No doubt a prolific offensive team, No. 2 Michigan softball has been a slow starter in recent games. Against Ohio State last weekend and against Michigan State on Wednesday, the Wolverines used productive fourth and fifth inning offensive spurts to put their opponents out of reach.
However, versus Maryland, Michigan (13-2 Big Ten, 35-4 overall) began to chalk up runs from the get-go, as a four-run haul in the first inning put the Terrapins (3-12, 11-33) out of sight quickly, as the Wolverines would ease to a 9-1 win at Alumni Field on Friday night.
“I don’t make much of (the quick start,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “I thought we took advantage of some free bases, and I hate to give them up and I like to take advantage of them.”
Sophomore first baseman Tera Blanco, who is hitting .420 on the season, good for second-best on the team, gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead with a single that drove in senior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence and senior second baseman Sierra Romero.
“(Hitting fifth) made me see a lot better pitches,” Blanco said. “I think that made me more comfortable … and just being more comfortable is why I am having success right now.”
As Blanco continues to occupy a prominent spot in the Michigan’s lineup, her former spot in the lineup, seventh, is now occupied by sophomore catcher Aidan Falk.
Falk, who started much of the season on the bench as freshman catcher Alex Sobczak was entrusted with starting duties, has seen her average rise consistently in the last couple of weeks, as her .278 average was buoyed by a two-run double that pushed the lead to 4-0 in that first inning.
With a 4-0 lead in hand, junior right-hander Megan Betsa was able to stymie Maryland’s lineup, as the Terrapins were only able to muster one run and one hit, with both of those coming in the fourth inning.
As Betsa commanded the circle, the Wolverines lineup received offensive production from a multitude of sources, with junior shortstop Abby Ramirez’s big day the most exciting development of all.
Ramirez, who missed a string of games in March, continues to work her way back to full strength after an ankle injury, recorded her first multi-hit game in more than a month as her two base hits from the ninth spot allowed her to get on base and give the top of the lineup a chance to knock her in.
“Hutchins was saying today that the ninth place is a place of honor,” Ramirez said. “I really take pride in it because I want to turn the lineup over and because we have some great hitters at the top-of-the lineup.”
Ramirez did just that in fifth inning, as her single and eventual progression to third base allowed her to score on junior left fielder Kelly Christner’s sacrifice fly that secured a run-rule victory.
“Abby told me she is 85 percent of her normal self,” Hutchins said. “I said, ‘85 percent of Abby is good enough.’”