In their first two meetings of the season, Michigan's pitching was able to keep the Badgers' bats at bay. U-M won both contests, 3-2 and 8-0, however, Wisconsin took the nation's top-ranked team to the limit in their first game of the year.
In the series-opener, the Wisconsin Badgers took the Maize and blue to extra innings before a Samantha Findlay RBI tilted the scales in Michigan's favor. Through her 6.1 innings of work, Wolverine starter Jennie Ritter did not allow an earned run, but three errors led to an early 2-0 lead for Wisconsin after an inning played. After a pair of runs tied the game in the third, Findlay drove in the game winner in the eighth, giving Lorilyn Wilson the victory.
In the second game, Wilson shut out the Badgers, going six innings, allowing only a single hit and striking out eight. Shortstop Jessica Merchant led the Michigan offense, going two-for-four, scoring a run, and driving in four. Wolverine centerfielder Alessandra Giampaolo also contributed significantly, finishing the game batting two-for-three, with three runs scored and two RBI.
The Michigan roster leads like a who's who of the nation's elite. Senior shortstop Jessica Merchant and junior pitcher Jennie Ritter are both among the 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Merchant is batting .379 on the year with a team-high .757 slugging percentage. Her 17 homeruns ties for the team lead and her three triples are the most for any Wolverine this year. She is second on the team in runs scored, hits, RBI, and on-base percentage.
Haas and senior Nicole Motycka are also towards the top of all team categories. Seven Wolverines are batting above .300 this year and as a team, the Maize and Blue is batting .324. Findlay has also contributed for U-M, batting .351 and belting 17 homeruns. Her .750 slugging percentage is the second best on the team.
Ritter was named the 2005 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, and she is towards the top of conference standings in most of the pitching statistics. Her 0.93 ERA is third in the conference, behind teammates Nicole Motycka (0.82) and Lorilyn Wilson (0.88). She is also tied with Iowa's Lisa Birocci with a league-best 26 wins compared to only a single loss, Ritter leads the Big Ten with a .962 winning percentage. Opponents are batting only .141 against her, second lowest in the conference.
Wisconsin shortstop Kristin Zacher has been one of the offensive leaders for Wisconsin throughout the 2005 season. Starting all 43 games in which she played, Zacher hit .400 during the regular season, which was sixth in the conference during the regular season. She recorded 20 RBI and nine homeruns on the year in addition to being successful on 16 of her 18 stolen base attempts this year.
Catcher Boo Gillette has also been solid at and behind the plate for the Badgers. Starting all of Wisconsin's games this year, Gillette hit .355 and led the team with 59 hits on the year. Outfielder Anastasia Miller led the team with 11 round-trippers and 36 runs batted in this year. At first base, Katie Hnatyk has been productive as well, hitting .328 with nine homeruns and 26 RBI.
In the circle for the Badgers sophomore Eden Brock has led the way. With a 19-8 record, Brock has gone the distance in 13 of her 29 starts this year, striking out 125 on the year compared to her 21 walks. Senior Katie Layne has also been reliable for Wisconsin, going 10-8 with nine complete games, including three shutouts.