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Home runs lift the Wolverines to the top of the conference

Ariel Bond/Daily
Dorian Shaw plays softball for Michigan against Eastern on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. Buy this photo

BY CASANDRA PAGNI
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 11, 2010

With an unblemished record in the Big Ten, the No. 2 Michigan softball team has been hot from the plate in conference play.

Lately, though, the Wolverines have flashed their home run game.

Michigan has hit at least one home run in all seven conference games this season and the team's tendency to hit the long ball has helped turn many of the conference games into blowouts.

The Wolverines’ ability to drive the ball deep has helped them mercy-rule conference opponents in five of seven games. The home run has put games out of reach quickly and kept opponents from being able to regroup.

“We have a number of kids who are capable, when they get a good cut at the ball that are capable of hitting it over the fence,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We are very capable of hitting it out.”

Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 30-5 overall) leads the Big Ten with 49 total team home runs after this weekend, averaging 1.4 per game.

“We’re a good scoring team so it’s a nice way to get started," Hutchins said. "We do a lot of things every time we play. Sometimes we score early, sometimes we score late, but the most important aspect is that we score.”

The offense has been hot and home runs have helped back up strong starting pitching performances from junior Jordan Taylor and senior Nikki Nemitz. Michigan's pitching duo has been solid all season and the offense has been clicking right behind them.

“It makes us a lot more relaxed knowing that we can always come back because we know we can hit,” sophomore outfielder Bree Evans said. “It takes a lot off the pitchers.”

Junior first baseman Dorian Shaw currently leads the team with 13 home runs — just one shy of her 2009 career total. The Wolverine slugger is followed closely by the two senior captains Maggie Viefhaus and Angela Findlay, who have belted out 11 and 10 long balls on the year, respectively.

Michigan boasts a 13-0 record when the team hits two or more home runs in a game. But the Wolverines know that home runs can’t be their only aim from the batter's box.

“I’m just really focusing on going up there and doing what I need to do for my team at the plate,” Findlay said. “Whether that’s runners on base, driving people in, putting a bunt down for the runners, my focus is just going up there and getting good at bats.”

With a solid plate approach and some monster home runs, Michigan has stormed past the rest of its conference opponents thus far. While some argue that pitching and defense win championships, the Wolverines aren’t complaining about scoring at least seven runs in all of their Big Ten games this season.

"Everybody in our lineup is really clocked in and focused on what they need to do in their part,” senior Molly Bausher said. “I think a lot of that has to do with what we've gone through this season with our mental game and one-pitch focus. Everybody has taken that in and really committed to it, and I think that's really shown in our lineup."