Lexie Blair is back.
The senior outfielder announced Wednesday via the Michigan softball Twitter account that she will rejoin the Wolverines for her fifth season, exercising her extra year of eligibility granted to all athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout her first four years with the team, Blair was instrumental to the Wolverines’ success. She carries a .376/.432/.565 career slash line, and has earned an All-Big Ten first team selection in every full season she has played. Blair also won the Big Ten Player of the Year award in the conference-only 2021 season.
But Blair’s senior season faced an unexpected bump in the road. On April 1 against Northwestern, she careened into the center-field wall while making an acrobatic catch. Blair left the game with a knee injury and was subsequently sidelined for three weeks.
Even when she returned to the field, Blair found herself in a new position. With her knee still too injured to play the outfield, she shifted over to first base for the rest of the season.
Once she was healthy, though, Blair quickly made her impact on Michigan’s lineup once again. She batted .349 after coming back, with nine extra base hits and 11 RBI over just 15 games. Blair particularly shined in wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin, with five hits and four RBI between those two contests.
Blair’s decision comes as welcome news for the Wolverines, who are facing plenty of roster turnover this offseason — particularly via the transfer portal
Senior right-hander Alex Storako and freshman utility player Annabelle Widra have announced transfers to Oklahoma and Auburn, respectively. Senior catcher Hannah Carson, junior first baseman Lauren Esman and sophomore utility player Sierra Kersten all placed their names in the transfer portal as well.
But as Michigan coach Carol Hutchins attempts to navigate the portal to fill some of those potentially unanticipated holes, she now knows that she won’t have to worry much about the outfield. Between Blair, junior Audrey LeClair and freshman Ellie Sieler, the Wolverines’ outfield is the only positional group on the team that won’t greatly change.
Though next year’s Michigan squad is set to feature plenty of new faces, Blair’s won’t be. As the Wolverines look to reclaim the title of Big Ten champions and advance past the NCAA regional, that’s a good start.