By JACK VANASSCHE, Staff Writer
Over the weekend, the University of Michigan-Dearborn softball team finished up their final games of the regular season. The Wolverines went 4-2 over the course of three days to wrap up league play.
Wednesday, April 27, the Wolverines squared off against Indiana Tech in a doubleheader. They swept the Warriors by taking game one by a score of 3-1 and game two by a score of 5-2.
Gina Verduzco was dominant again in game one of the set, allowing only one run in her seven innings of work. Verduzco only allowed three hits in her complete game performance while striking out seven.
In game two, the Warriors (15-31, 4-14 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference) scored an unearned run in the first inning to take an early lead. However, an offensive attack in the third and fourth innings would score the Wolverines all five of their runs. Despite a lone run in the seventh for Indiana Tech, the Wolverines held on for a 5-2 victory.
After a day off, the Wolverines resumed play in a doubleheader on April 29 against Concordia. The Wolverines and Cardinals would split the two-game set, each team winning big once and losing big once. The Wolverines would drop game one to Concordia 10-1, but follow up with a 12-4 win in game two.
Concordia (31-14, 11-7 WHAC) started game one off with a bang, scoring four runs in each of the first two innings. Their offensive attack continued while the Wolverine bats fell silent.
The Wolverines would answer back in a big way in the second game, erupting for eight runs in the first frame. That would set the tone for the remainder of the game as the Wolverines cruised to a 12-4 win to split the doubleheader.
In their last day of regular season play, UM-Dearborn faced off against Cornerstone in another doubleheader. The Wolverines would win game one 16-8, but lose game two by a score of 7-1.
On senior day, the Wolverines opened play looking energetic. They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two unearned runs. Cornerstone (13-24, 6-12 WHAC) would battle back, and the teams continued answering each other’s offensive attacks with more and more runs. The Wolverines finally put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth inning, when they put up six more runs. Despite the loss in game two, the Wolverines had wrapped up a very impressive regular season.
Now that the regular season has finished, the Wolverines can get to what they have been eyeballing all season long: a conference championship.
The Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament begins Wednesday, May 4 at Pacesetter Park in Sylvania, Ohio. At 6:00pm, the 3-seed Wolverines (29-16, 12-6 WHAC) will take on the six-seed University of Northwestern Ohio Racers (27-16, 10-8 WHAC).
Standout sophomore Jordan Ewald is confident and hopeful for her team in the 2016 tournament.
“I think we are prepared going into the conference tournament,” she said. “We’ve played all the teams we will be seeing there so to prepare we are just going to be smart and recognize what happened when we played them previously and use it to our advantage.”
UM-Dearborn swept the season series with the Racers in 2016. Over two games, the Wolverines scored 29 runs off of UNOH. If the Wolverines get the shutdown pitching they have been getting throughout most of this season, they know they will have a great chance to continue to the winner’s bracket.
Senior outfielder Nikki Payne says that her team hopes to return to the championship game for the second straight year. Only this time she hopes to take a different route.
“Our plan is definitely to end up in the championship game once again this year. With that being said, our goal is to make it there by climbing our way up the winners bracket instead of the losers bracket and we plan on taking home some hardware this year.”
To do that, the Wolverines will look to keep playing the way they know how to. This regular season showed great success on all sides of the ball, so stringing together conference victories is clearly possible.
According to Ewald, head coach Scott Combs has stressed making routine plays, staying within themselves, and to play hard each and every moment.
Should the Wolverines beat UNOH, they will continue on to play the winner of ma matchup between two-seed Madonna and seven-seed Cornerstone at around 8:30pm the same night. If the Wolverines lose to UNOH, they will play the loser of Madonna versus Cornerstone at 8:30pm.
Despite the pressure of the double-elimination tournament, the Wolverines are hoping to keep a winning mentality.
“We focus on playing our game, making the routine plays, putting the ball in play, and putting pressure on the other team every game,” Payne said. “That doesn’t change outside of the regular season. The atmosphere of these games are always different because it is double elimination, which is something that obviously doesn’t occur during league play, but rather than making us nervous that just makes us even more motivated and determined to win.”