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Freshmen make a loud splash against MSU

James Coller/Daily
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By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 13, 2014

What the Michigan softball freshmen lack in experience, they make up for in impact.

All four freshmen had a part in the 31-1 clobbering of Michigan State this past weekend. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has expected them to contribute from the start, and they have.

“I tell them, we don’t bring you here to be a freshman, we brought you here to help us win,” Hutchins said. “That’s been my motto every year. You can choose to be a freshman or you can choose to help us win. It’s a decision you make.”

Against the Spartans, freshman third baseman Lindsay Montemarano hit two solo home runs. Saturday, she started off the fifth inning with a long fly ball. The home run sparked more hitting by her teammates that allowed fellow freshman second baseman Abby Ramirez to score and finish off the game with the eighth run in a mercy-rule victory.

“Us freshman have a pretty small class, so we’re really close and all the older girls from sophomores to seniors have really taken us under their wings and showed us the way,” Montemarano said. “Now I think we’re getting the hang of things and we just want to make our mark on the program and be remembered that we left the program better than it was. I think we’re doing a great job of that as a class.”

Montemarano isn’t the only freshman who can hit. Ramirez got on base four times throughout the weekend. Saturday, she singled in the fifth inning and was able to cross home plate with the eighth and final run when freshman first baseman Kelly Christner singled to center field.

Christner also doubled to right-center field to start off the final frame on Sunday and scored when sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence doubled.

It wasn’t just Ramirez’s impressive at-bats that stood out against Michigan State. In the first inning of Saturday’s game, Ramirez caught a line drive and doubled a Spartan runner off first to help take the pressure off junior right-hander Sara Driesenga.

When asked what has made her feel so comfortable as a starter for the fifth-ranked Wolverines, she points to the fast-paced practices she’s been subjected to throughout her time in Ann Arbor.

Freshman right-hander Megan Betsa knows the kind of tough practice Ramirez is referring to. There’s a drill that Michigan practices that repeatedly puts the pitcher in a pressure situation with the bases loaded and a full count. Betsa also points to the psychological practice as a reason for her confidence with runners on base.

On top of that and her drive to come in and throw even when practice isn't being held, it’s no surprise that she allowed just four hits on Sunday — all of them singles — through six innings.

She still wasn’t completely happy with her performance.

“I don’t think I had my best performance today but it’s giving the best of what I have and that’s what I did,” Betsa said. “My defense was there to work behind me, and that’s all I can ask for, confidence in my teammates.”

Betsa and Ramirez were back-to-back Big Ten Freshmen of the Week in February, and it’s been obvious why since then. Double that with the more active roles Montemarano and Christner have been growing into, and Michigan has a class of players that will not only make an impact late this season, but for the next three to come.