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One weekend into the 2022 season, the Michigan softball team finds itself in an all-too-familiar place.

Those who have followed the program over the past few years know the gist. In this edition, brought to you from the Rawlings UCF Invitational, the strength of pitching still finds ways to drop jaws. Senior right-hander Alex Storako and fifth-year left-hander Meghan Beaubien combined to strike out 48.98% of the 98 batters they faced the entire weekend, allowing just five runs. 

For a duo of aces that Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has expected to “carry more than their share of the load at times,” it’s tough to complain about that start. It was when Florida centerfielder Cheyenne Lindsay brought in all but one of those runs with an eventual-winning slam over the fence, however, that the stinging reminder came. Storako and Beaubien’s “share of the load” cannot be all of the load, and there’s no getting around that.

“If there’s one area that I know we can definitely get better at, (it) is trusting our game,” Hutchins said. “We seem to be trying too hard, especially at the plate — so we’ve got to remember what we’re good at and score with our strengths.”

Indeed, the Wolverines’ recurrent inability to stay warm at the plate manifested itself just as quickly as the heat from the circle. That trend started from where one might otherwise least worry. Beyond a home run against Kansas City, fifth-year infielder Taylor Bump struggled to replicate her success in the second half of 2021. Senior outfielder Lexie Blair, meanwhile, recorded just two hits that would have faded into irrelevance anyway if not for a wild pitch that put one of them on the scoreboard.

“We’re gonna take a little time and a little perspective,” Hutchins said. “You don’t make that decision right when you walk off the field. We’ll look at some film, chat with some of the kids, and do what we can to get their confidence back and playing at a level that I think they’re capable of.”

Perspective is a virtue when analyzing how a single weekend of softball reflects the Wolverines’ prospects for the season ahead. Instead of a rattling aggravation, Michigan seems to prefer channeled focus – a clear influence from the more mature players on the roster. When grad transfer Kristina Burkhardt’s eight-hit debut weekend instantly put her front and center in the batting conversation, her teammates were bound to listen.

“I think (the atmosphere) was positive,” Storako said. “We definitely learned a lot more about ourselves as a team, but I think Team 45 has done really well at just persevering, giving our all, and having fun while doing it. I see a lot of growth for this team.”

Warmed up from its first weekend, the Wolverines will need to rely on their maturity to finally rise above the problems that have long defined them.