Michigan will need more consistent offensive production moving forward. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

In Tuesday’s win over Central Michigan, the Michigan softball team found all of its scoring in a single-inning outburst.

The Wolverines first took advantage of pitching falters from the Chippewas. With junior outfielder Audrey LeClair in scoring position via a single to left center and a second-base steal, freshmen infielder Ella McVey and utility player Annabelle Widra capitalized on long at-bats to get on base with a walk and a hit by a pitch, respectively. Four more balls to graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhardt, and LeClair was forced in by the loaded bases.

Then, one huge crack of the bat from graduate second-baseman Melina Livingston scored the rest, immediately bringing the score to a comfortable 5-1 with an emphatic grand slam.

But the rest of the game was dramatically different at the plate. Michigan came up empty twice with loaded bases in the previous inning and could not make baserunners in both the first and second count. 

If the Wolverines intend to stay competitive, the run-conversion seen in the fourth has to be the relative norm instead of a one-off. They do know this, but sometimes that knowledge can compound issues instead of solve them. 

“They were coming out of their legs and were a bit disconnected,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “They’re just muscling up when the key to swinging well is bat speed and you don’t get bat speed when you muscle up and try to hit it. We just have to get off that and go back to trusting ourselves.”

The first place the Wolverines can look for multiple lessons on bringing that productivity out of its fourth-inning isolation is by examining the even-keeled demeanor that defined those plays.

It would have been easy for Burkhardt to “muscle up” at the plate in the fourth, especially considering Michigan got nothing out of the last time it touted loaded bases in the second. The even-keeled season leader in hits, however, was able to mirror the calm that loaded those bases in the first place and take the pitches she was given in the third. 

“In that situation, obviously I wanted to get a hit,” Burkhardt said. “But if I can draw a walk, just to get one run on the board and just keep the mojo going, that’s what I’m going to do. I didn’t want to force a ball to be a strike in that position, so luckily I was able to get the walk.”

Once again, the player mindset would match the situation in Livingston. She has surged to lead the team in terms of batting average under a week after her first home run.

“(Melina) is just a ball of energy,” Burkhardt said. “If she’s in the game or not in the game, you can just always feel her presence and I honestly think that’s what is carrying her through this. She’s ready at any moment, she’s got the mindset, she’s gonna get it done and it’s awesome.”

For the Wolverines to find this groove with greater frequency, the yin-and-yang of Burkhardt’s steadiness and Livingston’s fire needs to spread equally through the lineup. This will allow for them to wake up to the call for results, without letting that urgency create new problems.

Otherwise, it will be hard to expect results beyond isolated innings.