In both baseball and softball, strange things are bound to happen — and when it rains for a team, it often pours.
For the Michigan Wolverines, they were on the right side of an absolute storm of errors that resulted in a 8-0 run-rule shutout against their bitter rivals, the Michigan State Spartans.
Ironically, it was the Spartans who initially looked to have the upper hand in Tuesday’s matchup. After pitching back-to-back no hitters over the weekend, starter Lauren Derkowski saw any possibility of a third go up in smoke on the very first pitch, when Michigan State centerfielder Jess Mabrey took it the opposite way for an easy single. Though the Spartans couldn’t take advantage and left two runners on base, they made easy work of Michigan’s top three batters, keeping the Wolverines off the base paths to end the first frame.
After that, however, Michigan State’s defense simply couldn’t get out of its own way the rest of the game. Things started to slide in the bottom of the second when a fielding error by third baseman Alexis Barroso turned into an even more disastrous play after the subsequent throw was muffed, advancing Madi Ramey from first to third. A wild pitch subsequently scored Ramey, opening up a 1-0 lead.
A second muffed throw — this time by first baseman Kennedy Wyllie — once again put a Michigan runner just 60 feet from home plate in the bottom of the third. This time, the two runs scored in the inning would be gained through more conventional means, as the Spartans were forced to field a pair of ground balls to other bases rather than preventing the runners from scoring. A fourth run was procured in the bottom of the fourth after Ellie Sieler hit an RBI single down the left field line, scoring Indiana Langford.
While a 4-0 lead is a healthy cushion, the run-rule wasn’t on anyone’s mind headed into the bottom of the fifth. Though the Wolverines loaded the bases off a Keke Tholl double, Langford single and a Ryleigh Carricaburu walk, Michigan State starting pitcher Faith Guidry looked primed to escape without any damage done after striking out Audrey LeClair.
What followed was a three-run comedy of errors that must be seen to be believed. A single up the pipe by Ella McVey gave both Tholl and Langford the green light to dash home, with Langford making it to the plate by the literal tips of her fingers. After Spartan catcher Kendall Kates unsuccessfully tried to throw out Carricaburu at third, Barroso once again made a muffed throw trying to get McVey out at second, sending the ball into centerfield and the Michigan baserunners up another 60 feet, plating the third and final run of the play.
Sound complicated? It was.
B5: Wolverines stay aggressive on the basepath! @ellamcvey07 laces a two-run single to center, and Michigan adds another on an E5 throwing error. And how about that Langford slide??— Michigan Softball (@umichsoftball) April 18, 2023
Michigan 7, Michigan State 0 pic.twitter.com/BTUEK7eBZt
With McVey now at third and only a single run standing between the Wolverines and a run-rule victory, it all came down to Sieler to get the job done. Despite going down 0-2 to start the count, Sieler took care of business — slapping one into right field to force the run-rule.
Game Ender. @EllieSieler #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/F7szoJK0cT— Michigan Softball (@umichsoftball) April 19, 2023
It’s the big one folks — No. 17 overall and tops in the Big Ten Northwestern comes to Carol Hutchins Stadium for a three-game showdown that could have major implications for the conference standings. Stay tuned for a preview later this week!