WMU Softball Knocks Off No. 20 Michigan, 1-0
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Broncos win at Alumni Field for the first time since April 15, 1992, taking a 1-0 win from No. 20 Michigan on Wednesday night.
WMU's career strikeout leader Meredith Whitney fanned five Wolverines as Western Michigan became the first team to defeat Michigan at home this season. The win marked the first for WMU over Michigan since March 4, 2006 (2-1) and the first shut out win over the Wolverines since 1992.
Michigan suffered only its 11th loss ever at the Wilpon Complex and its first shut out since the 2010 NCAA Super Regional against Tennessee (5-0). It was the first regular season shut out of Michigan since April 27, 2007 against Minnesota (2-0) and the first non-conference shut out of U of M since Ohio accomplished the feat, 1-0, in eight innings on May 3, 2000.
History aside, the game itself was the definition of a pitchers duel. Neither team had more than two hits through five innings and the game remained scoreless until the top of the sixth.
Gracie Barstad's bat proved to be the deciding factor for WMU's offense on Wednesday. After Whitney grounded out to lead off the inning, Mackenzie Shepeck pinch hit for Elisha Handshoe and singled up the middle. She advanced to second on Courtney Rousseau's ground out. Rousseau left her mark on the Wolverines, as she did in the 2011 NCAA Regional, defensively with six put outs in left field.
Tara Buchanan singled to left field, reaching base safely for the 11th game in a row, putting Shepeck at third base and runners at the corners with two outs. Barstad saw three pitches before ripping a single back up the middle to score Shepeck.
Whitney did the rest. She sat Michigan down in order in the sixth, needing just three more outs for her 54th career win. Whitney forced a pair of fly outs to open the seventh and Michigan was quickly down to its last out. Nichole Sappingfield slapped a base hit to Christina Pigozzi at shortstop to start Michigan's attempt at a rally. Bree Evans, facing a full count, lined a shot back to Whitney in the circle that she could not field, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Mandy Gardner, pinch hitting, worked the count full but then sent a foul ball high into the air along the first base line. Buchanan squeezed it for the final out of the game.
Whitney, who was 1-for-3 with an intentional walk, worked out of jams throughout the game as Michigan stranded base runners in all but one inning and twice led off an inning with the first batter reaching second base. No Michigan base runner reached third base as Whitney threw 123 pitches, facing 29 batters and allowing just four hits.
Western Michigan resumes Mid-American Conference action this weekend when Kent State (April 13) and Buffalo (April 15-16) come to Fran Ebert Field.