April 17, 2010
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Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Wilpon Softball Complex)
Score: #2 Michigan 11, Northwestern 7
Records: U-M (32-5, 7-0 Big Ten), Northwestern (18-17, 4-4 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Sunday, April 18 -- vs. Northwestern (Wilpon Softball Complex), 3 p.m. (TV: Big Ten Network)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan softball team scored early and late to battle through a wild, high-scoring rivalry game against Northwestern, knocking off the Wildcats, 11-7, on Saturday evening (April 17) in front of 1,519 fans at the Wilpon Softball Complex, home of Alumni Field. With the decision, the Wolverines extended their winning streak to 11 straight games and improved to 8-0 in Big Ten Conference play.
Michigan earned hits from every spot in the batting order and combined for 13 total hits -- its fourth double-digit hit performance in Big Ten play. Senior designated player Nikki Nemitz (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Regina HS) was a 2-for-4 with three runs batted in at the plate, while senior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus (Eureka, Mo./Eureka HS) and senior catcher Roya St. Clair (Livonia, Mich./Stevenson HS) drove in two runs apiece.
Mirroring her team's offensive output, junior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) was dominant in the early innings, striking out eight of the first nine batters faced en route to a 14-strikeout performance -- her third-greatest strikeout tally of the season. Taylor struggled in the middle innings, allowing six hits and six walks total in the game, but closed with four strikeouts in the final two frames to improve to 17-2 on the season.
The Wolverines batted through the lineup in the first, using a combination of hits and Northwestern miscues to jump out to an early five-run lead. Viefhaus initiated Michigan's scoring with two runners in scoring position, connecting with the 1-2 pitch and skipping a grounder through the left side to score sophomore centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) from third base. Wildcat ace Lauren Delaney issued back-to-back walks, including an intentional base-on-balls to junior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS), to push in another run before Nemitz smacked a bases-clearing, line-drive double to the wall in left-centerfield.
Michigan's first-inning themes continued into the subsequent two frames. The Wolverines loaded the bases quickly in the second, using a pair of free passes and senior Angela Findlay's (Lockport, Ill./East HS) high chopper to shortstop to set the table for St. Clair, who sent a two-run screamer down the leftfield line. Senior leftfielder Kristin Larsen (Orion, Mich./Lake Orion HS) led off the third with a five-pitch walk and, after moving to third on a pair of high wild pitches, came home when Evans hit a sharp comebacker to the pitching circle that Delaney could not corral cleanly.
While the Wolverine hitters rolled, Taylor controlled the game's opening three frames from the circle. After allowing a leadoff walk to NU shortstop Emily Allard, who advanced on a steal and subsequent illegal pitch, the Wolverine junior struck out the next eight in a row. Allard picked up her team's first hit -- a line drive to rightfield -- with two outs in the third but was promptly thrown out by St. Clair on her subsequent steal attempt. St. Clair threw out a career-best three runners in the game.
It was the fourth inning when the Wildcats finally found their bats, manufacturing five runs on two hits and a pair of walks. Rightfielder Kristin Scharkey, who led off the inning with a single through the left side, scored as a result of an error when Shaw threw a relay to second wide and into leftfield. It turned into the inning's only run credited to Taylor. Catcher Emily Haug and pinch hitter Meghan Lamberth added subsequent RBI hits; Haug doubled down the rightfield line, while Lamberth sent a two-run blooper to a similar spot as the Wildcats cut the gap to three runs.
The two teams traded runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Viefhaus contributed to both of Michigan's in the former frame, towering run-scoring triple to the centerfield track -- her third three-bagger of the season -- before coming home herself when the next pitch went wild in the dirt. The Wildcats responded in the top of the sixth, following a pair of walks with run-scoring single to leftfield and a subsequent run-scoring illegal pitch -- the fourth called against Taylor in the contest.
Shaw concluded the game's scoring with a line-drive leadoff blast in the home half of the inning, connecting with a low 3-2 pitch and sailing it into the trees beyond the leftfield fence for her career-high 15th long ball of the season.
The Wolverines will wrap up their weekend series against Northwestern tomorrow (Sunday, April 18) with a 3 p.m. meeting at the Wilpon Softball Complex, home of Alumni Field. The game will be aired live on the Big Ten Network. Sunday's game will feature the Kids Take Over the Park promotion.
N O T E S
With today's win, the Wolverines improved to 63-32 in the all-time series against Northwestern.
The Wolverines have homered in 11 consecutive games and 13 of their last 14 games.
Junior first baseman Dorian Shaw has homered in three consecutive games.
Shaw's home run also extended her hitting streak to a career-long 11 games. The streak is the longest for a Wolverine hitter in two years, dating back to Alessandra Giampaolo's 16-game hit streak in the heart of the 2008 season.
With 15 homers on the season, Shaw shares the fourth spot -- with Jessica Merchant (2002-05) -- for the most in a single season. Only Merchant and Samantha Findlay (2005-08) have hit more than 15; the duo share the Wolverine single-season record with 21.
Junior RHP Jordan Taylor owns 11 double-digit strikeout performances on the season. She has averaged 10.8 strikeouts per seven-inning game.
Taylor picked up her 67th career win, claiming sole possession of the seventh position among Michigan's all-time leaders in the category. She needs five more to reach the sixth spot, currently held by Kelly Kovach (72, 1992-95).
Sophomore outfielder Bree Evans boasts a team-leading 17 multi-hit games on the season. She has tallied multiple hits in five of Michigan's eight Big Ten games.
The Wolverines are hitting .460 (23-for-50) in bases-loaded scenarios this season. Senior designated player Nikki Nemitz, who tallied a bases-clearing double in the first inning, is hitting .714 (5-for-7) with the bases loaded.
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On Michigan's perseverance ... "We just battled through. I thought the kids did a really nice job. At one point, I thought they were just plain getting cold; it was bitter on that field, so I told them to go run to stay warm. But that's the name of the game; we play hard every pitch. They'll be tired tonight. It was a concern that we hadn't played a tough, seven-inning game in a while, but I thought they did a great job hanging in there."
On the perseverance of junior RHP Jordan Taylor ... "We came back and got in her game, and that was key. In that five-run inning, her changeup wasn't working for a few innings, so that makes her a little less effective. You saw later in the game, when she got it back, she was a lot more effective. So, she had to work without one of her best pitches, and she was putting runners on base. But I thought she hung in there and her offense picked her up tonight. That's what their job is. In all, I thought our team did a very nice job of hanging on and playing for the win. We kept coming back. Even when we gave up runs, we turned around and came back. That's what good teams do. You don't always have you're A game. I didn't think Jordan had hers, but she persevered through the game."
On several standout hitters ... "You can go through our order; we've always got someone to look forward to. Maggie [Viefhaus] is a great leader out there from both sides of the ball. Dorian [Shaw] continues to impress me with her one-pitch focus. Roya did a great job. She threw out three runners, and I thought she was outstanding. She had a good night at the plate -- a couple of big RBI -- but she's a senior, and, really, we expect that from her."
U-M Junior RHP Jordan Taylor
On the night-game atmosphere ... "They were loud tonight. They gave out props before the game -- the K signs. After the first strikeout, I thought, 'Oh my gosh.' I liked seeing those Ks and the rattlers; it was great. I love night games. It's the whole football Friday Night Lights-type of thing. It's special to play under the lights. So, it was a cool game, and the crowd was particularly loud."
On the heightened feelings in rivalry games ... "Rivalry games are always a little different, because there's so much adrenaline and you get so pumped up to play. Those first three innings, I was just so excited and then I just died so fast. You really need to stay within yourself and realize that you need to just worry about yourself and your own game. I think this was one of your more mentally-challenging games; it was a more tiring game. We've been playing these two-hour-maximum games lately, so to play in a game this long was a little tiring mentally. We haven't been used to that, so I think that's what those middle innings were. The great thing about our team is we jumped right back out at them. It's good that we can still wake up if we fall asleep."
On senior catcher Roya St. Clair ... "Roya is a great catcher. I think she gets overlooked a little bit. Her leadership skills -- a lot of girls on the team really look up to her. She knows the game really well; she's one of those players that just gets the game. She knows when to call timeouts and when to adjust the pitch. All of those throw downs today were amazing; they definitely shifted momentum back to us."
U-M Senior Catcher Roya St. Clair
On her recent hitting surge ... "Well, the season is long, and you're going to go through some ups and downs. I went through a little bit of a longer down than most would like to see, but now Big Ten season is a new opportunity to go out there and hit the ball. Luckily, I've been seeing the ball well and taking some good swings."
On throwing three Northwestern runners out ... "The scouting report on them is they like to steal, so we were expecting that. We just got good tags by our shortstop and second baseman, and there were some good throws there. It was nice to help Jordan [Taylor] out and get some outs for the team."
On pushing through illegal-pitch calls ... "Occasionally, it's going to happen. It happens to a lot of pitchers across the country, especially this year, so we're not the only ones. You just need to move on, not make a big issue out of it and not let it affect the game."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423