After its 14-game win streak was snapped Sunday at the hands of No. 25 Ohio State, the No. 18 Michigan softball team (8-1 Big Ten, 28-8-1 overall) is determined to start a new string of victories as it squares up against Michigan State (5-4 Big Ten, 21-12 overall) on Wednesday night.
The midweek game between the two in-state rivals was originally scheduled to be in East Lansing — the first of a home-and-home series over the next two weeks — but floods from the Red Cedar River left the softball facilities unusable, forcing the game to be relocated to Ann Arbor.
Following a seven-game winless skid, the Spartans have rebounded, winning six of their last seven contests. Five of those wins have come against Big Ten schools — including a sweep of Maryland and two of three against Penn State.
Seven players on Michigan State’s squad that have 62 or more at-bats under their belt post a batting average of .300 or higher. Junior outfielder Lea Foerster stands out among them, boasting a .420 batting clip and a .870 slugging percentage.
However, the Spartans’ recent success looks meek compared to the Wolverines’ impressive play the past month. Michigan has won 14 of its last 15 games, and is 8-1 in Big Ten play — tied with No. 6 Minnesota for the best record in conference play.
Sophomore second baseman Faith Canfield continues to be the top offensive producer for the Wolverines, as she went 7-for-10 during Saturday’s doubleheader. She was complemented by four hits apiece from senior shortstop Abby Ramirez and junior first baseman Aidan Falk. Despite that hitting explosion, Michigan failed to score a single run in the final game of the series Sunday, registering a mere three hits in a 5-0 defeat to the Buckeyes.
Though there are no specific indications about how a short lead-up to the Michigan State matchup will alter practice routines, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins continues to preach the importance of consistent improvement — notably, higher quality swings, especially with runners in scoring position. She believes in approaching every game with the same mental fortitude, regardless of the opponent’s ranking and skill.
“My goal is for us to just keep getting better,” Hutchins said. “We’ve gotten a lot better in the last month and two months, but I thought we took a step back (Sunday). We can’t ever think that we’re done getting better.”
Added Canfield: “We’ll work on going out there every game to attack, and not giving in so easily.”
Hutchins also says excelling in the face of adversity is important to work on, which is something she didn’t see out of her squad against Ohio State on Sunday.
“We get our toughness when things don’t go our way, not just when things go our way,” Hutchins said. “And we need to be tougher when things aren’t going our way.”