Efficiency, for much of the No. 14 Michigan softball team’s season, has been a two-sided coin.
On one side, the Wolverines boast a pitching staff with one of the lowest earned-run averages in the country and have the second-highest fielding percentage in the country. Michigan, to put it lightly, is not an easy team to score against.
On the other side, the Wolverines have seen their fair share of close matches too — even with a stalwart defense in their back pockets. Stranded runners for Michigan have left the team in tight situations against mediocre opponents that it has no business being in.
In a 12-1 win over Maryland Saturday, that was not the case. That two-sided coin always flipped in Michigan’s favor, showing the Terrapins how devastating a large gap in execution can be.
That difference was apparent, as it has been for much of the season, in fielding. In the top of the first inning, freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez made a diving catch for an out and turned the next Maryland batter’s hit into a double-play.
One inning later, the Wolverines drove in two runs when junior second baseman Faith Canfield lined a hit to the Maryland center fielder, who committed an error while corraling the ball, allowing the seemingly-single become a double. Canfield scored one play later on a throwing error by the Terrapins’ shortstop. The Terrapins committed four errors on the day.
Offensively, Michigan left nothing on the table for the Terrapins to take advantage of. Five Wolverines had multiple hits, most notably including junior outfielder Natalie Peters’ four runs batted in.
Even though Maryland gave the Wolverines a scare when it hit a home run single in the top of the second inning, Michigan came back to score two runs of its own in each of the first two innings. The team broke the game open with a six-run explosion in the third inning.
“We really took advantage of the free bases that we got, being walked, hit by pitches, and the errors,” said senior right hander Tera Blanco. “We really capitalized on those and I think that played a big part in our success today. We didn’t really do anything different for them to make errors. Our slappers did a really good job putting the ball in play and making things happen.”
The large scoreboard cushion gave the Wolverines a chance to substitute in some of their players lower down on the depth chart. When Michigan sends out players like senior pinch hitter Amanda Vargas, and junior catcher Alex Sobczak, it’s not just random playing time. As evidenced by the bench unit’s two runs, time at the plate and in the field, gives them a chance to build some efficiency of their own.
“It’s awesome, getting people at bats and getting people more innings,” Blanco said. “It makes it more comfortable in the box so that when they do go in in a big situation. They’re gonna be able to have their timing down and see more live pitching.”