The weather may have been hot, but Faith Canfield came out scorching.
As a Southern California native, the senior second baseman is used to the heat. Temperatures hovered around the mid-70s when the No. 25 Michigan softball team battled against some of the nation’s top competition at last week’s Judi Garman Classic and Arizona State Invitational, but no source of heat was more intense than Canfield’s bat.
The flip of the calendar brought about some much-needed success for Canfield, who came into the month with a .283 batting average — a figure well below her lofty standard. Canfield posted respective batting averages of .398 and .391 in her sophomore and junior seasons en route to earning All-America honors in each campaign.
On Feb. 19, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins told The Daily that she wanted to see Canfield “take this team by the horns.”
Despite games against No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Arizona, and No. 9 Louisiana State, the Wolverines limped into this month without a signature win. Much of their shortcomings paralleled Canfield’s efforts to rediscover the swing that placed her among the nation’s best infielders. After 14 starts, she entered this month with just three multi-hit games, four RBIs and zero extra-base hits.
But when the new month rolled around, Canfield took a firm grasp of those horns.
Canfield sparked Michigan’s success at the Judi Garman Classic on March 1, driving in a pair of runs with a go-ahead single in the sixth inning against previously-unbeaten No. 2 UCLA, which propelled the Wolverines to a 3-1 upset victory. The win gave the team an energy boost, while Canfield’s big hit had the exact same effect on a personal level.
Two days later, Canfield reached base in two of her three at-bats in Michigan’s 4-2 victory over No. 5 Washington. Her confidence at the plate gave way to success on the basepath, as she scored a run and swiped a bag in the team’s second upset in as many games.
Later that afternoon, Canfield delivered once again. This time, the Wolverines were deadlocked in a scoreless tie against California State-Northridge in the final inning when she stepped up to the plate. With junior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad standing on second base, Canfield laced a double into right field. When the dust settled, her walk-off heroics lifted the Wolverines to an unbeaten weekend after a 7-8 start.
“(Canfield) is doing her part,” Hutchins said. “She’s gone above and beyond this past weekend and I’m hoping it can inspire us and give us some confidence.”
When the team made its way south of Canfield’s home state, her hot streak continued at the Arizona State Invitational. She reached base safely in four of Michigan’s five games — including a pair of three-hit efforts in the last two contests of the weekend — highlighted by a power surge against New Mexico State. Canfield recorded a pair of doubles and launched her first long ball of the season in the Wolverines’ 3-0 victory over the Aggies.
Between the two tournaments, Canfield posted 13 hits in 29 at-bats — good for an average of .448 — while driving in six runs and striking out just twice. Less than two weeks after sitting on a .283 batting average, her clip has ballooned to .347.
Though her success on the field has helped the Wolverines add tallies to their win column, it was Canfield’s continued work ethic through a cold February that struck the most meaningful chord to her teammates.
“It’s been great looking to (Canfield),” said freshman outfielder Lexie Blair. “She’s one of our team captains and you really just she that drive in her when she plays, and I know she has her moments when she’s struggling a little bit. Before I even came here, I grew up watching her over her years in Michigan, finally seeing her as a senior, seeing her doing her thing, being consistent as she is, the past couple weekends have been amazing and I really look up to her, and so do many other people.”
If Michigan is to sustain any success, Canfield can’t afford to loosen her grip on the team’s horns.