By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 3, 2012
After losing four of its last six games with the NCAA Regionals around the corner, the Michigan softball team needed help. And fast.
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Enter freshman left-hander Haylie Wagner.
Wagner — no stranger to success on the mound — did more than rise to the occasion on Tuesday when the 23rd-ranked Wolverines knocked off Eastern Michigan, 4-2, in nine innings for a crucial win.
Despite a sluggish offensive showing from Michigan (12-6 Big Ten, 33-15 overall), Wagner struck out a career-high 13 batters while allowing two runs on seven hits.
“(My) pitches were just working,” Wagner said. “I was basically just relaxing. (In) the past couple games I have been really tense and just trying to overthrow it. I knew that I just needed to relax, just be calm out there, trust my pitches, and believe in myself.”
Wagner’s success on Tuesday was not new for the Wolverines. The freshman has put together an impressive first year campaign, recording a 25-5 record with a 1.46 ERA in 49 games. She has also struck out at least ten batters in three games this season, and currently leads the Big Ten in wins and ERA.
Wagner has earned four Big Ten Pitcher of the Week awards and one Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors during her freshman year.
In addition to her success on the mound, Wagner has begun finding her groove behind the plate since entering the batting order for the first time against Michigan State on April 14.
Since then, she has three home runs and nine RBIs. On Tuesday, Wagner was held victim to a controversial strike out, but she didn’t let it faze her.
“It happened,” Wagner said. “(And) it definitely fires you up for a second, but I know that I needed to let (it) go and go out and pitch. Hitting and pitching are completely different (mindsets).”
Wagner’s freshman accomplishments are not alone. Fellow freshman right-hander Sara Driesenga has also found success on the mound, but more recently has excelled behind the plate.
Her walk-off home run to win the game, 4-2, against Eastern Michigan was only one of her recent offensive achievements.
Driesenga leads the team with a .373 batting average and has reached base in the last 23 games. In addition, she has found success on the mound with a 2.51 ERA despite a pitching record of 8-10.
She also has earned two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards for her accomplishments behind the plate.