Like many of the No. 23 Michigan softball team’s series, the Wolverines’ bats started slow in this weekend’s matchup against Indiana.
In Friday and Saturday’s contests, the Wolverines failed to get on the board until the third inning in both games, registering just seven runs over two days.
But, also like many of the Wolverines’ games, all Michigan needed was a spark.
While the Wolverines came out on top in all three games, it was close each game, beating the Hoosiers by three runs on Friday and one in each of the final two.
In each game, the offense was sparked by a different player: junior third baseman Madison Uden’s home run on Friday, sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez’s bunt on Saturday and Natalie Peters single on Sunday.
After Peters reached first in the first inning of the series finale, a fire had been lit. One batter later, senior first baseman Alex Sobczak — the third of the power trio which had kept Michigan afloat earlier in the series — kept the streak going. Sobczak drilled a ball deep into center field for a double on which Peters reached home from first base.
This section of the lineup — from Peters to Sobczak — accounted for over half of the Wolverines’ runs this weekend.
Senior designated player Mackenzie Nemitz extended this hot streak with her first triple of the season, sending Sobczak home and increasing the Wolverines’ lead to two.
“Early in the game, we’re just trying to be on base,” Nemitz said. “I see (Michigan coach Carol Hutchins) waving me around and I’m like, ‘Is she sure?’ I even hesitated running around the bag for a second. It’s just about going hard the whole game. Don’t take any play off. Don’t take any at-bat off. It’s a fight.”
Blair returned to the plate in the bottom of the third, where she fired off a double to center field. Sobczak filed a ball to the same spot as her earlier at-bat, the only difference being this one cleared the center field wall for a two-run homer.
The Wolverines struggled to keep this fire lit later as the game progressed, going through three innings with only one hit — a problem they’d struggled with all weekend.
In both Friday and Saturday’s games, Michigan scored all of its runs between the third and fourth innings. While they continued to get runners on base, the Wolverines failed to get another runner all the way around the diamond for the remainder of each game.
When asked what accounted for the offensive slowdowns, some players cited a lack of patience at the plate. Hutchins thought it had to do with something else entirely: mentality.
“I didn’t think we swung well all weekend until the last inning,” Hutchins said. “Their pitchers knew how to keep us off balance but we didn’t adjust — we never adjusted.”
Sobczak, known for swinging early, thought Michigan was more patient facing Indiana’s pitchers in Sunday’s contest, though Hutchins disagreed.
“They were so locked-in in the seventh and they were not locked-in in quite a few innings,” Hutchins said. “We had a lot of bad at-bats. I did not agree with their assessment of their pitch selections at all. We gave away a lot of at-bats. We were sitting on pitches — meaning we were hunting for a specific pitch — and we were still mishitting them.”
Whether it was an issue of patience or a mental shift, the Wolverines made a change in the final inning, regaining momentum in a way they hadn’t been able to earlier in the series.
Down by two, senior second baseman Faith Canfield shot a ball out of the park, bringing the Hoosiers’ lead down to one. After Blair popped out to center field, Peters hit a double. Indiana right-hander Tara Trainer intentionally walked Sobczak, putting two runners on base with Nemitz at the plate.
With a walk-off double, Nemitz ended the game.
“It doesn’t matter when you score,” Hutchins said. “As long as the game doesn’t run out.”