March 26, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
Scores: #4 Michigan 1, Northwestern 1
Records: U-M (30-2, 1-0 Big Ten), Northwestern (14-8, 0-1 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Sunday, March 27 -- at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.), 1 p.m. CDT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp (St. Joseph, Mich./Lakeshore HS) knocked out a seventh-inning solo home run to propel the No. 4-ranked University of Michigan softball team to a 2-1 victory over rival Northwestern in its Big Ten Conference opener on Saturday (March 26) at the Wildcats' Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
With one down in the seventh, Knapp connected with the first pitch and lifted a towering blast over the leftfield fence for her second collegiate home run. She was one of four Wolverine batters to record hits against Northwestern ace Jessica Smith. Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) went 2-for-3, while senior designated player Marley Powers (Owosso, Mich./Owosso HS) used a run-scoring single to drive in Michigan's tying run in the fifth.
Senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) was solid from the pitching circle, striking out nine Wildcat batters while allowing three hits -- two in the third inning -- and a pair of late-inning walks. The complete-game performance improved Taylor's season record to 15-2.
After threatening with a base runner in each of the first two innings, the Wildcats broke through in the third, using a bunt single and a defensive miscommunication to push across the initial run. With one down in the frame, NU shortstop Emily Allard legged out an infield single to second base and swiped second to put herself in scoring position. The extra base proved advantageous when, in the next at-bat, third baseman Robin Thompson laid down a bunt to the left side. No Wolverine infielders rushed the ball as his dribbled toward to the six hole; the delay allowed Allard to round third and score, sliding to just beat out the throw home.
Michigan shook off its sluggish start to answer in the top of the fifth. Freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) initiated the rally with two outs, lining a first-pitch double off the rightfield fence. Freshman pinch runner Taylor Hasselbach (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston HS) replaced her on second base and came home in the next at-bat when Powers capped an extended at-bat with a full-count poke to shallow centerfield. The Wildcat outfielders failed to pick up the ball cleanly, allowing Hasselbach to turn the corner and, despite a slight stumble, scored standing up.
After junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) snatched away a sure extra-base hit with a running, over-the-should grab in the fifth, Taylor worked herself out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the score deadlocked through the sixth. The Wildcats used a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch to put three on with two outs before senior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS) snagged a hard-hit chopper heading toward the 3-4 gap and stepped on the bag to end the inning.
With the U-M lead in place, Taylor issued a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, getting Allard to groundout to second for the game's final out.
The Maize and Blue will wrap up its two-game road series at Northwestern tomorrow (Sunday, March 27) with a 1 p.m. CDT slate at Drysdale Field in Evanston, Ill.
N O T E S
With today's victory, Michigan improved to 64-33 in the all-time series against Northwestern. U-M has won three in a row against the Wildcats.
The Wolverines are 4-1 in one-run games this season.
Michigan has homered in 21 of 32 games this season, including four of the last six. Six different Wolverine players boast multiple homers on the year.
Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield owns 13 multi-hit games this season, ranking second on the team.
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On Michigan's sluggish hitting ... "We didn't execute on offense very well, and you always have to give their pitcher credit. I thought she did a nice job; their game plan was good. But I also felt that we didn't adjust. I think our kids ended up trying too hard and made too much of it, making the game bigger than the game is. The game doesn't know that it's the Big Ten opener and that it's against Northwestern. So, just play the game. It was one of those days where we just had to work through it, and we're fortunate that we came out with a win."
On U-M's standout performers ... "It was tough for both teams. Both pitchers just did their part. Amy [Knapp] went up there with no expectation except for to get on base, and she just took a good whack at the ball -- and it went out. I thought Jordan [Taylor] was outstanding on a day when, after five minutes on the field, I've got on batting gloves and hand warmers and I still can't feel my hands. I just think that Jordan was the toughest player on the field today."
On key defensive plays, notably Bree Evans' sixth-inning catch ... "When it comes down to a 2-1 game, you've got to make some defensive stops. Obviously, that was the play of the game -- probably the play of the year. We made some other great plays too. Keeping [Emily] Allard off base was huge. That last play of the game, you can't mishandle the ball at all; you've got to field it clean and throw her out. We did that. It was just a battle, and I expect another one tomorrow."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423