clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Michigan softball controversially drops series against Big Ten leader Northwestern

The Wolverines were the victims of some highly questionable calls in Sunday’s contest after splitting the first two games.

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 23 Playoff Regional - Michigan v Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a high profile series between a longtime power and the current conference leaders, the Michigan Wolverines softball team rather controversially dropped the rubber match against the No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday after one of the more dramatic weekends you’ll see in the sport.

Here’s how the weekend broke down for the Wolverines.

Game 1

As anyone who watches softball knows, the game goes only seven innings as opposed to baseball’s nine. What I need you to do right now is scroll down a little to the box score, and look at how many innings got played in game one of this series.

No, that is not a typo. In a game that took almost four hours from first to final pitch, the Wildcats just barely managed to escape with the victory after four innings of extra softball.

It took an unusually poor day from Lauren Derkowski to get the ball rolling on that result, as the Michigan ace gave up solo homers in the second and fourth innings off the bats of left fielder Angela Zedak and designated hitter Angela Zedak, respectively. Once reliever Jessica LeBeau entered the game. however, the Wolverines’ defense clamped down — not allowing a single run for almost six innings.

In the meantime, their offense tied things back up with a single swing of the bat, as Keke Tholl brought home both Ellie Sieler and Lexie Blair with a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Both teams traded runs in the 10th inning before Northwestern finally took a game-winning lead in the top of the 11th thanks to an unearned RBI single off the bat of catcher Jordyn Rudd.

Game 2

Saturday’s contest carried extra significance for the Wolverines, as it was dedication day for the newly coined Alumni Field at Carol Hutchins Stadium.

The eventual outcome of the game was hinted at in the bottom of the second, when Tholl broke the score sheet open with a solo homer to right field. The sheer amount of runs that came in the bottom of the third, however, couldn’t possibly have been in anyone’s mind.

In an almost 45 minute half-inning that saw 19 at-bats, 10 hits and a pair of homers from Tholl and Indiana Langford, the Wolverines drove in a whopping 12 runs — more than their season-high in an entire game this season.

But beneath the offensive firepower was a dominant return to form from Derkowski. While a potential third career no-hitter was broken up in the top of the fifth, she still walked away with a five-inning, one-hit performance.

Game 3

After the strangeness the prior two games in this series brought, Wolverine fans had every reason to believe the rubber match would play out in similarly odd fashion. Unfortunately, that expectation was granted in the most frustrating of ways.

After a frankly uneventful first five and a half innings, Lexie Blair led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Attempting to steal second, Blair was both obstructed in her run and clearly managed to touch the base before the tag. Despite both of these events, the third base umpire ruled Blair out — sending the crowd and head coach Bonnie Tholl in an absolute frenzy that resulted in the Michigan skipper being ejected from the game.

The controversy didn’t stop there. After the Wolverines recovered from Blair being ruled out with relative ease, Melina Livingston managed to chip what would have been a lead-taking single right on the foul line just past first base. Just as it seemed all animosity had been forgiven, it was the first base umpire’s time to receive the jeers of the crowd. After a long deliberation, he ruled the ball foul, negating the run scored.

With the energy sucked out of the stadium, the Wildcats went on the attack — scoring three runs in the top of the seventh. While Michigan had a chance to get back into things, it was ultimately for naught and Northwestern escaped the weekend much to the chagrin of those in attendance.

What’s Next?

The Wolverines return to action this Friday, April 28 in their annual pink game against the Indiana Hoosiers.