Blanchard's Blast Boosts Michigan Past Illinois in B1G Tourney
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MGOBLUE

May 9, 2014

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Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
Event: Big Ten Tournament (Quarterfinals)
Score: #10 Michigan 8, Illinois 2
Records: U-M (41-11), Illinois (24-26)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, May 10 -- vs. Wisconsin - Big Ten Tournament semifinals (Evanston, Ill.), 5 p.m. CDT

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Senior Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield) was called on to reenter the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning of 2-1 game and promptly hit the first pitch she saw over the right-field wall for a grand slam that boosted the No. 10-ranked University of Michigan softball team to an 8-2 win over Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals today (Friday, May 9) at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

The Wolverines will move on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday (May 10) against Wisconsin in Evanston, Ill. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. CDT, and the game will be carried live on the Big Ten Network.

With two on and facing a slim 2-1 deficit in the fifth inning, Illinois decided to intentionally walk sophomore Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) --the leading hitter in the country -- to load the bases with two outs. Blanchard was on the bench, having been replaced by freshman Kelly Christner (Tinley Park, Ill./Victor J. Andrew) for defensive purposes.

Head coach Carol Hutchins decided to put Blanchard back in the game, and the senior responded with her third homer of the season and her second career grand slam. Following a Romero intentional walk in 2014, Blanchard is now 4-for-4 with 12 runs batted in.

Michigan's four-run fifth, and then two more runs on an Illinois error in the sixth, put distance between the Wolverines and the Fighting Illini after a 2-1 tilt through the first four-and-a-half innings.

A pair of two-out extra-base hits put Michigan on the board in the bottom of the second. Following a double from junior Lauren Sweet (Corona, Calif./Santiago),freshman Lindsay Montemarano (Seaford, NY./Seaford) pounded a no-doubt homer off Welsh-Ryan Arena beyond the leftfield wall.

Illinois loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a fielder's choice in the third and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Michigan's defense came up big in the top of the fifth behind starter Haylie Wagner (Orange, Calif./El Modena). With one out and a runner on first, Romeroranged six or seven steps into shallow left field from her spot at shortstop to catch a soft liner that seemed destined to hit the turf. Then Sweet cut down would-be base stealer Alex Booker for the third out of the inning. Booker had been a perfect 12-for-12 in steals this season, before Sweet nailed her at second.

Wagner went the distance for the Wolverines, picking up her 21st win of the season. She scattered eight hits, yielding two runs. She struck out four against one walk. The southpaw's best inning came in the sixth after Blanchard's blast, when she had her only 1-2-3 inning of the game, highlight by two strikeouts to end the frame.

Montemarano finished the day 3-for-3, her first three-hit game of her career. Blanchard, Romero and Sweet each chipped in a pair of hits.

Contact: Michael Kasiborski (mkasibor@umich.edu)

   

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