There’s no place like home.
Tapping her heels together, those magical words enabled Dorothy to go full circle in her journey — from Kansas to Oz, and then back to Kansas.
For Michigan utility player Tera Blanco, no words could have described the situation better as she recorded her second home run of the season against No. 8 Baylor at the Judi Garman Classic held Friday in Fullerton, Calif — a meeting ending with a 6-3 Wolverine victory.
Watching the ball sail past the fence, she made her way across the bases toward a familiar place.
First base. Second base. Third base. Home.
Blanco — a California native from Huntington Beach — is no stranger to hitting home runs. A former All-American, the senior had a career total of 26 home runs coming into the season. She produced a .404 batting season her sophomore year.
Despite her production dropping last year, Blanco proved against the Bears that she still has it with her first at bat of the game. Coming up to bat, she walked to the home plate she had been accustomed to for years.
Growing up less than 30 miles from Fullerton, Blanco attended the very event that she would take part in years later, playing for the team she found herself watching time and time again.
Now she had the chance to do what she had always dreamed of as a child.
Standing at the plate, Blanco readied herself to face a Baylor pitcher and staff that had only allowed more than two runs in a game once all season.
An early run was essential for instilling confidence in offense that had been inconsistent throughout the season.
“We give our kids certain, ‘front-line focus,’ we call it,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “Front-line focus is a military term and to focus on, you know, the message, which is to simplify the game for them. Most games we have a plan where there’s a certain pitch to hit, where there’s a certain way to stand in the box and that’ll change from game to game, and really from pitcher to pitcher, but they embraced and they believed in it and so they executed it well.”
Front-line focus was what the Wolverines needed to build consistency.
Just before Blanco came up to bat, junior second baseman Faith Canfield led off the game by hitting a single. With a runner at first, junior outfielder Natalie Peters hit a ball toward third base that was mishandled by the Bears third baseman, allowing the two to advance a base.
Standing at home plate with her family in the crowd, Blanco watched as two pitches flew by in front of her. Both were called balls. Cocking back her bat for the third pitch, she could tell right away it wasn’t going to be the same as the last two.
And the home run proved it.
Her eyes trailed the ball as it flew past left field, and she grinned while making her way around the diamond. With an entourage waiting to meet her at home plate, and her hometown and family close by, she tapped her heels not against each other, but against the plate — feeling right at home.