EAST LANSING —Three weeks into the Michigan softball season, freshman outfielder Ellie Sieler was relegated to the bench, taken from her spot in the starting lineup.
At the time, the change was a necessity. Sieler had struggled — batting a paltry .129 with one RBI — and there was simply no way to justify keeping her in the lineup. Her fielding was consistently stellar, but it couldn’t keep her ahead of other, more veteran, batters riding hot streaks. And so for a month, Sieler rode the bench.
But in late March she finally returned to the lineup, and since then, she’s proven that she belongs. Her batting average currently sits at .240, — .126, above where it was at its worst — and she’s added five RBI’s and a home run to her totals. There has been consistent improvement in Sieler’s performance at the plate.
And against Michigan State, that growth continued.
“I think I just felt really relaxed,” Sieler said. “We’ve practiced a lot … so I just tried to trust that and stay relaxed and let things go.”
While she may have been relaxed, her presence at the plate was certainly felt by those around her in a game highlighted almost exclusively by pitching. Her 2-for-3 performance accounted for a third of the hits either squad managed on the evening, and her second-inning double sparked a two-run Michigan rally.
But the major story with Sieler isn’t that she had a solid performance at the plate when others didn’t. It was just another installment of her consistency at the plate in recent games —a minor hot streak Seiler has built in the process.
And for the Wolverines, the addition of another solid batter isn’t just an extra tool — it’s a need. Trailing far behind in the race for the Big Ten title with leadoff batter senior Lexie Blair still injured, Michigan has struggled to find consistent batting.
But in the past four games, Sieler has found somewhat of a rhythm.
In those games, she’s had seven hits with two RBIs. Even if it is just a streak at this point, it certainly isn’t random. Sieler didn’t accidentally go from being out of the lineup to seemingly being firmly entrenched — it took work.
“I think it’s just confidence,” Sieler said. “I felt like it would come eventually, … and I think I just became confident in the extra work I was putting in. I would just go in on off days and take extra swings, do extra lifts. I just tried to be confident knowing that I did that stuff. And hopefully we’ll see some results.”
The coaching staff took note. In interviews, Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins noted that Sieler’s work ethic and consistency at practice was what had brought her back into the lineup.
And, given the opportunity to shine, Sieler has kept herself there ever since.