In every other game the No. 2 Michigan softball team has played this year, senior second baseman Sierra Romero and junior shortstop Abby Ramirez would take their respective positions in the middle of the diamond.
But with Ramirez suffering an ankle injury over the weekend, Romero took the field without her in the Wolverines’ home opener Wednesday against Eastern Michigan. As she headed over to the gap between second and third base, a new face stood at second: freshman utility player Faith Canfield.
For the first start of her career, Canfield had big shoes to fill. Ramirez has a .413 batting average and 29 runs in 22 games this year. But Canfield seemed unfazed by the challenge.
“My biggest thing is to just trust myself,” Canfield said. “It’s still the same game. I know how to do it, I do it every day in practice. It’s nothing different just because it’s a game.”
In the bottom of the second inning, she walked up to the plate for her first at-bat of the game, hoping to add to her team’s 3-1 lead. She reached base, but not in the way she would have imagined. Canfield was hit by the pitch and took her spot on first.
After another Michigan walk, Canfield stood at second as Romero walked up to the plate. Romero laced a single into right centerfield, and Canfield took off running around the base paths before scoring with ease.
She came up to bat again in the fourth. This time, there were two Wolverine runners on second and third. With a favorable 3-1 count, she swung hard and made solid contact. The ball sailed toward centerfield, just barely squeaking over the wall. Canfield had notched her first career home run — a three-run shot at that — but when she first put bat to ball, she didn’t expect it to be gone.
“I thought it was going to be a popup,” Canfield said. “So when I looked up and saw that it was going out, I was pretty surprised. But I’ll take it.”
Putting an exclamation mark at the end of Michigan’s five-run inning, Canfield made her presence felt for the Wolverines. Providing three RBI in Michigan’s 14-1 five-inning, run-rule victory, she illustrated that a spot in the starting lineup suits her just fine.
Rather than crumbling under the pressure, Canfield carried the load in stride. She made her mark with authority and helped her team fill a needed hole simultaneously — a fact not lost on Michigan coach Carol Hutchins.
“Faith is in that position that I think (Kelly) Christner was a couple of years ago,” Hutchins said. “She’s good enough to play on this team every day and comes into a really veteran team. We’ve gotten her a lot of opportunities this year already, and she’s shown that she’s ready to do whatever it takes to help us.
“Having Abby out is a big loss, but having the ability to have Faith come in and do what she does just shows you the kind of depth that we have.”
Though the length of time Ramirez will sit out is unclear, Michigan has found a durable pair of hands in Canfield.