26 runs scored, 5 allowed, 4 grand slams, 3 wins, 2 shutouts, 1 regional title captured. Softball turned in a dominating performance over the weekend, slicing through Wright State, Notre Dame, and Kent State to advance to next weekend's super regional.
All weekend, the Wolverines found ways to create big innings to pull away from their competition. In the opener against Wright State, Michigan dug themselves a 4-0 going into the bottom of the 3rd and were still down 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth when the Wolverines' bats exploded. Angela Findlay led off with a single, her sister Sam walked. Maggie Viefhaus flied out to left field, but pitcher Nikki Niemitz drove Angela Findlay in with a single and then Dorian Shaw was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Roya St. Clair was lifted for pinch hitter Marley Powers. All she did was hit a grand slam to center. A note from MGoBlue.com: "Powers is now batting .833 (5-for-6) in bases-loaded scenarios this season with three grand slams and 16 RBI." Holy crap.
Now, as awesome as a home run is, it can be a rally-killer. The bases are clear, so the defense doesn't have to account for that. No matter for the Wolverines. Teddi Ewing and Ali Giampaolo hit consecutive singles, while pinch hitter Angie Danis walked. Having batted around, Angela Findlay lined out to short. With two outs, Samantha Findlay drove in another run with a single. Maggie Viefhaus then stepped to the plate and drove Michigan's second grand slam of the inning over the wall in right center, putting Michigan up 13-5 and triggering softball's mercy rule. It was a ten-run inning.
Things were quiet for both teams through the first three innings of Saturday's contest against Notre Dame. With the Irish acting as the home team, Michigan got things going in the top of the fourth with a Samantha Findlay walk, a Viefhaus sac bunt, and a single by Nikki Nemitz, taking a break from pitching by acting as DH. Once again, Roya St. Clair was lifted for Marley Powers, and once again Powers homered. She's only a freshman, by the way, so Samantha Findlay should watch out for her home run records. Teddi Ewing then singled and was driven home when Ali Giampaolo tripled.
Michigan did it without the long ball in the fifth. They collected singles from both Findlay sisters, a double from Nikki Nemitz, and singles from Roya St. Clair and Teddi Ewing to put up a four-spot for the inning. Unlike Friday's game, it wasn't a walk-off, but a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning from the Irish gave Michigan the 8-0 victory in five.
Today's regional final against Kent State was another slow-starting affair. Neither team could get much of anything going. In the fourth, it took four walks issued by the Golden Flashes for Michigan to finally plate a run. Fortunately for the Maize and Blue, Jordan Taylor was throwing a one-hitter. Things finally broke open in the bottom of the sixth. Again, it was free passes to first coming back to bite Kent State. Both Findlay sisters and Nemitz walked, bringing up Dorian Shaw, who hit a grand slam to right field. Taylor finished her complete game shutout one-hitter without walking a single batter, facing only 22 on the day and collecting 11 strikeouts.
As the fourth overall seed in the tournament, the Wolverines have the luxury of staying at home this year for next weekend's super regional. They'll face the winner of the Knoxville regional. At the time of posting, the Lady Vols are up 1-0 on the Hokies after one, successfully executing a suicide squeeze (UPDATE: Virginia Tech used a four-run fourth to take down Tennessee 4-2. See you in Ann Arbor, Hokies).
Elsewhere at the Wilpon Complex, Michigan's baseball team took Northwestern down 11-2, setting a Big Ten record by winning 26 conference games this season. Ray Fisher Stadium will play host to the Big Ten tournament starting Wednesday, but Michigan won't see action until 7:05 PM on Thursday night.