The Michigan softball team’s first weekend of play was marred with offensive struggles.
The Wolverines were held hitless into the seventh inning against No. 6 Florida and only scored one run against the University of South Florida. But even amid the offensive woes, Michigan’s newcomers found a way to make a difference.
Graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhardt, a transfer from North Carolina, was able to make an immediate impact in the batter’s box, posting a stellar .470 over the weekend.
“(Burkhardt’s) got the gift of talent, and she’s got the gift of maturity,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “She’s mature, she doesn’t get too high, she doesn’t get too low, she’s really even keel, her game is very consistent.”
Burkhardt provided the spark that the Wolverines needed in all three of their wins. She played a role in five of the 11 runs scored over the weekend, tallying a total of three RBIs and two runs. She also showed off her adaptability on Sunday, slotting into the leadoff spot for a cold senior outfielder Lexi Blair.
Burkhardt was not the only newcomer to make plays on the field. Even though most freshmen take time to acclimate to the faster college environment, multiple first-years took the field this weekend. Outfielder Ellie Sieler, pitcher Lauren Derkowski and utility player Annabelle Widra were able to make a positive impact in the Rawling’s Invitational.
“I think we have a very talented freshman class, and they offer us a lot,” Hutchins said.
In addition to doing her job at the plate, Sieler showed flashes of defensive brilliance in the outfield. She made a particularly athletic grab in the third inning against the Gators, tracking down a long foul ball and catching it over the outfield fence to force an early end to the inning.
Derkowski started her first career game against the Bulls on Saturday, and although she allowed four runs in her six innings pitched, only one was earned. Widra logged three scoreless innings as well. If both of these pitchers can continue to grow, they can add a new wrinkle to the already intimidating Michigan pitching rotation and give opposing batters even more to worry about.
“Our freshmen did amazing, I was really proud of them, they really stepped up to the plate,” senior pitcher Alex Storako said. “I am really excited to see how they build off of their performances this weekend, and see what they can continue to give to team 45.”
Even with these early flashes of talent from new players, the experienced Wolverines need to pull their weight if they want to make a run in the postseason. The usually-powerful bats of Blair and senior third baseman Taylor Bump were nowhere to be found over the weekend. Blair posted a paltry .167 average, and Bump struggled even more, managing only a .100.
This is by no means a trend, but Michigan needs both players to make more of an impact if it hopes to win games against quality out-of-conference opponents.
But for now, the new players have shown promise.