On Friday night, everything was going as planned for the Michigan softball team. The Wolverines, coming off of back-to-back wins against University of Missouri-Kansas City and Illinois State, had won both of their games in exactly the expected fashion: with dominant pitching.
In the first day of the Rawlings Invitational, senior right-hander Alex Storako and graduate left-hander Meghan Beaubien shined in their season debuts, allowing only one combined run in 6-0 and 4-1 victories over the Roos and Redbirds.
But no matter who a team puts on the mound, it needs hits to win important games.
On Saturday against No. 6 Florida, the bats fell silent.
Michigan couldn’t touch the Gators’ right-hander Lexie Delbray. Entering the seventh and final inning against Delbray, the Wolverines were hitless, only barely preventing a no-hitter with a last-inning single from senior catcher Hannah Carson.
Just hours after dropping to Florida 4-0, it was deja vu all over again for the Wolverines. It was another underwhelming outing in the batter’s box that cratered their chances of victory against an unranked University of South Florida team as they lost 4-1.
“We’ve got a lot of growing to do,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We’ve got a ways to go. If there’s one area I know we can definitely get better at, it’s trusting our game and not trying too hard, especially at the plate. We’ve got to remember our strengths.”
Against the Bulls, the Wolverines were able to put runners on base, but not in a consecutive fashion. Despite six hits against USF’s Georgina Corrick, Michigan never had more than one person on base at a time, and its sole run of the game came as a result of a wild pitch followed by an error.
Through 14 innings of softball Saturday, the Wolverines managed just one run, and it went into the box score marked “unearned.”
Michigan’s pitching was just average on Saturday, allowing 11 total hits and eight runs, split evenly, on the day. But the fact of the matter is that the pitching wasn’t the problem. In the Wolverines bout against USF, the Bulls had fewer hits, but they created chances for themselves in a way Michigan failed to.
In many respects, Michigan responded on Sunday. In another matchup with Roos, it consistently put batters on base with ten hits in a 2-0 victory, and the pitching was once again in prime form. But at the same time, runs were hard to come by, and much of what doomed the Wolverines against USF was still present in their rematch against Kansas City.
Two losses in an opening weekend tournament say relatively little about a team’s current skill level, or potential but it does give the Wolverines the first chance to examine their flaws using someone other than themselves as a measuring stick.
As Storako put it:
“I was just really excited to be throwing to someone other than my teammates this weekend.”
Competition like Florida is exactly what Michigan needs if it wants to really be tested. Teams like the Gators and other SEC schools will, in some cases, give the Wolverines chances to prove their strength, and in others, expose their weaknesses. This weekend, both Florida teams did the latter.
“It was the first weekend, there’s a lot more games to play,” Storako said. “We definitely learned a lot more about ourselves as a team. It was a good first stepping stone, but there’s a lot to build on from this weekend.”