Softball

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Looking to avenge last year’s first round loss in the Big Ten tournament that set the tone for the rest of its disappointing postseason, the Michigan softball team traveled to East Lansing only to be greeted by an even mix of green and white and maize and blue. And the Wolverines made sure they dazzled the visiting crowd, narrowly avoiding a run-rule victory and winning 12-1.

Michigan sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez provides versatility for the Wolverines in every facet of the game.

At the plate, Rodriguez has taken a massive leap forward. After posting a .250 batting average last season — the worst among the Wolverines’ starters — Rodriguez spent much of the offseason in the batting cage. Now, as one of the country’s only true switch-hitters, she poses a threat regardless of the situation. Her ability to bunt from both sides of the plate, slap-hit from the left side and swing away from the right side makes her the Big Ten’s jack of all trades.

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Following the senior catcher’s lead, the No. 21 Michigan softball team went 2-1 in three games against Ohio State, winning, 10-3 and 6-2, before dropping the weekend’s final game, 2-1. Even with the loss Saturday, which snapped the Wolverines’ 15-game win streak, the two comeback wins marked a shift in power at the plate, a welcome sign for Michigan’s offense, which at times has lacked in run generation.

Junior right fielder Haley Hoogenraad hit a grand slam on Friday.

Michigan swept Nebraska, Rutgers and Indiana en route to a 9-0 record to begin Big Ten play. During this start, the Wolverines posted a batting average of .315 and plated more than seven runs per game. But Hoogenraad and Alexander — the seventh and eighth batters in Michigan coach Carol Hutchins’ lineup — didn’t partake in the hit parade. The duo posted an average of just .220, while the first four hitters in the lineup combined for a .396 clip.

But in Columbus, Hoogenraad and Alexander flipped the switch.

The Michigan softball team kicks off a seven-game road trek with a three-game series at Ohio State and a single game at Michigan State.

And it’s not just a single matchup away from home. First, the Wolverines will head to Columbus for a weekend series before traveling to East Lansing for a Tuesday-night standoff against the Spartans.

After a slow start to the season, Senior Natalie Peters has found a groove of late .

In the past month, Peters has put any questions of whether she peaked as a sophomore to rest.

The Michigan softball team's offense needs consistency for a deep postseason run.

The Wolverines have made it clear they’ve found the offensive power to carry them through the rest of Big Ten play — a conference in a historic downturn — but with the postseason less than a month away, that might not be enough.

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Up 4-2 in the third inning of Sunday's slate against Indiana, the Michigan softball team entered a lull. Sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien took over for freshman right-hander Alex Storako in the circle, and the Hoosiers started to score. With two consecutive batters reaching base for Indiana, a player hit by a pitch and a walk, the Wolverines scrambled.

The result wasn’t pretty.

Senior first baseman Alex Sobczak had three runs, two hits and three RBI in Sunday's contest against Indiana.

In Friday and Saturday’s contests, the Wolverines failed to get on the board until the third inning in both games, registering just seven runs over two days.

But, also like many of the Wolverines’ games, all Michigan needed was a spark.

The Michigan softball team scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to secure a 7-6 comeback win over Indiana.

One crack of a bat and the game ended. Wrapping up the weekend sweep over a strong Hoosiers team, the senior swatted a double into right field, and the stadium erupted.