"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
After a nail-biter on Saturday, the softball team decided to make things a little easier on themselves Sunday, winning a pair of run-rule decisions, 10-0 (5 inn.) and 9-1 (6 inn.). The two wins represented the 500th and 501st wins in conference play for Carol Hutchins. Hutch now boasts a career record of 1354-457 overall.
After the offense continued to struggle in the early innings of game one, Sierra Romero got things started with a solo-shot in the fourth, and then the lid came off in a big way. Taylor Hasselbach added two more runs with her first of three home runs on the day, and then in the fifth the Wolverines plated 7, capped off by a game-ending grand slam from catcher Lauren Sweet. Game two brought more of the same, as Hasselbach drove in two more homers, including a grand slam of her own.
The pitching staff picked up right where Wagner left off on Friday, surrendering just 5 hits and one earned run in 11 innings of work. Driesenga is looking steadily more in control after struggling during non-conference play, delivering the game one shut-out via 6 Ks to just one walk. Betsa continued to show her ability as a strike-out pitcher, delivering ten strikeouts over the course of the game. On the season, Betsa now has just one fewer K than ace Haylie Wagner, despite having pitched over 40 fewer innings (she does have a few more walks than Wagner). Having two strong pitchers with such different styles could prove a great asset going forward.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, both Purdue and Minnesota took losses over the weekend, giving Michigan a full two game lead three weeks into the season. After a mid-week matchup against Central (correction - Western, Central is next week), the Wolverines have a three game set with a miserable Michigan State squad (1 in Ann Arbor, 2 in East Lansing). The Spartans are in last place in the Big Ten with just one win, and have yet to reach double-digit wins on the season. They've lost nine of their last ten, and were just swept by Penn State. The only danger I can see here is if Michigan gets caught looking ahead to the big showdown with Minnesota the week after, which will likely determine conference supremacy.
There wouldn't usually be much to recap in a 10-0 mercy-rule win over a truly dreadful University of Detroit team ("truly dreadful" may be an understatement - they are a remarkable 2-21 on the year). Today is a little different, though, as freshman Megan Betsa got the start and made the most of it, throwing her first career no-hitter in a 5-inning affair. For reference, the last Michigan freshman to toss a no-hitter was Jordan Taylor in 2008. Those who have followed the program may remember her as being kinda good.
Other players performed to expectations - Romero now boasts a .518 batting average after going 2-3 with a grand slam and the offense in general cruised.
Softball had what will probably hold up as its easiest weekend of the season, blowing away PSU to the tune of 6-0, 22-0 (!) (5 inn.), and 12-4 (5 inn.). There's not a whole ton to say about individual performances in a domination of that magnitude, but a couple points jump out. Michigan had two separate hitters go 4-for-4 over the weekend (Romero in game 2, Sappingfield in game 3). Romero is pushing the top in the country in batting average, on-base percentage (#1 in the nation coming into the weekend), and slugging percentage.
Meanwhile, in the circle Haylie Wagner was absolutely dominant. On Friday, she took a perfecto through 6.1 innings, ultimately completing a complete-game one-hitter. She took a no-no into the 5th on Saturday, before stumbling a bit, at which point Driesenga stepped in and shut the door. Wagner has pushed well into the top-ten nationally in ERA.
All in all, it was a pretty simple task this weekend against a wildly over-matched PSU squad. Next weekend Michigan will host a middling OSU team that swept a dreadful Sparty outfit last weekend and dropped the first game of their series with Indiana this weekend.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Minnesota is quickly emerging as Michigan's major competition, taking 2-of-3 from Nebraska last weekend and dominating Illinois thus this weekend. Nebraska also took a loss to Northwestern this weekend, putting them 3 games back of Michigan in the loss column.
The softball team completed the three-game sweep of Indiana today at the Wilpon Complex, claiming all three wins in mercy-rule fashion.
IU pushed Michigan marginally harder today, plating 3 runs and pushing the game to six innings. Freshman Megan Betsa got the start in the circle and struggled, leaving IU with a surprising 3-0 lead before junior star Haylie Wagner came in. Wagner slammed the door hard, going the remaining five innings without giving up a run, conceding just 4 hits and one walk. IU would threaten in the fifth, loading the based, but a fly out and Wagner's lone K on the afternoon ended the danger.
On the offensive side, Michigan exploded after a scoreless first, scoring three each in the second, third, fourth, and sixth innings. Romero showed why IU had been running scared all weekend from her bat, going 2-2 with a home run and drawing two walks. On the weekend, Romero went 3-4 with two homers and drew a remarkable seven walks. It's a testament to her discipline as a young player to take the walks & trust in her teammates, and fortunately that trust has been rewarded.
Final scores: 8-0 (6 inn.), 9-1 (5 inn.), 12-3 (6 inn.)
To avoid the bad weather coming in this weekend, softball is playing IU in a doubleheader today at the Wilpon Complex. The Wolverines opened their Big Ten & home schedules in style, blowing away the Hoosiers in an 8-0 6-inning run-rule affair.
Wagner starred in the circle, going the distance and earning the shut-out while scattering 6 hits. She also helped her own cause at the plate, with two hits & 2 RBI, drawing a walk as well. IU's pitching was clearly terrified of Sierra Romero, as she did not even get an at-bat in game 1, drawing 4 walks, more than once with runners aboard.
The game ended on a bases loaded double by Taylor Hasselbach in the bottom of the sixth. Game two of the twin-bill will start shortly.