Softball

The Michigan softball team has struggled to find offensive production, hitting just six home runs on the season.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what plagued the Michigan softball team’s offense at last weekend’s Gamecock Invitational. 

Despite coming in undefeated, the Wolverines limped home with a 1-3 record on the tournament, scoring more than one run just once in four games.

The Michigan softball team is looking to bolster its scoring with runners in scoring position to win games

The fateful final inning against Iowa State was a microcosm of Michigan’s weekend failures at the dish. It painted an all too familiar scene of stranding baserunners on a weekend where the Wolverines hit at a lowly .214 (6-for-28) clip with runners in scoring position. In prime scoring opportunities, the bats were failing, making the lack of runs no surprise. Michigan was held to one run or less in three of its four games.

Sophomore right-hander Alex Storako allowed four runs in relief against Iowa State.

During the second game of the Gamecock Invitational, Alex Storako stepped onto the mound in hopes of leading Michigan past Iowa State.

Freshman right-hander Chandler Dennis made her first collegiate appearance in Michigan's loss to Iowa State on Saturday.

Chandler Dennis entered the circle. At the plate stood Iowa State’s Hannah Carter, Dennis’s first collegiate opponent. Shortly after, Dennis got Carter swinging — strike three. That was it for Dennis’s first time on the rubber. One batter. She came in for the final out to relieve sophomore right-hander Alex Storako on Saturday in an inning where Iowa State had put up four runs on the Wolverines. Prior to Dennis’s entrance, the Cyclones were winning, 5-1.

The Michigan softball team dropped three of four games this past weekend at the Gamecock Invitational, dropping to a 10-3 record on the season.

Michigan softball’s perfect record is gone.

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Michigan softball was searching for a solution this past weekend. The problem: an uncharacteristic lack of offensive production. The solution: making changes to the lineup.

Junior infielder Taylor Bump hit a go-ahead home run as a pinch hitter in Michigan's win on Sunday.

Pinch hitting is, to any softball player’s admission, not easy. It’s a role defined by an element of waiting, of suspenseful uneasiness, that no player welcomes. Starters have the luxury of knowing when their spot in the batting order is up and can prepare accordingly. Bench players, meanwhile, can be thrust into the fire any second. There’s a steep learning curve to such a stark role difference.
Bump — now 2-for-2 in pinch-hitting opportunities this season — seems to have found comfort in her role.

Michigan's freshmen stepped up this weekend.

Every year, the seniors on a team graduate and the freshmen move in. And along with the normal first-year worries, freshmen athletes are sometimes expected to fill those senior gaps.
For some, it’s a crushing pressure, and they never get the chance to see the field. For Michigan softball, it hasn’t been a problem — specifically for infielder Julia Jimenez and utility player Lauren Esman.

Junior shortstop Natalia Rodriguez is Michigan's only returning infield starter.

The Wolverines are 9-0, ranked No. 8 in the country and have outscored their opponents by a total of 25 runs. Three of the nine wins have come against ranked opponents. At first glance, the numbers are impressive; signs of a team that is playing elite softball, even against high tier opponents. But it’s not good enough.
Not for coach Carol Hutchins.

Senior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad is hitting .458 on the season.

Michigan softball is starting off the season with a 9-0 record, including three wins against ranked opponents: one over No. 7 Florida and two against No. 25 North Carolina. And Michigan hasn’t been squeaking by — six of its nine games have been won by a margin of four or more, including a six-inning run rule over the Gators due to increased offensive consistency.