Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins has a favorable problem on her hands.
“For a while it’s been ‘nobody is getting it done, and I don’t know who to put in the lineup,’ ” Hutchins said. “Now, I have a lot of people getting it done, and I can’t put them all in. I like that problem way better.”
The nineteenth-ranked Wolverines (37-10-1 overall, 17-3 Big Ten) have recently experienced the emergence of freshman infielder Madison Uden and sophomore catcher Alex Sobczak, who have made it more difficult for Hutchins to make batting orders.
Uden, who received her first career start April 21 at Wisconsin, has hit .305 with seven RBIs and a home run this season. Replacing junior Amanda Vargas as the designated player, Uden has provided a spark the lineup, collecting five hits in Michigan’s last five games.
“I’m just looking for people to hit the ball hard,” Hutchins said. “She’s done that — Uden is a good hitter. I’m pleased with her.”
Sobczak has also been heavily featured in the ever-changing Wolverine batting order. After receiving pinch-hitting opportunities during the Wisconsin series, Sobczak started the second half of Friday’s doubleheader against Indiana, going 3-4 with an RBI.
With this success, Sobczak and sophomore Katie Alexander have now resumed a battle for the starting catcher’s role that goes back to last fall. Alexander seized the position and held it throughout much of March and April, but when her bat began to cool off, Hutchins decided to give Sobczak another look.
“I like Sobczak and Katie — who kind of comes and goes,” Hutchins said. “They’re our future — the more we can get them in the better.”
The future of Michigan softball will likely be on display when the Wolverines host Western Michigan (21-5, 9-12 Mid-American) on Tuesday evening. Hutchins doesn’t want to look past the Broncos, but she said that she’d like to give more players opportunities throughout the contest.
That could mean that freshman outfielders Thais Gonzalez and Haley Hoogenraad receive chances at the plate. Certainly, Uden should expect to see at-bats, as she continues to impress the coaching staff with her offensive pop.
The contest could provide more clarity for Hutchins when deciding on a lineup for this weekend’s series at Rutgers — one that could prove pivotal for Big Ten Tournament seeding. Michigan sits just two games behind No. 4 Minnesota for first place in conference.
Standings aside, Hutchins will focus on finding a batting order that fosters consistency for the postseason both Tuesday and this weekend.
But until then, she’ll attempt to solve an easier lineup problem than she faced earlier in the season.
“I’d like to settle on a lineup,” Hutchins said. “I think they need it. Right now, I have the same problem I had before — only it’s in a better way.”