Death, taxes and Lexie Blair recording a base hit.
Through the first 21 games of the No. 20 Michigan softball team’s season, Blair recording a hit was all but a guarantee. The junior outfielder produced at least one hit in every contest and posted multiple hits in 12 of them. Not a single team could figure out how to contain her.
Over the weekend Maryland changed that —at least temporarily. On Friday, Blair failed to reach safely for the first time all season. She went 0-for-3 by way of a flyout to right field, an infield pop-out and a ground-out to first base.
Blair, however, was unfazed by her Friday performance.
“Losing the hit-streak is a bummer,” Blair said. “But it’s something that I don’t tend to think about at all.”
Blair’s impact on offense cannot be emphasized enough. Batting a stellar .464, she holds the highest batting average in the Big Ten. Being the leadoff hitter, she puts pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses from the start. She is also a perfect six-for-six in stolen base attempts and oftentimes easily advances on sacrifice-bunts. She’s constantly finding herself in scoring position, whether or not she’s hitting for power.
Even in her worst game of the season offensively, one of her strengths — an uncanny ability to avoid striking out — was on display. Blair has struck out only four times this season, tied for the second fewest in the Big Ten with teammates Hannah Carson and Julia Jimenez.
However, with her uncharacteristic lack of production on Friday, the Wolverines were forced to adapt. As Blair and her teammates at the top of the lineup were struggling to find a rhythm, Michigan was fueled by a surge in production from the back-end of the batting order. That spark proved enough for the victory, ensuring the Wolverines’ win streak continued, even as Blair’s hit streak vanished.
As the series shifted to a double-header on Saturday, Michigan’s best hitter had the opportunity to prove that her hitless night was a fluke. She did just that, impacting the next three games tremendously for the offense.
“I’m just trying to see the ball and hit the ball hard,” Blair said. “(I want to) have quality at-bats every time I step up to the plate.”
In the first game of the double header, Blair wasted no time ending her dry-spell. In her second at-bat of the afternoon, she chopped the first pitch she saw over the shoulder of Terrapin shortstop Ruby Butler, driving in senior third baseman Taylor Bump from second base.
Blair built on her production in the second game of the afternoon, where she went 3-for-4 in a routine display of consistency and power. She made her presence felt in the third inning, belting a standup double off the centerfield wall.
She continued doing damage in the fifth inning, where she hit a single into right field to load first and third base. She later advanced to second, and deployed her signature speed by scoring off a single up the middle from senior first baseman Lou Allan. The very next inning, Blair shot a double down the right field line, spurring more offense as the hit scored graduate student Thais Gonzalez from first base.
“(On Friday) I felt pretty disconnected from my swing,” Blair said on Saturday. “Today I definitely had that cue in my head in the box and just rolled with it and it worked out.”
In the final game of the series on Sunday, Blair made sure that her Friday struggles were a distant memory. She scored the first run of an 8-0 run rule win, and later sent a single to left field. She then hustled all the way from first base to score on a triple from senior shortstop Natalia Rodriguez.
Blair has now hit safely in 24 of 25 games, with the offense building off her success and making strides as the back-half of the season arrives.
As the season progresses, Michigan will look to Blair for continued consistency and production at the focal point of the Wolverine lineup.