Hannah Carson crouches down to her knees with her glove extended out in front of her.
Senior catcher Hannah Carson and the Michigan softball team's bats came alive in a series sweep against Wisconsin. Kate Hua/Daily.  Buy this photo.

Entering the fifth inning of the Michigan softball team’s final regular season game, it looked like the Wolverines would be unable to buck a frustrating trend that plagued them throughout the entire season; it looked like they’d end the season without a weekend sweep.

After dominating the first two games against Wisconsin (27-18 overall, 12-11 Big Ten) through explosive hitting combined with stellar pitching, Michigan (34-15, 14-8) struggled to replicate that on Sunday. The Wolverines faced a five run deficit in the third game with just a few innings left to play. Engaged in a full blown slug fest, the bats that guided them to their first two victories were once again putting up numbers.

In only four innings, the Badgers accumulated nine runs — the most Michigan has allowed in a game all season — and forced the Wolverines to burn through three pitchers. 

But those nine runs wouldn’t be nearly enough, as Michigan’s batters dominated the last three innings with nine unanswered runs of their own to pull off a 13-9 comeback victory and finally earn a weekend sweep to close out the regular season.

“It’s a big thing just to prove to ourselves that we could do it,” graduate second baseman Melina Livingston said. “… I think us building and really showing the Big Ten what we’re made of is going to prove to be really big for us.”

In all three games in the series, Michigan came out firing right from the jump. It managed to score at least a run in the first inning of each contest and put itself in good position for the rest of the game. 

But the Wolverines’ success didn’t just stem from early scoring. It came as the result of some of the most complete performances they’ve had at the plate strung together. On the weekend, Michigan went 41-for-102 at the plate and scored 29 runs — 14 more than the total in its next most productive series.

“Something we did great this weekend was just breathing at the plate,” senior catcher Hannah Carson said. “We didn’t put so much pressure on ourselves. All we were trying to do was just pass the bat because one person can’t win the whole game. … Do what you can one pitch at a time and just pass the bat.”

Working as a unit, the Wolverines’ hitting drove them to victory in every game. In Friday’s game, the bats put up 10 runs and scored in every inning except the fifth; on Saturday, they amassed 15 hits; and on Sunday their late resurgence put 13 runs on the board, five of which came off of Livingston’s bat. Livingston dominated Sunday, going 3-for-3 with a home run and reaching base all five times she stepped up to the plate.

But no batter was more impactful on the weekend than senior catcher Hannah Carson, who finished the series at 8-for-12 with five RBI and seven runs. 

“I was just trying to see the back of the ball,” Carson said. “Just making (the ball) be in my zone, I’m an aggressive hitter. I like to attack early in counts, and just making the pitcher pitch to me, that really helped.”

While the bats were the main story of the weekend, the pitching was more than solid for the first two games, and the opposite in the last. But without Sunday’s explosive comeback, the series sweep would have been out of the picture.

The pitching collapsed early on Sunday as senior right-hander Alex Storako allowed a three run bomb that ended her afternoon after just one inning. Then freshman right-hander Annabelle Widra surrendered a two-run shot in the second inning before being subbed for fifth-year senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien in the fourth. 

Beaubien quickly loaded the bases and allowed two more to score, and the pitching changes continued. Finally, freshman righty Lauren Derkowski entered and allowed two unearned runs, but settled down after that lapse. Derkowski completed the game allowing no more runs to score and earned the win.  

With Sunday’s victory, the Wolverines finish the regular season fourth in the Big Ten, a consequential distinction because it allows them to avoid a play-in game, meaning they’ll have an extra day before they open the conference tournament against Michigan State or Maryland. 

“All year we’ve been telling each other ‘we’re a postseason team, we’re a postseason team,’ ” Carson said. “And I really truly believe that. I think we’re going to excel.”

If Michigan’s bats continue where they left off on Sunday, Carson’s words might be prophetic.