Lexie Blair stood at the plate. It was the bottom of the fifth and the junior outfielder — who leads Michigan in nearly every hitting statistic — was in the midst of a middling game on offense, doubling her season strikeout total with her two at-bats.
Her teammate, sophomore designated player Lauren Esman, watched at second, ready to run at any moment.
Instead of swinging for it all, and possibly extending her season-long hit streak — which she eventually preserved with a sixth-inning single — Blair laid down a sac bunt advancing Esman to third.
Then, as Blair stood in the dugout watching, Esman scored just two batters later when senior first baseman Lou Allan sent a single deep into right, giving the Wolverines a 4-1 lead.
The moment was a microcosm for the day the Michigan softball team had. The comprehensive team effort propelled it to a 6-1 victory over Michigan State in its first game at Alumni Field — albeit an almost empty one — in nearly two years.
“Well, you know that’s what you hope for (getting production from everywhere),” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We just chipped away and everybody contributed a little bit, which was nice because we need everybody to chip in. We don’t want the game to always come down to just one or two people.”
Instances of strong team play were everywhere on the day for the Wolverines. After a first inning in which the top four in the order went scoreless, the onus was on the back half to generate some life for Michigan down 2-1.
The spark they needed came from fifth-year outfielder Haley Hoogenraad, who hit a two-out, high-arcing ball past first that just barely stayed in play. A few miscues from the Spartans later, and the near-out from Hoogenraad turned into an inside the park home run, bringing in two runs and giving the Wolverines the lead.
“It just goes to show it takes everybody to win,” Hoogenraad said. “Everybody has an important role whether your role is to play defense and make a huge contribution there, or your if your role is to go for three. I think it just goes to show how important it is that every player on the team is making their contribution.”
On the day, four players for Michigan got an RBI, five players earned themselves runs and seven got hits. Again, a team performance.
That team performance didn’t just come from behind the plate, but also in the circle.
Senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien pitched the first three innings, striking out five batters and giving up a single run — a solo shot deep into the bleachers by Spartan Marissa Trivelpiece. Then, Beaubien handed over the reins to her co-ace: junior right-hander Alex Storako.
Storako didn’t miss a beat, immediately suffocating Michigan State with her pitching. She refused to concede even a single hit in her four-inning closing performance, indicative of the team attitude on the day, and on the tone at Alumni Field.
“Meghan and I have had each other’s backs for the last three years,” Storako said. “And it’s just exciting to know that whenever I go out there like, I got her back, or if she was coming from me, and vice versa and I think we do a very good job with that.”
That mentality permeated through Alumni Field Wednesday night. It didn’t matter that fans were sparse for their triumphant return home because they had each other.
And they played like it.