Sunday’s Senior Day win against Minnesota marked a series of regular season-closing storylines for the No. 23 Michigan softball team.
Both senior right-hander Alex Storako and graduate left-hander Meghan Beaubien were able to end their careers at Alumni Field on a high note, as each covered for the other’s struggles in a tag-team win.
Then senior outfielder Lexie Blair capped off her return from injury with a home run, and graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhardt logged her first dinger in a Michigan uniform.
But amid all these storybook ends, new beginnings emerged too.
Sophomore catcher Keke Tholl started in senior catcher Hannah Carson’s place due to injury. Earlier in the season, Tholl started at catcher, but took the back seat to Carson, instead adopting a pinch-hitting role.
But after Carson was struck in the head on Friday’s edition of the series, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins not only called on Tholl — she fully depended on her. And Tholl did not disappoint.
She logged a long single as well as a deep three-run shot that secured the game for the Wolverines.
“Keke Tholl came in, and what a pickup she was,” Hutchins said. “Not having Hannah, our No. 3 hitter, our starting catcher … And look at (Tholl) swing the bat, I mean that was awesome.”
Tholl’s presence ensures that Michigan’s next generation of arms will have a steady, reliable figure at the plate, even after Carson’s departure.
But the biggest new arrival was actually more of a reawakening. Junior utility player Lexi Voss was all but absent this season, posting one hit on 23 at bats coming into the weekend.
But that wasn’t the case last season. Voss was a dependable outfielder, logging 35 games and posting a respectable .268 average. This year, she started in a slump and only continued to slide.
Without a start since March, it seemed like Voss was slated to remain an eternal backup. But with the recent spate of injuries, she was given a true chance to prove herself.
“To me the hero of the game was Voss, who hasn’t had a lot of opportunities,” Hutchins said. “She’s only had pinch-hit opportunities. And we want to reward the fact that this kid has worked so hard and has shown so [many] encouraging signs.
“… I’m just proud of her because you can choose to go down different paths and she’s done nothing but keep working hard”
Voss is the epitome of a team player. She is willing to take any position to help her team, even if it’s a praiseless one. She kept working hard, and when she was called upon, she delivered in a major way, hitting a long double as well as the game-tying single in the fifth.
“I’m really proud of those kids for doing their part,” Hutchins said.
Even as the door closed on many storied careers on Alumni Field, new ones will certainly arrive to take their places. Hutchins knows that some of those new names are already part of this team.
And with a group of talented underclassmen that have already found their ways into the lineup, Michigan showed it’s in good hands for the future.