On Saturday, the Michigan softball team was on the verge of giving up a no-hitter to No. 2 UCLA. But with two outs in the fourth inning, freshman first baseman Maddie Erickson broke through with a single to claim the Wolverines’ only hit of the game.
Although Michigan couldn’t capitalize on the hit and was thoroughly dominated by the Bruins in the 8-0 run-rule loss, Erickson’s at bat capped off a series of solid showings from the freshmen Wolverines throughout the weekend.
“We’re getting them really good experience, that’s for sure,” Michigan coach Bonnie Tholl said. “We have to just keep working and knowing that the offensive scheme and the offensive strategy is going to click.”
Though the offense struggled over the weekend — only scoring seven runs in all five games — the freshmen continuously showed up and produced when called upon.
Against Central Florida on Thursday, freshman infielder Avery Fantucci opened up the scoring with her first career RBI to bring home freshman pinch runner Madi Ramey. Then, with one out in the sixth inning, a single from Erickson set off a series of base hits that led to another Michigan run and a 2-0 victory.
An Erickson at bat also sparked the offense against Seattle on Friday when she reached first off a fielding error to lead off the second inning. A couple batters later, Ramey — pinch running for Erickson — scored, but two outs threatened to thwart the Wolverines’ momentum.
Freshman infielder Janelle Ilacqua, however, was unfazed. Faced with a 1-2 count, she hit an RBI single to put Michigan up 2-0. Then, with a tie game in the seventh inning, Ilacqua once again delivered as she hit a single and subsequently scored the game winning run.
Both Erickson and Ilacqua created a spark when the Wolverines needed it most.
“(I) really liked the presence of Janelle and really liked the presence of Maddie Erickson to be able to manage their at bats and be productive for us getting on base,” Tholl said. “(I’m) looking forward to their growth continuing.”
In addition to the offensive growth, the freshmen have also provided stability in the infield. Ilacqua and Fantucci started all five games over the weekend at second base and shortstop, respectively. Erickson started three games at first base and the other two as designated player.
The outfield has been consistent all season with sophomore Ellie Sieler and graduate students Lexie Blair and Ellie Mataya sharing the duties. Now, Tholl is looking to find that same certainty in the infield, whether it comes from the freshmen or more veteran players.
“We’re just trying to find people that we can count on inning-in and inning-out in game-to-game,” Tholl said. “We haven’t really found a flow to both our offense and our defense … so we’re just trying to figure it out and put all the pieces together.”
Some of the pieces did come together this weekend in the field. Aside from the thrashing at the hands of UCLA, the Wolverine defense held its opponents to two runs or less. And the more the freshmen play together, the more stability they are able to provide.
“It’s definitely interesting having a majority of a freshman infield,” Ilacqua said. “I think that kind of helps because we’re all pretty close just knowing each other and living together. I think as the more games progress, the more we talk to each other and the more we learn each other’s strengths.”
As the offensive struggles have persisted throughout the weekend and the season as a whole, solid defense has kept Michigan competitive. This weekend, Tholl relied on her freshmen to provide both that defensive front and an offensive spark.
And more than most on the team, they delivered.