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Michigan falls to Ohio State, dropping the series with a 2-1 loss

Following Michigan’s 6-0 shutout loss to Ohio State yesterday, the Wolverines’ coaches and players gathered in the locker room for a brief conversation.

The message after the loss, which was perhaps the Michigan softball team’s worst performance since the Big Ten began, was simple:

“No one is perfect,” freshman right-hander Erin Hoehn said Saturday, repeating the brief post-game debrief. “We didn’t play good ball today and we all told each other that, but tomorrow we’ll bring the energy and get the bats going.”

It seems the pep talk didn’t work.

The Wolverines (38-15 overall, 19-4 Big Ten) fell early and never caught the Buckeyes (30-19, 11-11), falling 2-1 in Michigan’s final game of the regular season.

The Wolverines’ day behind the plate started slowly, as Michigan’s batters lined, grounded and struck out throughout the order. This has been Michigan’s way for a while, letting the opponent make a few early runs before sending balls past the wall when it mattered. It didn’t work Saturday, when Ohio State’s two early runs and four more in later innings went unanswered.

And on Sunday, in the Wolverines’ series finale against the Buckeyes, it looked for a while like a similar story would unfold.

After Ohio State center fielder Kirsten Eppele hit a home run past the bullpen adjacent to the left-field fence in the second inning, it was up to Michigan’s bats to respond. But through the first three frames, the Wolverines dejectedly walked off the plate as quickly as they stepped on it, going three up and three down three times in a row.

The first run Michigan mustered, after succinctly cycling through their lineup and holding off another Eppele homer that extended the Buckeyes’ lead to 2-0, was a bomb from junior left fielder Ellie Sieler, just left of the foul pole in the right field.

In previous games, Sieler has been the Wolverines’ driving force, igniting Michigan’s sometimes dormant offense with an timely home run or hit. That wasn’t the case for the Wolverines on Sunday, as Sieler’s goal was Michigan’s first of two all game.

For three more innings, the Wolverines continued to sniff the plate, and the contact they made sent balls straight into Ohio State’s gloves.

It was an offensive letdown for Michigan, which coming into the series with the Buckeyes was riding a 13-game win streak powered by big-hit highlights. After the Wolverines’ final game, Michigan coach Bonnie Tholl trudged to the dugout as her team suffered a low-scoring, deflating 2-1 loss.

Tholl has repeatedly preached that faith leads to momentum, but Sunday’s defeat lacked the latter.

“We’ve said faith is our momentum,” Tholl said on April 30 as the Wolverines prepared for their series against the Buckeyes. “… That’s really what put us in a really good place.”

Michigan’s midseason offensive turnaround, with comeback wins and a flurry of home runs, was also packed with belief and momentum. The Wolverines were very confident on their final day, their series finale and their final game of the regular season.

But for Michigan, that belief never translated into momentum, and the regular season ended with a loss.