Indiana beats Michigan softball for the first time since 1996, snapping Wolverines' two-year home regular season winning streak
They piled on the field like they had won a Big Ten or national championship instead of another regular-season softball game.
But for Indiana, the celebration was understandable. The Hoosiers ended a losing streak as old as some of the players on the field. Eighteen years passed since the last time Indiana had won at Michigan.
Fifteen years had gone by since the Hoosiers had beaten the Wolverines at all.
All of that is now done.
Indiana snapped a 35-game losing streak to Michigan on Saturday
afternoon, beating the third-ranked Wolverines, 5-4, in the second game
of a doubleheader at Alumni Field. Michigan won the first game of the
So the joy and excitement came with the victory. The Hoosiers hadn’t
done that in Ann Arbor since 1993 and overall since 1996.
“Let me tell you something,” Indiana coach Michelle Gardner said. “I beat, with my previous school (Nevada), Arizona when they were number 1. That’s a big deal, right? We beat some huge teams, that is a big deal, beat Fresno State.
“This is probably the biggest win of my career and I mean that wholeheartedly.”
The reasoning is easy to see when you walk into Michigan’s locker room and see Gardner’s name — then Michelle Bolster — on the wall as the Wolverines’ best player and pitcher in 1988.
She was one of the first standout pitchers for Carol Hutchins at Michigan from 1984-88 — the Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior — and helped Hutchins become the all-time wins leader at Michigan just four years into her tenure.
Then she coached for two years under Hutchins and then at Milan High School before entering college coaching.
Now, in her third season at Indiana (20-14, 2-2 Big Ten), she did something the Hoosiers
haven’t done since she was an assistant at Bowling Green — beat Michigan (33-3, 3-1).
“I just told her congrats and gave her a hug,” Hutchins said. “I’ll tell her I’m proud of her later in a text or something.
“We’ve had a lot of good conversation and are pretty close.”
Gardner realized her team might have a chance in the top of the eighth, when senior first baseman Sara Olson hit a solo home run — her second home run of the day — to give the Hoosiers a 5-4 lead.
Olson drove in all five Indiana runs, giving support to pitcher Morgan Melloh, who dominated Michigan with 14 strikeouts.
It was then, even after Indiana blew chances to put the game away with errors in the fifth and seventh innings that allowed Michigan to tie the game.
“Yes, it’s a huge win. I have the utmost respect for Hutch and her program and obviously I was a part of it,” Gardner said. “But oh my gosh, it’s huge. We need this. We need this.”
Michigan, though, didn’t make this easy.
The Wolverines usually don’t. Saturday marked their first regular-season loss at home since April 27, 2008, when they lost to Northwestern, 2-1.
The Wolverines came back in the bottom of the fifth, using two Indiana errors to tie the game at 2, capped by a single to center field by Amanda Chidester.
Michigan rallied again in the bottom of the sixth, apparently having runners on the corners after a Bree Evans single to center field with two outs. Then Gardner went to the field and argued the call, saying her players were interfered with.
Umpires agreed and reversed the call, calling Alycia Ryan out heading to third, leading to a Hutchins ejection.
“I felt it was the wrong call, period, and I felt they got talked into it,” Hutchins said. “It was big.”
Michigan tied it in the bottom of the seventh when Amy Knapp drove in a run and then Indiana second baseman Ashley Warrum bobbled a grounder from catcher Caitlin Blanchard, allowing the tying run to score.
Then Indiana responded, again, giving the Hoosiers their biggest win in a long time.
“We all struggled,” Blanchard said. “I think we were trying too hard and not just playing our game like we can.
“It obviously caused it not to go well.”