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Deadly. Lucky. Cold.

All three words described the No. 17 Michigan softball team at different times in its opening weekend. Pitching carried the Wolverines to sweeps against Purdue and Iowa, but Illinois capitalized on Michigan’s inability to bring home runners to get a sweep of its own.

Ultimately, inconsistent run support proved to be the Wolverines’ downfall as the weekend progressed.

The pitching pulled its weight, notching 78 strikeouts on the weekend — Purdue couldn’t score a run on Michigan, as senior Meghan Beaubien and junior Alex Storako gave the Boilermakers little to swing at.

Hitting started off strong too, but its success dwindled over the course of the six games as the Wolverines managed just one run in each outing against Illinois on Sunday. Those woes could be expected after almost a year-long offseason.

“There’s something to be said for having a set lineup,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins told reporters on Tuesday. “The kids start getting in a flow, and having a flow in our offensive lineup is certainly, I think, one of our biggest challenges. And we just have to let them get out on the field and play. They’ve got to get their timing back.”

Michigan seemed to have some of its timing back, but still stranded 12 runners over the first two games. The Wolverines managed to get critical offense from junior outfielder Lexie Blair and sophomore infielder Julia Jimenez. Both batters seemed to pick up right where they left off last year.

Iowa fared no better than Purdue when the Hawkeyes took on Michigan. Beaubien posted her second shutout of the season in game one, and game two looked like another easy win for the red-hot Wolverines as Storako gave the Hawkeyes little room to breathe.

Michigan’s bullpen struggled in the next game against Iowa, but there are more games to sharpen that aspect of its game.

“It’s going to be really hard to rely on two pitchers in a six-game weekend,” Hutchins said Tuesday. “And largely in a four game weekend. … The opportunity’s there for the taking.”

But the Wolverines’ couldn’t keep the energy going as the weekend progressed. Michigan looked like a completely different team on Sunday, especially at the plate. Facing Illinois, each game would see any offense squashed by solid fielding and pitching. 

With the first game on the line as the Wolverines trailed by one in the seventh inning, struggles seemed to quell Michigan’s batters. Blair took first on an error and Jimenez sacrificed to put her in scoring position. However, a groundout put the Wolverines against the wall and a strikeout sealed their fate.

The same story could be told in the next game. Michigan again trailed by one in the final inning, when a single and a wild pitch put graduate outfielder Thais Gonzalez on second. Blair popped one up toward third and Illinois snagged it, ending the game and sealing the sweep. The team that dominated the first half of the weekend went out with a whimper to an unranked opponent.

Jimenez said that looking for the pitch each batter likes and keeping things simple can help with these issues. That simplicity helped her drive in four runs on the weekend and could help her teammates deliver much-needed run support.

Michigan showed two sides of the same coin this weekend: one that can win any way the game is played and another that can’t give its pitchers run support. When it came down to the pressure of scoring to stay alive, the Wolverines folded.

Softball is back, but it’s undetermined what the Wolverines will be this year. Strengths in pitching were confirmed, but hitting created more questions than answers.