruising to a 10-1, six-inning decision at Central Florida on Tuesday (March 1) at the UCF Softball Complex.

Sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp (St. Joseph, Mich./Lakeshore HS) posted a career-best three hits and three runs batted in in the nightcap as part of a 4-for-5 day, while freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) extended her hitting streak to 12 straight games with three hits on the day, including a 2-for-4, four-RBI effort against the Knights.

Sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman (Columbia, Md./Hammond HS) and senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) posted similar stat lines to both improve to 8-0 on the season. Speierman was stellar in the first slate, striking out a career-high nine Valparaiso batters while allowing three hits and two walks. Taylor also struck out nine through six innings against the Knights, allowing six hits and a pair of walks.

The Wolverines posted an identical result in their second season meeting against host Central Florida, and just as it did several days ago, U-M jumped on the Knights early with three runs in the second inning. With senior designated player Marley Powers (Owosso, Mich./Owosso HS) and freshman rightfielder Lyndsay Doyle (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community HS) on base after a pair of walks, junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) smacked a first-pitch RBI single up the middle before taking second base on the throw. The extra bag proved useful when Sappingfield connected with the next pitch and sent a low chopper through the right side to send home both Michigan base runners.

After threatening with a pair of base runners in the second, the Knights broke through with a run in the third. Leftfielder Tiffany Lane chopped a leadoff single to second base and advanced on a groundout to the circle, before shortstop Natalie Land sent her home with a screamer down the rightfield line. Taylor responded to the run to back-to-back strikeouts, working back from a 3-0 count to fire three consecutive strikes and catch UCF backstop Abby McLain looking to end the inning.

The Wolverines provided Taylor additional run support in the next three innings, scoring three in the fourth, one in the fifth and three more in the sixth to push the contest into run-rule territory.

Knapp and Evans reached on a single and subsequent throwing error with one out in the fourth, before Sappingfield initiated the run surge with a lined comebacker that glanced off the UCF pitcher's glove to score Knapp from second base. After a flyout, junior third baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS) and sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane (Escondido, Calif./Escondido HS) drove in runs in back-to-back at-bats on a rightfield looper and infield single to short, respectively.

After Michigan added another run on a Sappingfield RBI groundout in the fifth, the Knights brought in their third pitcher of the contest, RHP Lacey Dinney, who issued a quick strikeout before walking the bases loaded. Two batters later, Knapp immediately fell to 0-2 in the count before making solid contact with the third pitch, lining a three-run double off the wall in centerfield and wrap up the Wolverines' sixth mercy decision of the season.

For as lopsided as the nightcap was, the day's first slate was any but as U-M eked out its closest win of the season against the Crusaders, taking advantage of a two-out, bases-loaded error to push across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Sappingfield led off the inning with a single to the left side, before U-M accepted two walks, including an intentional base-on-balls to Lane, to load the bases with just one down. A quick popup provided the second out, but freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) prevailed in the next at-bat, putting the ball into play with a grounder to the 5-6 hole. Valpo third baseman Sadie Conner cut hard toward the ball, but it ricocheted off her glove, allowing Sappingfield to race home for the walk-off run.

Michigan's other run came nearly 90 minutes earlier as Evans and Chidester strung together a pair of singles to give their team an early advantage with one out in the first inning. Evans opened the contest with a gapper to the left side and, after advancing on a Sappingfield sacrifice, scored from second base when Chidester smacked an RBI single into centerfield.

Valparaiso evened the score with a run in the top of the third. Crusader shortstop Angie Doerffler was hit by an inside pitch to reach from the leadoff spot and advanced on a sacrifice and a groundout, before catcher Jordan Rutowski accepted a walk to join her on base. The duo successfully executed the double steal to push the run across. Speierman got out of the inning with a six-pitch strikeout.

The Wolverines will return to competition tomorrow (Wednesday, March 2), heading to Clearwater, Fla., for a 6 p.m. exhibition game against the Dutch National Team at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.


• With their wins today, the Wolverines improved to 3-0 in the all-time series against Valparaiso and 6-0 in the all-time series against Central Florda.

• Sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp's three hits and three RBI are both career highs. She had previously tallied two hits on two occasions, most recently against Florida Atlantic, and had registered two RBI on two occasions, most recently against UMass. Both games were at this season's FAU Kick-Off Classic, held Feb. 18-20.

• Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield's 12-game hitting streak is the longest for a Wolverine hitter in three years, dating back to Alessandra Giampaolo's 16-game hit streak in the heart of the 2008 season. Sappingfield has batted .450 (18-for-40) over the stretch with eight runs scored and 10 RBI.

• Sappingfield also leads the U-M team with eight multi-hit games this season.

• Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw tied Michigan's single-game walk record with four against Valparaiso, sharing the top spot with Tracy Carr (vs. Indiana, April 2, 1995) and Samantha Findlay (vs. Mississippi, Feb. 9, 2007). Shaw owns 128 career walks, ranking third among Michigan's all-time leaders in the category.

• Prior to her nine-strikeout effort against Valparaiso, sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman's career-best strikeout tally was eight, which she recorded against Stephen F. Austin at the season-opening Houston Invitational on Feb. 12.

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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