May 8, 2011
Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Wilpon Complex)
Scores: #2 Michigan 8, Minnesota 1
Records: U-M (49-4, 16-2 Big Ten), Minnesota (30-22, 8-10 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Friday, May 13 -- vs. Michigan State (Wilpon Complex), 7 p.m.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan softball team scored early and often to cruise to an 8-1 decision over Minnesota on Sunday afternoon (May 8) in front of 1,524 fans at the Wilpon Complex, home of Alumni Field. With the weekend sweep, the Wolverines improved to 16-2 in Big Ten Conference play and, with Indiana's 4-1 loss at Northwestern, took over sole possession of first place in league standings with one more regular-season series remaining.
Michigan earned extra bases in half of its 10 base hits against the Golden Gophers, accumulating four doubles and a triple. Sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp (St. Joseph, Mich./Lakeshore HS) headlined the U-M offensive efforts with a 2-for-3 showing, registering a double and subsequent three-run triple to match her career-best RBI tally. Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) also equaled a career high with three hits, while junior centerfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) and junior third baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS) posted two hits apiece.
Senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) collected her 11th straight Big Ten win -- her sixth since returning from injury -- with a 10-strikeout, six-hit performance through six innings. The Gophers spoiled her shutout bid with two outs in the sixth. Sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman (Columbia, Md./Hammond HS) completed the contest, striking out one and walking one in the seventh.
The Wolverines jumped on Minnesota immediately, loading the bases with no outs before pushing across three runs on Chidester's two-run double and a subsequent RBI groundout. After nearly taking out Evans and the third base umpire on a foul-ball screamer down the leftfield line, Chidester kept the next pitch fair, tucking a line-drive double just inside the line to score Evans and Sappingfield for the early lead. Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw (Burke, Va./Robinson SS) advanced on the hit and scored two batters later when freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) grounded out to second base.
Michigan used a pair of doubles to add a run in the fourth. Knapp battled through a nine-pitch at-bat, featuring five straight foul balls, before keeping one in play for a double down the leftfield line. Two batters later, Evans sailed a first-pitch double over the centerfielder's head and to the wall to score Knapp from second base.
Knapp's bases-clearing triple accounted for Michigan's three runs in the fifth inning. Minnesota walked the bases loaded for the U-M shortstop, who knocked a ball into the left-centerfield gap. The Gopher centerfielder dove at the ball but could not reach it in time as it rolled to the wall and all three U-M baserunners came home to score.
After threatening with runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings, the Golden Gophers took advantage of Taylor miscues to break through with a run in the sixth. Minnesota's leadoff batter was hit by a pitch with the count full, and her pinch-runner advanced on a pitch in the dirt before centerfielder Bree Blanchette singled up the middle to put her team on the board.
Michigan responded in the home half when Shaw rocketed an RBI double -- her second of the series -- off the wall in left-centerfield, scoring Sappingfield from first base.
The Wolverines will wrap the home portion of their regular-season schedule on Friday (May 13), hosting intrastate rival Michigan State at 7 p.m. at the Wilpon Complex, home of Alumni Field.
With today's win, Michigan improved to 74-23 in the all-time series against Minnesota and extended its winning streak over the Golden Gophers to 10 straight games.
After seeing her 19-game hitting streak come to an end yesterday, junior centerfielder Bree Evans went 2-for-4 to collect her team-leading 29th multi-hit contest of the season. She has gone hitless in just six games this year.
Freshman leftfielder Nicole Sappingfield's three-hit performance was the third of her collegiate career. She also notched three hits against Villanova (March 4) and Western Michigan (April 12). Sappingfield boasts 22 multi-hit games this season.
Junior third baseman Amanda Chidester is hitting .464 (26-for-56) in conference play. With 31 runs batted in, she had accounted for nearly a third of Michigan's runs against Big Ten teams.
With her 10 strikeouts today, senior RHP Jordan Taylor has registered double-digit strikeouts in four of Michigan's last six games. She is the only Michigan pitcher in program history to surpass 250 strikeouts in each of her collegiate seasons.
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins
On today's game ... "I don't think I'm ever really happy until we're able to look back on the season and reflect. I just want us to continue getting better, continue developing better habits and just playing good softball. We did come out and swing better, set a good tone early and scored some runs. I didn't think we swung very well throughout the game. We're not swinging through all the zones, and they took advantage of that. But she's (Sara Moulton) a good pitcher, and we weren't going to blow her out. So, I thought we were better today. I just don't want to see us get complacent, and I thought we did that a little today. That puts pressure back on Jordan (Taylor). All of a sudden, they had bases loaded and nobody out, and I just thought, 'Gee, we're in trouble. I wonder if anyone is noticing.' So, we just need to make sure that, inning after inning, we're continuing to work."
On sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp ... "That was good for her. Amy does a lot of things well, and she needs to build on them. That's how you gain confidence. She'll admit that she doesn't always have a lot of it, but my opinion is, as a player, you have to work hard to be confident. You're a better player with it than without it. So, you can't allow your confidence to wane. There's been plenty to build on for her. There's a lot of failure in the game, so you can't focus on the failure; you need to focus on what you're good at."
On winning close games in Big Ten play ... "Our league is better this year, and to me, that's a big plus. We've been able to battle and to come back, and hopefully that gives us confidence. Winning tough games does more for you than blowing people out. I've never been a big fan of blowing people out. It's a two-edge sword. You want your kids to come out and rip the ball every inning, but in general, you want them to battle. We'll have to face tough competition when it counts. So, I think this is a better scenario."
U-M Senior First Baseman Dorian Shaw
On the Wolverines' defensive play ... "I think it's just understanding that Jordan can't do it all herself. We're going to rely on our pitchers a lot, but just like the hitters, everybody isn't always going to have their best day. When the other team is getting hits, it's up to us to gets the outs that are available and not give them extra outs. That goes a long way to letting our pitcher know that we're behind her. They might be getting hits, but they're not going to score runs on cheap hits. We're going to pick her up just like she picks us up. That goes both ways."
On Michigan's sterling record ... "It's pretty incredible that we've only lost four games. There have been other games that we could have lost that we managed to pull out and win. That's a mark of a good team but a team that is still learning. I think that, at this point, we're starting to play better softball overall. We're getting more runs, getting runs early, and that gives us more confidence going into the postseason."
U-M Sophomore Shortstop Amy Knapp
"With hitting, I've tried to change my approach and my mental game. I haven't really been very consistent lately, and I've had a few rough weeks. It's a big confidence booster to come out today and get hits and just put the ball into play. It's like I've come out of my shell. With my first at-bat, even though I didn't get on, I made good contact, and that really helps. Coaches have really been helping me out with my mental game, especially [Jen Brundage]."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423