One wouldn’t normally associate football with softball, but coaches from both sports preach adherence to the “ground game” as a necessity to win.
On the gridiron that might mean handing the ball off to a running back and advancing the ball inch by inch rather than picking up a large chunk of yardage through the air.
In the same vein, the No. 17 Michigan softball team has seen first hand the value of ground balls over the past few games, and should look to use it against Purdue in this weekend’s upcoming series.
Against Iowa, the Wolverines saw their 18-game winning streak fall in large part because Michigan swung its bats towards the sky rather than the field. Even though the Wolverines mounted a furious comeback in the seventh inning, that ended when sophomore outfielder Haley Hoogenraad hit a fly ball to left field to end the game.
Against Detroit Mercy, Michigan quite literally stayed grounded. Junior catcher Katie Alexander sent a hit rolling through the diamond that was bobbled by a Titans fielder, and just like that the score was 1-0 in the second inning. Junior outfielder Natalie Peters singled through the left side and the scoreboard read 3-0, Wolverines.
Three more ground balls later, and Michigan got the luxury of a two-inning vacation and a 15-0 win in its back pocket.
“The biggest thing that we worked on in practice was just trying to make adjustments early,” said freshman first baseman Lou Allan. “I think that after the first inning, we all came together and kinda had a game plan of getting behind the ball and trying to get line drives and ground balls out into the defense and let it work. And I think that kept us calm and making adjustments quick in the game really helped us.”
Detroit Mercy isn’t the best team, but Iowa isn’t a world-beater either. Over the course of a 50-plus game season, the Wolverines have to stay true to the game plan at hand, even the mundane parts like hitting ground balls over towering fly balls or home runs.
A team like Purdue might not be the most talented team on Michigan’s schedule, but the Wolverines’ last two games offer a good example of what can happen when a team eschews the mundane for the more exciting. Purdue is just 8-24, 0-5 against ranked teams and just gave up 24 runs in two games. Michigan is 42-2 in its last 44 games against the Boilermakers, but if the Wolverines lose focus, any series can become a little too interesting.
In all aspects of softball, it would serve Michigan well to remain one way and one way only: grounded.