Katie Alexander hadn’t hit a home run in 14 games. But this weekend in Columbus, she knocked two. And in one game.
Following the senior catcher’s lead, the No. 21 Michigan softball team went 2-1 in three games against Ohio State, winning, 10-3 and 6-2, before dropping the weekend’s final game, 2-1. Even with the loss Saturday, which snapped the Wolverines’ 17-game win streak, the two comeback wins marked a shift in power at the plate, a welcome sign for Michigan’s offense, which at times has lacked in run generation.
After an RBI single in the third inning that gave the Buckeyes the first run of the weekend, Michigan didn’t regress from the setback like in many earlier games this season. Instead, it thrived on the hardship.
In the fourth inning, junior third baseman Madison Uden hit a groundout to Ohio State shortstop Lilli Piper that drove in freshman outfielder Lexie Blair to tie the game.
The run began a surge of power for the Wolverines.
In the same inning, junior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad hit a triple to right field for an RBI and Alexander slammed her first home run to right field for two RBI.
“I was just really seeing the ball really well that night and was confident,” Alexander said. “We felt really good.”
After Buckeye catcher Claire Nicholson homered to left field and senior first baseman Alex Sobczak hit a sacrifice flyout for an RBI to increase the score to 5-3, Alexander hit her second blast for a home run. Hoogenraad furthered the power and finished the game with a grand slam to left field.
“(Michigan coach Carol Hutchins) always goes by me and says, ‘Try less hard and really trust what you can do’ and I think that’s really a huge thing that helps me,” Hoogenraad said. “I think (today) was just a huge burst of confidence.”
The next game continued that assertiveness at the plate. Down 2-0 heading into the second inning, Hoogenraad and Alexander continued to lead the lineup, delivering an RBI single apiece. Aside from a home run by Sobczak in the third inning, other scoring resulted from RBI singles as well, as the Wolverines won 6-2.
Even with lackluster starts, Hutchins sees the wins as strong performances for the Wolverines, with players in both the top and bottom of the lineup producing offensively.
“They just connected on pitches on time, and that’s what we’re always striving for,” Hutchins said. “We really needed the sixth through ninth players to pick up their production, and they did an outstanding job.”
Hutchins maintained that attitude even in Saturday’s 2-1, eight-inning loss. Up 1-0 off a walk that forced a run, sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien allowed a home run in the seventh inning that tied the game, then a walk-off single that won the game for Ohio State. Despite the slip-up in the last two innings, Beaubien’s shut out performance in the first six innings still signified a strong day in Hutchins’ eyes.
“Meghan threw 12 shutout innings against a really big hitting team, and they got a piece of her in the seventh inning. … I told her our offense didn’t do its part today. Our pitching did its part,” Hutchins said. “We were behind in both of our victories and we didn’t let it shake us and rattle us and we just fought back. I think our kids can’t complain. To win we had to fight. And I thought we fought really hard.”