So far this season, the Michigan softball team has been erratic, at best.
While it’s easy to point to an offense yet to find its rhythm, scoring a total of 52 runs in 14 games, the defense has seen its fair share of uneven performances, particularly in the infield. No two games better sum up the strengths and pitfalls of this season’s infield better than the two losses against No. 7 Louisiana State (13-3) this weekend.
The Wolverines (6-8) made several smart plays in both games, giving up four total runs to the highly-ranked team over the course of the weekend. The second inning of Friday’s game, in particular, highlighted Michigan’s defensive prowess when freshman right-hander Alex Storako caught a runner trying to steal third.
The infield is composed of several veteran players including senior second baseman Faith Canfield, sophomore infielder Taylor Bump, junior third baseman Madison Uden and sophomore infielder Natalia Rodriguez, among others. Theoretically, this should work in the Wolverine’s favor.
“(Having an experienced infield) is a huge advantage,” Uden said on Feb. 5. “Faith does a great job communicating, Natalia has a really great glove. But it’s really nice having Natalia and Faith there because you kind of already know how they play, what their range is, what you can expect from them, honestly to the nitty-gritty of how they throw the ball to you is huge because it’s consistent and you know what to expect.”
This hasn’t always been the case, though, as there were also several times this weekend when the infield faltered, starting with a fielding error by Uden in the third inning of Friday’s game. The error allowed a runner to advance to second and eventually cross home, the deciding factor in a 1-0 Michigan loss.
Communication was particularly an issue in the bottom of the fourth inning during Sunday’s game when Storako misread a cue from senior catcher Katie Alexander. While the ball was caught in left field, the miscommunication could have been costly as Louisiana State had two runners on base.
“I think we can all communicate a little bit better,” Bump said on Feb. 19. “I don’t want to say there’s been a lot of hesitation but there’s definitely been instances where we can communicate a little bit better where someone in the infield can call timeout and bring us all together when we’re struggling, when our pitcher’s struggling.”
Stronger communication is likely to develop over time as the Wolverines adjust to a consistent lineup, something that has yet to materialize.
With the lineup still varying from game to game, Michigan will have to work a little harder to develop a strong dynamic amongst the infield players.
“I think our entire infield is working on their trust relationship,” Bump said on Feb. 19. “I think that’s something we’ll get toward by the end of the season.”