Michigan softball outfielder Lyndsay Doyle, not one to seek attention, isn’t exactly sure what to make of her new-found fame.
Doyle made the stellar catch in deep center, robbing Arizona State’s Amber Freeman of what would have been a game-winning home run last Sunday, sending the Wolverines to the NCAA Super Regional for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
It was the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top-10 highlights on Sunday, and three days after the game remained in the lead of the network’s “Best of the Best” voting.
Doyle admits she gave herself a vote.
“Oh yeah, of course,” she said, laughing during a telephone interview before clarifying why. “I had to show my mom what to do.”
The Wolverines went directly from their victory in the Tempe (Ariz.) Regional to Tallahassee, Fla., where they are preparing for their best-of-three Super Regional series against Florida State. Game 1 is Thursday night.
The Wolverines recently have dealt with multiple players enduring the stomach flu, but clearly, this team has a great deal of momentum after winning three straight elimination games to advance. Michigan rallied with a two-run seventh inning Sunday against Arizona State on back-to-back home runs by Sierra Lawrence and Taylor Hasselbach to take the lead, 5-4. The Sun Devils had a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh, and their best home-run hitter at the plate.
Freeman’s shot looked destined to be the game-winner. At least Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, in her 30th season, thought so.
“I thought the ball was hit over the fence,” Hutchins said by telephone. “Right when she hit it, I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s out.’ I might have even said that out loud.
“I didn’t see the catch. (Assistant coach) Jen (Brundage) jumped up. I couldn’t see and I said, ‘Did we catch it?’ She hit it better that I would have liked her to.”
Doyle credits Bonnie Tholl, Michigan’s associate head coach, for helping her make the play.
“Bonnie told me right before, ‘Hop the wall,’ and I was like, ‘All right, you got it,’” Doyle said. “She told me to do exactly what I did. She yells my name to get my attention, and we have signals. She signaled, grabbing the wall and making the catch. So many other plays before she’s told me to move one step to the right or the left, and I don’t have to move then to make the play. She’s got something going.”
Hutchins said Tholl knew with Freeman at the plate that Doyle had to play deeper.
“She had said to her, ‘Climb the wall,’” Hutchins said. “She did just that. Just perfectly.”
Arizona State coach Craig Nicholson said after the game that had the ball been six inches higher, it would have been out of Doyle’s reach. Doyle still can’t say for sure if the ball was over the fence when she snagged it or if it would have been gone.
“Honestly, I don’t know -- I was right there, and I still don’t know,” she said. “I can’t vividly remember to say it was over. It was such a line drive, it could have still be rising, or ricocheted. It was in the air, and I’m thinking, ‘I’m not letting it go anywhere except my glove.’”
Doyle, a senior, is called “grandma” by her teammates because she is not active in social media. But she is on Facebook, and her personal page was taken over by well-wishes and comments after the catch. Her cell phone was overwhelmed by text messages.
“It’s just crazy how big it’s been,” Doyle said. “I really don’t like attention drawn to myself, that’s the problem. But it is an experience I’ll never forget.
“I’m so shocked it’s so big. I would never have thought a play I did would be on SportsCenter. Not with Major League Baseball and the NBA going on. It’s ridiculous. Here I am, a little collegiate softball player …”
Doyle broke into laughter.
The little collegiate softball player that could.
Doyle earned first-team All-Big Ten honors this season, hitting .371 (third-best on the team) with 79 hits (second-best).
“She’s had a fantastic career for us,” Hutchins said. “She has been a consistent leadoff hitter over the years, and in the outfield she’s made a zillion fantastic plays. It’s fun to see her gain some acclaim. She doesn’t see herself in that role, and she’s a little uncomfortable with it.
“But I’ve said the most amazing thing that whole night was that bus ride back. Pink was blaring on the CD, and we were all singing. When they think back 20 years from now, they won’t remember that game, they’ll remember that bus ride.”
Doyle wasn’t singing, though. She was lost in thought.
“I was staring out my window, replaying that play in my head,” she said. “One of my teammates caught me and just hugged me. I will always remember it.”
Michigan vs. Florida State
Best-of-three Tallahassee Regional
Game 1: Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Friday, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 3: Friday, 7 p.m., if necessary (ESPN)