The No. 11 Michigan softball team’s offensive performance over the weekend wasn’t without its blemishes.
Yet, in the moments when the lineup needed a spark, Morgan Overaitis provided the impetus.
The sophomore designated player slid seamlessly into the cleanup spot, registering a team-high 10 hits across the five game slate, batting .586. She posted a career-best three hits against No. 7 Florida and, in a 2-1 victory over South Florida, she drove in the eventual winning run in the eighth inning on a single to left field.
“Morgan was pretty hot this weekend,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Obviously, her bat needs to be in the lineup.”
Overaitis added: “I think just having a one-pitch mindset, focusing on the one thing I can control at the moment. I think that helps me just focus on me and nothing else.”
Last February, Overaitis entered her collegiate debut as FloSoftball’s No. 18 overall prospect and the reigning Detroit Free Press High School Softball Player of the Year. She made an immediate impact, going three-for-nine with three RBI in the opening tournament, cementing a spot in the starting lineup moving forward.
Soon after, though, Overaitis hit a wall. Her batting average hovered around the mendoza line, and she lost her starting role permanently on March 9.
For such a decorated high school player, the transition from starter to bench player brought her into unfamiliar territory. In hindsight, it’s an experience that helped shape her current gameplay.
“One thing we’ve talked about is just trusting the process,” Overaitis said. “Trusting what we’ve been doing in practice, not doing too much, not trying to be outside of your comfort zone. We’ve been playing softball all our lives. It’s just a matter of using what we’ve been practicing, trusting what we know we can do.”
Overaitis’s growth from her freshman year to now hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst her teammates.
“She’s understanding the system, but also (we’re) seeing her ability to have really good pitch selection,” senior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad said. “That’s improved a ton. And obviously her presence on the field, she’s a little more confident, and that’s a huge part of playing, improving your confidence.”
Thus far, improved confidence has enabled Overaitis to feel comfortable in the cleanup spot and translated to early success at the plate. It’s also hoped that it helps to rekindle a lost-attribute to her game: power.
Hutchins knows that Overaitis can drive the ball to right field as good as anyone on the team. At Salem High School, Overaitis established a school record with 38 home runs. Yet as a Wolverine, that power has been largely absent — she has only one career home run.
“She got a piece of a lot of balls that weren’t even necessarily well-hit balls,” Hutchins said of Overaitis’s weekend performance. “So that’s a plus. We’re just trying to get her on time. She’s got more power than she’s showed.”
“She brings some sneaky power as a hitter,” Hoogenraad added. “She’s someone you don’t necessarily think is gonna come up and be really powerful, but she swings a really good bat. She’s got a lot of bat speed and when she lets the ball get in deep, she hits it really hard.”