Michigan fills gaps in lineup over opening weekend

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 9:12pm

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

The Michigan softball team has had to fill gaps left by last year's seniors so far this season. Buy this photo
Allison Engkvist/Daily

Michigan softball had multiple holes to fill.

The Wolverines opening weekend at the USF-Rawlings Invitational provided multiple players the opportunity to fill those gaps left in the lineup after the graduation of six seniors from the 2019 season.

As the Wolverines went 5-0 on the weekend, 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.

Catcher: sophomore Hannah Carson

After the graduation of Katie Alexander last season, catcher was up for grabs this weekend. Alexander started in 50 of 58 games last year and had a team-high 10 home-runs. Carson was the clear choice for her replacement this weekend. During last season she started in 12 games — eight at catcher, four at designated player. She also hit in the number six spot in four of five games. With a .250 batting average, one run and one RBI, Carson made her case to continue starting this season. And with the most in-game catching experience on the team, Carson locked down the catching spot this weekend.

Center Field: senior Haley Hoogenraad

Hoogenraad was the star in the outfield this weekend. Robbing a grand slam from Florida with a catch over the wall, she showed up and showed out this weekend. Batting in the seven spot in four of five games, she posted four runs and three RBI en route to a .429 batting average. She also had a .741 slugging percentage and a .529 on-base percentage. 

Natalie Peters was the starting center-fielder in the 2019 season in 57 of 58 games before graduating. Despite Peters’ consistency, Hoogenraad isn’t without her own experience. She also started in 57 games in right field. While the positions do boast differences, Hoogenraad made the transition look easy this weekend.

“(The transition) hasn’t been too bad,” Hoogenraad said. “Natalie did a really good job last year obviously teaching me a lot of the ins and outs and explaining a lot of situations. I got a lot of looks there during the off-season as well. It’s been an adjustment making sure I communicate well with my right and left fielder and know that we’re on the same page.”

Right Field: senior Thais Gonzalez

With Hoogenraad shifting to center, right field was up for grabs. Gonzalez hasn’t seen much time in her years at Michigan, but this weekend told a different story. Starting in right for all five games, Gonzalez proved she was capable of the increased responsibility. She had multiple good catches defensively throughout the weekend. Hitting second in the lineup against Georgia State, she dropped to seventh for the rest of the weekend. She contributed two runs and one RBI on the weekend, posting .231 batting average.

“I think she did a really good job,” Hoogenraad said. “It’s always exciting to get out there with new people and to see how you play with them. She did a really good job reading balls and being in the right positions and getting to back-ups and obviously, in the lineup, I think she saw the ball pretty well. It was really exciting to be out there with her and she’s really fun to be out there with.”

First Base: junior Lou Allan

After missing half the season last year due to injury, Allan is back and ready to play. Alex Sobczak held the first base spot for most of last season. Starting 48 of 58 games at first, Sobczak racked up 11 multi-hit games and 10 multi-RBI games. Allan rose to the challenge both defensively and offensively this weekend with a .313 batting average, a .750 slugging percentage, four runs and four RBI.

Second Base and Designated Player: freshman Julia Jimenez and sophomore Morgan Overaitis

Locked in a competition for second base, Jimenez and Overaitis split field time over all five games. Faith Canfield, a senior last year, was the predominant second baseman last season. Starting all 58 games at second, the hole she left in the lineup was perhaps the biggest. Overaitis held the spot for the games against Illinois State and USF, and Jimenez against Georgia State, Florida and Fresno State.

Also competing for designated player Jimenez and Overaitis battled it out at the plate this weekend. Mackenzie Nemitz played the most games at DP last year in 35 games. Nemitz posted a .258 batting average her senior year, along with a .357 on-base percentage. This weekend, Jimenez started in the seven spot, before eventually moving to second in the lineup for the final three games. She batted .333 in the seventh spot, and in the .200s at second. Hitting clean-up at fourth, Overaitis had high averages in every category — a .556 batting average, .667 slugging percentage and a .600 on-base percentage. No clear winner can be determined from one weekend alone, but both certainly brought their strengths to the table.

“Those two are vying for second base,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We need both their bats in the lineup, I can tell you that. I forsee both bats being in the lineup.”

Overall, the main takeaway from Michigan’s weekend series is that they have the personal to fill any gaps. With even more players knocking at the door asking for playing time, there’s no shortage of athletes willing to step up and fill any role necessary. While multiple players proved their ability to compete, no lineup has been truly finalized. The competition for second base and DP will likely continue into the Wolverines’ next weekend series, as well as at every other position.

“You can’t make too much out of one weekend,” Hutchins said. “One weekend does not define our season. We’re not going to dwell on this, I’m over last weekend. We’ve got work to do.”