April 17, 2011
Site: Urbana, Ill. (Eichelberger Field)
Scores: #2 Michigan 8, Illinois 6; #2 Michigan, 9, Illinois 7
Records: U-M (39-3, 7-1 Big Ten), Illinois (19-17, 6-4 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Wednesday, April 20 -- at Penn State - doubleheader (State College, Pa.), 5:30 p.m. (TV: Big Ten Network, live)
URBANA, Ill. -- Using explosive hitting to claim early and significant advantages, the No. 2-ranked University of Michigan softball team withstood a pair of late rallies to earn an 8-6, 9-7 doubleheader sweep at Illinois on Sunday afternoon (April 17) at Eichelberger Field.
Sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane (Escondido, Calif./Escondido HS) went 4-for-6 with four runs batted in to pace the Wolverine offensive, while freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) similarly posted a pair of multi-hit games and senior designated player Alycia Ryan (Morristown, N.J./Morristown HS) hit 2-for-2 with four RBI in the nightcap.
Senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) struck out nine Illini batters while allowing nine hits and a pair of walks to claim first game, improving to 20-3 on the season, and picked up a save in the second with a one-strikeout, one-hit relief effort through 2.1 innings. Junior Hilary Payne (Canton, Mich./Plymouth HS) earned the game-two win, entering in the first and allowing seven hits and no walks through 4.1 innings.
Michigan jumped on the Illini quickly in the second slate, scoring eight runs through the opening two innings. With the bases loaded and two outs in the frame, freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) lofted a two-run single into shallow centerfield to break through, before Ryan connected with the 2-2 pitch in the next at-bat and drove a line-drive, three-run homer over the rightfield fence. The long ball was the third for Ryan in five games.
The Illini scored three in the bottom of the first, but Michigan responded in kind in the following frame, taking advantage of another bases-loaded scenario to reestablish its early five-run cushion. Freshman rightfielder Lyndsay Doyle (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community HS) led off the inning with an infield single that dribbled just to the left of the circle and junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) followed with a chipped double into shallow leftfield that resulted in an Illinois pitching change. An intentional walk loaded the bases for junior third baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS), who capped an extended eight-pitch at-bat with a full-count walk. Lane drove in a run on a low chopper to shortstop -- Evans sliding in to just beat the throw two the plate -- before Ryan accepted another full-count walk to wrap Michigan's scoring surge.
Illinois narrowed the gap with three runs in the middle inning, using a fourth-inning leadoff solo homer from pitcher Jackie Guy before pushing across two more in the fifth on an RBI double down the rightfield line and subsequent error on the muffed throw following a grounder to short. After a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, Illinois continued its comeback in the seventh as rightfielder Hollie Pinchback connected with the first pitch of the inning and drove it deep over the left centerfield fence. Taylor settled in after the solo blast, however, retiring the next three batters on just nine pitches.
The Wolverines also garnered an early advantage in the opening slate, using small-ball tactics and taking advantage of another bases-loaded opportunity to push across four runs in the second inning. After a leadoff walk, Doyle and Evans reached on back-to-back bunts to load the bases for Sappingfield, who looped an RBI single to shallow rightfield. Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS) was hit with the 3-0 pitch in the next at-bat to score another run, before Lane and Blanchard drove in runs on consecutive pitches, using a single to shallow centerfield and a deep sacrifice fly to the warning track in right, respectively.
The Wolverines complemented their small-ball capabilities with a power-hitting fourth frame as Chidester and Lane bombed out back-to-back solo home runs to pad their team's advantage. Chidester sat on a pair of pitches over the plate before connecting with the third, driving the 0-2 delivery over the fence in straightaway centerfield for her ninth homer of the season. Lane secured her team-leading 14th long ball of the season in the next at-bat, lining the 1-2 pitch over the leftfield fence.
Illinois responded in the home half of the inning with a run off leadoff hitter Danielle Zymkowitz's bases-loaded single, and after Michigan tallied a run in the sixth, the Illini responded again with a bottom half, using a pair of extra-base hits to push across four runs. First baseman Meredith Hackett sliced a two-run bases-loaded double down the leftfield line to initiate the two-out rally, before leftfielder Jessica Davis lifted out a two-run shot to leftfield in the subsequent at-bat to cut U-M's advantage to just two runs.
Taylor made little work of the Illini in the seventh, however, striking out the side to the end the contest.
The Wolverines will return to Big Ten Conference competition on Wednesday (April 20), heading to State College, Pa., to square off against Penn State in 5:30 p.m. doubleheader at the Nittany Lion Softball Park. Both games will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423