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.
It was the Wolverines’ first hit of the season and — after another big swing from sophomore infielder Morgan Overaitis — she scored the first run.
But for Allan, it represented another first: The first time in her career that she’s been able to play in Michigan softball’s opening weekend. She spent most of last season in the dugout, recovering from a knee injury.
“I thought she attacked (the injury),” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “She couldn’t control the fact that she was hurt, she was highly disappointed, she’d fought through injury in her freshman year. I think it’s underestimated how much this can affect a kid who works all year and lifts weights all summer — you know, they put everything into this and it gets taken from them in a heartbeat.
“I was really impressed with how she responded to it, because all you can do is attack it. And she really did.”
Hutchins said she can’t even remember how Allan was playing before the injury. But it’s clear she’s leaps and bounds ahead of where she was at the end of last season. She’s stronger, her mobility is better and she’s faster. A couple months ago, it was unclear whether she’d be mobile enough to play defensively, but in January, Allan turned a corner.
This weekend, she started every game on first base, and she showed the impact she can make in the infield.
“She’s got a good glove, got a good bat — I mean, what can you say?” Overaitis said. “She brings a little toughness to the infield. She had a great weekend defensively. She had a lot of shots hit at her, so I think she’s a strong leader in the infield.”
But Allan’s biggest impact was at the plate. Last season, Allan got five hits in 19 at-bats. This year, she’s starting third in the lineup. And within this past weekend alone, she’s already matched last year’s hits in just 16 at-bats.
In the season opener, she swung for a home run and a double, registering two RBI in the process. Against Florida the next day, she hit another homer and a single, picking up two more RBI.
Despite the power in her bat, there are still places she needs to improve, as she went 0-for-4 on the last day of the weekend. On the field, Hutchins wants her to get more mobile and quicker on the first step. But, for now, it looks like third in the batting order is exactly where Allan needs to be.
“She is our most powerful hitter, but that doesn’t mean she’ll hit the most home runs,” Hutchins said. “We need to be able to hit through the middle of the order. We need our RBIs. Do I think she can do it? I think she can do it. I think they can all do it. It’s just a matter of whether they do it.”