BLOOMINGTON — When Katie Alexander walks up to the plate, pitchers pay attention. When she’s behind it, batters should be worried.
The senior catcher is far from the most reliable batter in the lineup with an average of .279. Though her slump in March put her batting average well below .200, it has been steadily rising since Michigan’s home opener.
But when she gets contact with the ball, it’s gone.
Alexander leads the team with 10 home runs on the season along with her five doubles and 26 runs batted in.
Her power came in handy during the Wolverines’ Friday quarterfinal game against No. 9 seed Illinois. When the offense wasn’t producing, Alexander got the first hit of the game — a double into the warning track.
In her second at-bat, Alexander dropped a ball straight along the left field line to load the bases for the Wolverines. She finished two for three on the day.
Midway through the season, Alexander emerged as a threat at the bottom of the lineup when she started hitting bombs — sometimes two per game. While her overall batting average is still relatively low, it’s skyrocketed over the past month. She’s produced on 23 of her 64 conference plate appearance for an average of .359.
“She struggled for a period but she’s been pretty good lately,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “She just looks really calm and relaxed in the box and not too pressing.”
Alexander didn’t get much of an opportunity to contribute to the Wolverines’ total run count in Saturday’s semifinal against No. 5 seed Wisconsin — she struck out once and walked twice. Alexander found another place to contribute to Michigan’s take down of the Badgers: behind the plate.
Combined with her battery partner, sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien, the pair is hard to compete with.
After working side-by-side for two years, the duo has developed a strong rapport, never more evident than in the second inning of the semifinal game.
“Katie, last year, took Meghan in and we championed Meghan,” Hutchins said. “But Katie just does a really good job with all of our pitchers. She knows what buttons to push with them, she helps them behind the plate and she gives them a lecture when she needs one.”
With a runner on second, the No. 5 seed Wisconsin sent a ball back to the warning track where senior outfielder Natalie Peters was waiting to make the snag. Peters fired the ball back to third. Both the ball and the runner got past junior third baseman Madison Uden, but Beaubien — out of the circle — made the catch, making a timely throw to Alexander who tagged the runner at home.
This wasn’t Alexander’s first big save of the game. In the first, she prevented a stolen base that ended the inning.
In the upcoming final, the Wolverines will have to continue to rely on Alexander — on both sides of the plate.