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.

This weekend in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, senior infielder Madison Uden started at third for three of the weekend's four games, but the Michigan softball team's lineup is still not set.

The roster is filled with names of players ready to battle it out for one of the nine spots in the lineup. At the beginning of the season, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said she was waiting to see who would take advantage of their opportunities — who would prove they deserved a spot. It’s still early. There’s still plenty of time for players to show what they’re made of. The constant lineup switches can be read to mean she’s still waiting for that moment. Or they could be read as a measure of the team’s depth.

The No. 11 Michigan softball team stayed undefeated this weekend, with wins over Louisville and No. 25 North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Lauren Esman wasted no time. Pinch-hitting in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and the score tied, the freshman utility player belted the first pitch she saw from Louisville’s Taylor Roby over the right-center field fence for a go-ahead grand slam. Esman’s heroics sealed an 8-4 win for No. 11 Michigan softball (9-0) over Louisville (2-7), capping off a weekend sweep which also included a 6-2 win over the Cardinals and 4-3 and 4-0 wins over No. 25 North Carolina (5-5) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Michigan softball team has had to fill gaps left by last year's seniors so far this season.

As the Michigan softball team went 5-0 at the USF-Rawlings Invitational, multiple players had to step up and perform. While competing against five good teams, including then-No. 7 Florida, many players showcased their talents. Now, The Daily breaks down the weekend’s lineup.

Junior third baseman Lou Allan played in MIchigan's opening weekend for the first time in her college career.

Lou Allan wasted no time in Friday’s season opener. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, the junior third baseman fired a ball deep into the right of center field and took off. 


The No. 11 Michigan softball team’s offensive performance over the weekend wasn’t without its blemishes. 

Yet, in the moments when the lineup needed a spark, Morgan Overaitis provided the impetus. 

Sophomore right-hander Alex Storako showed this weekend that she can be a second ace in Michigan's rotation.

Top of the seventh, last chance for Georgia State. Sophomore right-hander Alex Storako trotted out and took her place inside the circle.

Freshman Julia Jimenez saw starts at second base and designated player, and played in all five games of the USF-Rawlings Invitational.

Sophomore catcher Hannah Carson stood at the plate, dialed in. Florida’s Natalie Lugo readied her pitch and delivered. The ball rocketed off Carson’s bat through the right side of the infield — two runs scored.