As the No. 1 Michigan softball team continues to rank among the nation’s best offensive teams, it does so while keeping its batting order relatively flexible.
The Wolverines rank first nationally in team scoring average and on-base percentage, second in home runs per game, third in slugging percentage and fifth in batting average. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins shifts around her lineup, moving players both up and down throughout the course of the season to match the ebbs and flows that their hitting undergoes.
“You see kids get hot and kids get cold,” Hutchins said. “You kinda go with the flow. You try not to react — kids are going to hit for average. Sometimes they’re going to be 3-for-3 or 0-for-3. But at some point, if it looks like they’re just not clicking in the order, you may move them around, you might put them down in the order to get them going. It may inspire them, it shakes them up enough, it helps them get better pitches down in the order.”
One player who has moved around the order this season is junior shortstop Abby Ramirez, who has both hit near the top of the lineup and at the bottom. Ramirez is currently batting ninth as she returns to form after an ankle injury.
“What I have learned is that basically in any position you’re in, don’t try and make it any bigger than it is,” Ramirez said. “A lot of times people think there is more pressure at the top of the lineup than at the bottom. When I did get moved to the top of the lineup I tried my best not to think about that and just basically do the same thing I was doing at the bottom.”
That approach has helped Ramirez hit at a .373 clip, which gives her the fourth-highest batting average on the team.
And the lineup isn’t just flexible in its sequence — even with the offense’s success thus far, there is room for players to work their way into the order.
Sophomore infielder Amanda Vargas is one example of a player who has gradually increased her at-bats this season, starting regularly now as a designated player.
“It’s definitely never set in stone,” said senior second baseman Sierra Romero. “We have a lot of players on our team who want to be in the lineup. It’s always a competition and always a challenge, but it’s good competition.
“Everyone’s working for that starting spot. Amanda has been doing a great job as our (DP). She showed so much potential when Hutch was randomly throwing her in — she was hitting bombs. So Hutch was finally like, ‘We need to get her in the lineup.’ She’s a perfect example of doing what’s asked and now she’s in the starting lineup.”