Last year, Lexie Blair was arguably the best hitter on the Michigan softball team. This year, the sophomore left fielder’s held the worst batting average on the team — until now.
During the UCLA/LBSU Invitational last weekend, she flipped the script and finally seemed to escape the hitting slump that’s been plaguing her.
Thursday, against Cal State Fullerton, Blair had a breakthrough, going 3-for-4 en route to a .239 batting average on the game.
In the same game, Blair walked once and didn’t strike out at all — something that’s bothered her consistency at the plate thus far. She also stole a base against CSF. Putting pressure on an opposing team’s defense is something unseen by Blair previously this season, but is reminiscent of her play last year.
“For me, in the beginning, I was just putting a lot of unnecessary weight on my shoulders,” Blair said. “Trying too hard not to disappoint the team after the (freshman) year I had. Trying to live up to expectations when really I just needed to get out and just play the game like I know how and just kind of get back in rhythm with my swing and what not. Just trying to find that success again.”
Against the Titans, Blair contributed one run and an RBI. Slamming a ball into center field, Blair also had a double in that game. On a team with little power-hitting so far this season, Blair’s ability to bring in runs at the top of the lineup amidst a team-wide offensive struggle, could be a key piece of the Wolverines’ lineup moving forward.
In Friday’s matchup against Boston University, Blair had similar success. Going 2-for-3 she added a run to Michigan’s 2-1 win. In addition she added another double, only one of two in the entire game.
Prior to last weekend, Blair had struggled tremendously in the batter’s box. Swinging at bad pitches led to her drop in the batting order from first, to second and eventually to eighth. Now she’s moved back up to second in the lineup and is bringing more consistency to the batting order.
“We’re just trying to take it one pitch at a time,” Blair said. “It’s easy to get way ahead of yourself and try to focus on the outcome. And which, for our team, being outcome oriented doesn’t always grant you success. So trying to be patient. Finding our pitch. Sticking to that mentality is what kind of helps us propel more runs on the board.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has drilled the one-pitch focus into her players so often that it’s become second nature. But for Blair, it was more about embodying the motto than just knowing it.
“I think that a lot of the issues we have are related to our passive tentativeness,” Hutchins said. “Uncertainty. And we have to just go up there and swing and not worry about anything. Not worry whether it’s the right pitch. Not worry whether we miss. That will help our swing get back to where we’re capable of.”
Despite her struggle this weekend, Blair’s persevered through the adversity she’s faced at the plate. And her continued presence in the lineup speaks to Hutchins’s belief in her as a hitter.
When asked about Blair’s tough times so far this season, on Feb. 25 Hutchins declared her faith in her.
“I trust that she’ll get there,” she said.
And last weekend indicates she’s on her way.