A return to Alumni Field saw a return to form for some familiar faces.
Fifth-year third baseman Taylor Bump and senior outfielder Lexie Blair led the No. 19 Michigan softball team’s offense last season. So far this season, though, they have impacted the box score less than expected.
In the first game of the Wolverines’ home-opening double header against Kent State, that changed as both Blair and Bump made their presences known. And according to associate head coach Bonnie Tholl, this game was not a one-off performance, but a sign of something bigger to come for both players.
Bump, an offensive stalwart last season, has struggled early.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Taylor Bump,” Tholl said. “… She has the capacity to be a great offensive player for us.”
Bump is currently batting .217, a far cry from her .325 mark last season. But coming off a two-for-three day with multiple hard-hit balls, Tholl is convinced that she can turn things around.
“I feel like she’s in a good state of mind this week,” Tholl said. “She knows that all of her hard work, all of the hours she has put in to get her swing feeling good … you can see the results.”
Bump is not the only veteran starting to put things together. Blair, the 2021 Big Ten Player of the Year, started the season on a sour note. She batted just .192 in the first eight games of the season and only logged one hit in 14 at-bats over the first weekend of play. Since then, she has started to heat up, entering the day a shade under .300.
Still, she doubted herself and her swing.
“I have been focusing so much (at) the plate on specific mechanics,” Blair said of her early-season struggles. “Pregame I was talking to Hutch and really just focusing on one thing … I felt more of myself tonight, more confident (out) there.”
Simplifying her process seems to have done the trick. Against the Golden Flashes, Blair returned to 2021 form. She went three-for-four, along with a deep two-run homer in the second inning. She also scored every time she reached base.
A performance of this caliber has done wonders for Blair’s confidence and could be a watershed moment for the rest of the season.
In a season where newcomers have been picking up the slack for the slow-starting veterans, Bump and Blair’s return to form can entirely change the Wolverines’ outlook. It could provide an important boost in consistency to Michigan’s previously hot-and-cold bats. And it could be the boost the Wolverines need if they want to be playing late into May and deep into the postseason.
But one good game does not guarantee a turnaround. Both Blair and Bump could relapse to their early-season woes at the cost of the team’s overall trajectory.
Tholl, however, is confident that this isn’t the case. She already maintained that the best is yet to come for Bump, and she especially believes that to be the case for Blair.
“Lexie Blair, you’re going to see her break out here,” Tholl said. “Big time.”