Wolverines Use Power, Stellar Pitching to Run-Rule Northwestern

April 18, 2010

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Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Wilpon Softball Complex)
Score: #2 Michigan 15, Northwestern 0 (5 inn.)
Records: U-M (33-5, 8-0 Big Ten), Northwestern (18-18, 4-5 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Wednesday, April 21 -- vs. Penn State - Doubleheader (Wilpon Softball Complex), 4 p.m.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan softball team scored in every inning and matched its season-high run total in a 15-0, five-inning decision over rival Northwestern on Sunday afternoon (April 18) in front of 1,586 fans at the Wilpon Softball Complex, home of Alumni Field.

The Wolverines started the game just as they had yesterday's series opener, building up an eight-run advantage after the opening three frames. But unlike yesterday, Michigan kept Northwestern off the board and posted a big seven-run fourth to claim its sixth run-rule decision in Big Ten Conference play.

Senior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus (Eureka, Mo./Eureka HS) was perfect from the plate, going a career-best 4-for-4 -- with a sixth-inning home run -- to headline the Wolverine offense. Senior LHP Nikki Nemitz (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Regina HS) and senior rightfielder Angela Findlay (Lockport, Ill./East HS) also homered in the contest; Nemitz went 2-for-2 with a first-inning grand slam -- her second of the season -- while Findlay hit 2-for-3 with a two-run blast in the fourth.

Nemitz also starred from the pitching circle, striking out eight Wildcat batters and allowing just one hit and a walk in a complete-game shutout -- her fifth of the season. The win was Nemitz's 12th in a row and improved her record to 14-3 on the season. Northwestern's lone hit came on an infield chopper in the third inning; shortstop Emily Allard knocked one down the first baseline and narrowly beat out the subsequent throw to the bag. Nemitz responded with a full-count strikeout to end the inning.

Senior catcher Roya St. Clair (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Regina HS) provided the Wolverines the only advantage they needed with one down in the first, registering U-M's third consecutive hit with a low bouncer to the shortstop position. When Allard could not contain the ball on her backhand attempt, Findlay trotted home from third base for the winning score. Northwestern then issued a walk to load the bases for Nemitz, who connected with the 0-2 pitch and hung it high up in the wind, depositing it just over the right-centerfield fence and into the first row of the outfield bleachers.

The Wolverines continued along yesterday's scoring path with two runs in the second and another in the third. St. Clair again put the play in motion in the former inning, drilling a hard grounder to the shortstop position with two on and two out. Allard misplayed the hop, however, as the ball rolled through her legs to allow both U-M base runners to score, unearned. Sophomore centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) knocked in Michigan's third-inning tally following Nemitz's first-pitch screamer down the rightfield line with a run-scoring single up the middle, scoring Nemitz's pinch runner, freshman Jaclyn Crummey (Macomb, Mich./Dakota HS), from second base.

Any similarities to yesterday's contest ended in the fourth inning. After Nemitz allowed a Wildcat base runner with a leadoff walk in the top half, the Wolverine hurler set down the next three she faced on just eight pitches.

Viefhaus led off the home half with her full-count bomb, lifting it high and just over the wall in left centerfield for her 15th long ball of the season. The Wolverines alternated a pair of line drives and two walks in its next four at-bats, including an RBI single from sophomore second baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS), to load the bases for the second time in the contest. Senior leftfielder Kristin Larsen (Orion, Mich./Lake Orion HS) took advantage, ripping a first-pitch, two-run double down the leftfield line for the third RBI hit of her career. Michigan added a run on an illegal pitch before Findlay wrapped up scoring with her two-run line-drive home run over the left-centerfield wall.

The Wolverines will return to action on Wednesday (April 21), resuming Big Ten play against Penn State in a midweek twinbill. The first game is slated to start at 4 p.m. at the Wilpon Softball Complex, home of Alumni Field and will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com. Wednesday's game will feature a Study Break tailgate for U-M students, and tickets may be purchased online in advance or at the event.


• With today's win, the Wolverines improved to 64-32 in the all-time series against Northwestern. It was Michigan's first series sweep against the Wildcats since the 2005 season.

• The Wolverines extended their home winning streak to 26 games at Alumni Field. U-M has not lost at home since day two of the 2008 NCAA Super Regional against Virginia Tech on May 25, 2008. Since the unveiling of the Wilpon Softball Complex in 2008, Michigan is 35-3 at home.

• The Wolverines have homered in 12 consecutive games and 14 of their last 15 games. Michigan has homered in all nine Big Ten games.

• Senior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus is the third Wolverine player to tally four hits in a game this season. Senior Roya St. Clair previously achieved the feat at Louisville (March 14), while senior rightfielder Angela Findlay recorded four hits in the home opener against Bowling Green (March 24).

• Senior LHP Nikki Nemitz's grand slam was Michigan's fifth of the season and the third of her career. Her previous grand slams came in the Wolverines' 2010 home opener against Bowling Green (March 24) and against intrastate rival Michigan State on April 25, 2008, in the Wilpon Softball Complex dedication game.

• Nemitz's grand slam also improved her season bases-loaded percentage to .750 (6-for-8). Nemitz also tallied a bases-clearing double in the first inning of yesterday's game against Northwestern.


Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On the Michigan's 15 runs ... "Obviously, that was a rare occurrence. We're just hitting the ball, and clearly we're seeing it well. We just took advantage of them throwing it over the middle of the plate, so good for us."

On seeing two Northwestern pitchers yesterday ... "We spend a lot of time charting what every kid throws against us, and any edge you can get, you try to take. So, seeing [Jessica] Smith again was helpful, and we've seen [Lauren] Delaney so much over the years, so I think we took advantage of that. It's tough for pitchers to face our lineup as we know. They can't pitch around us. I'm really pleased with my kids bringing their game and making them throw it down the middle of the plate. We've done a nice job of laying off bad pitches; that is a great quality. It makes you very tough to pitch to."

On senior LHP Nikki Nemitz ... "Nikki is a great softball player. She is in her moment, and she's working through it. She is aggressive and she is a tough kid to face in the seven hole. I've always thought of Nikki as a gamer. She's a very competitive kid, and those types tend to rise to the occasion."

On senior third baseman Maggie Viefhaus ... "Maggie's leadership starts with her work ethic. She has worked so hard. I don't think she was feeling too good about herself last weekend, because I saw her work all week. She stayed after practice every day with anybody she could find to throw a ball at her. It's great to see kids who work so hard have great things happen for them."

On senior leftfielder Kristin Larsen ... "I am so proud of Kristin, and I'm so happy for her. She's worked very hard in her career. She's had to play the role for us. To see her get this opportunity, it's fun and it's very rewarding. She's doing well with it, and she's doing her part. She's having good at-bats, swinging at the right pitches and taking the balls. She's been patient and she just continues to please me."

U-M Senior Third Baseman Maggie Viefhaus
On earning the series sweep against Northwestern ... "We have a little bit of a rivalry with Northwestern, and we really like to beat them. We always play a little up against them; we have a little extra energy, and they do against us as well. They gave us a great game yesterday. I think everyone just pooled that energy together and put it toward their hitting and fielding. The pitchers did a great job in the circle as well."

On senior LHP Nikki Nemitz ... "She's such a great player all around. She's a great pitcher, great defender -- she can make any play -- and she's a great hitter. It's so fun to see that grand slam go over the fence and watch her perform like she can."

On the success of the senior class ... "It's relieving. We know that we've been able to play like that the whole time but to finally come out of our shells, it's so much fun. It's exciting that all six of us are starting and all six of us are playing together, because my classmates are my best friends. It's so fun to be playing and performing well with them. We've been through a lot together."

U-M Senior LHP Nikki Nemitz
On her first-inning grand slam ... "I was feeling good, so I was really excited to hit. I'm not going to lie the grand slam did cross my mind; I thought, 'If I get a hold of one, it's going to be a grand slam.' But I didn't really think about it after that; I just wanted to hit the ball hard. I got down in the count, then I just wanted a base hit. I swung at a really bad pitch, but it felt good off the bat and I just watched as it kept going. I got lucky that I hit a decent part of it."

On her success with bases loaded ... "Kudos to my teammates for getting on base. I just get excited. I love those at-bats, because I have a chance to make a difference in the game. I think to myself, 'Bring it. I'm going to beat you. There's nothing you can throw past me.' I love that mentality, being in that situation and coming through."

On pitching with a big lead ... "It was awesome, but I kept telling myself out on the mound that it was a 0-0 game. And I try to play it like a 0-0 game every inning, because if I think we're up, I tend to slack off and allow them those hits. The coaches kept harping before the game; I think they thought I was nervous, but I wasn't. I just kept that one-pitch approaching, kept attacking the batters and not let them attack me. My game will beat them if I throw well -- that was my mentality."

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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