Fans at Alumni Field held their collective breath as senior catcher Katie Alexander crumpled to the ground in discomfort.
She reached for the back of her right knee after winding up to throw to first base in an attempt to catch Saint Francis second baseman Cheyenne McKee off the bag. And though McKee easily advanced to second base in the aftermath, the focus quickly turned to Alexander.
An occasional cry in support of the Ypsilanti-native was the only sound that cut through the silence that deafened Alumni Field. Alexander spent ensuing moments evaluating her injury –– meandering gingerly between home plate and the on-deck circle until she decided to play on. After she returned behind the plate to finish the first inning and the top half of the second, the decision was made to shut down Alexander for the remainder of the game.
“She did (want to stay in the game), and then once we came in between innings, she had wanted to stay out there then came up and said we needed to get her out,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins.
When it came time for the seven-hole hitter to step to the plate in the second inning, freshman catcher Hannah Carson emerged from the on-deck circle –– not Alexander.
The highly-touted recruit had just 42 at-bats this season with a .262 batting average. But in her first at-bat since May 4 against Maryland, she lifted a single into shallow-center field.
“Well, of course I was just hoping that (Alexander) was alright,” Carson said. “But I knew that no matter what, if I had to go in, my teammates trusted me. My coaches trusted me. And I’ve just used what I’ve been practicing in practice.”
Added freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien: “She really came in and didn’t miss a beat. So, really it didn’t really feel like a big physical difference. I think she did a great job.”
In Carson’s next at-bat in the bottom of the third, she reached base on an error after McKee bobbled a bouncing groundball, resulting in two runs for the Wolverines and extending their lead to 4-0.
She then did it for the third time in as many tries in the fifth inning. After watching two balls miss the zone and a third called for a strike, she was able to square up the fourth. Carson launched the pitch from right-hander Christina Clark off the wall in right-center field. The RBI-double scored senior designated player Mackenzie Nemitz from first base to push Michigan’s lead to 5-0.
The status of Alexander –– a .280 hitter with 10 home runs –– remains in question. Hutchins said after the game that they would know more about the extent of the injury after seeing the MRI results on her starting catcher’s right leg.
After today’s performance, fans can find solace in having a confident freshman waiting in the wings if Alexander’s injury is anything more than a scare. Whether she can continue to be a contributor, though, remains to be seen.
“Hannah Carson came up big for us, obviously with Katie,” Hutchins said. “We don’t know where we’re at with that, but she did a great job behind the plate. She did a great job at the plate. And it’s great to see our kids continue to step up in the roles they have.”