The work done by athletes behind the scenes and in the offseason pays dividends throughout the course of a season for both the player and the team. The latest example of this for the No. 22 Michigan softball team took place in the bottom of the seventh inning against Ball State this past Saturday.
The bases were loaded with two outs in a game tied at two. Sophomore infielder Madison Uden stepped up to the plate –– hitless on the day.
In the game’s key at-bat, Uden focused on remaining relaxed, looking for a good pitch to hit. She didn’t get the pitch she was looking for, but instead drew the count full before watching ball four miss the zone.
The final play of the game was by no means a glamorous walk-off. However, it demonstrated the progress Uden has made since last season and earned the win for her team.
“I commended her after that Ball State walk-off walk because last year’s (Uden) might have torn herself out of the at-bat,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “I think she’s matured.”
Last year, Uden was a .255 hitter who appeared in fewer than half of the team’s games. This year, she is hitting a team-high .396 over 48 at-bats and has played in 19 of 24 games thus far. Over the weekend, she tallied nine hits in five games and has recorded a hit in six of the last seven games. Her recent hot streak, however, didn't come overnight.
“I did a lot of vision training in the offseason,” Uden said. “Just focusing on getting better pitches and being consistent with my mechanics and really working on my timing.”
Her offseason focus on a more patient approach and the emphasis on vision training clearly showed in the victory over the Cardinals. In the biggest at-bat of the game, Uden remained cool and collected, unfazed by the heat of the moment –– a testament to her offseason training.
The work put in throughout the offseason paid off, resulting in a win for the team and more playing time at third base for Uden.
“I think she’s done a nice job of staying within herself,” Hutchins said. “We’re not asking her to do any more than she’s ever been capable of doing. I’m pleased with the progress, and we’re giving her some looks at third base.”
Uden's emergence as an offensive threat was a big part of the Wolverines' perfect weekend and current 12-game winning streak. With Big Ten play less than two weeks away, Uden is hitting her stride right in time as her confidence and focus is at a season-high.
“We’re trying to find who’s gonna lead us and who’s gonna step up when we need them,” Hutchins said. “Who can we count on to get things done for us and ultimately, we’re just trying to create a trust within the entire unit and it takes all of them to win.”