Sometimes all it takes is one pitch.

When sophomore Stephanie Bercaw came up to bat with two outs in
the bottom of the third inning, the Michigan softball team was
sitting comfortably on a seven-run lead in the first game of
yesterday’s doubleheader. The team had already broken the
game open with six runs that inning, and Valparaiso had just made a
pitching change.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins decided to switch things up a bit
and brought in Bercaw to pinch-hit for second baseman Tiffany Haas.
Bercaw took advantage of the opportunity. She swung at the first
pitch she saw, and drove it out of the park to straightaway
center.

“I was just thinking ‘See ball, hit ball,’ and
‘hit the strike,’ ” Bercaw said. “I try not
to think about anything else. It just gets in the way. (The first
pitch) was a strike.”

The three-run homer cleared the center field wall by at least
five feet, but Bercaw wasn’t sure it would make it.

“I actually thought it would be a little bit short because
I hit it up in the air too far,” Bercaw said.

Other than the fact that it caused the eight-run rule to go into
effect, the homerun was not critical to the outcome of the game.
But it was the first homerun of Bercaw’s college career.

“It felt great,” Bercaw said. “It felt great
to see the team there at the end, waiting for me.”

Hutchins, who made the decision to make the switch in the
batting order, denied speculations that she had a sixth sense that
forced her to put Bercaw into the lineup for one pitch.

“I never know what’s going to happen,”
Hutchins said. “I just wanted to give her an at-bat.
She’s been swinging a nice bat at practice, and she
hasn’t had very many at bats this year.

“She’s a good hitter. I was happy for her, and
I’d like to see her gain a little confidence from
it.”

There were some indications, however, that Bercaw had the
ability to leave the yard. In practice this week she has been
hitting it deep. She doesn’t have a place in the starting
lineup, but she is used regularly as a pitch hitter.

“She’s capable of hitting that ball on the nose and
hard,” Hutchins said. “She took a good cut, and
she’s got the power.”

Because of her homerun, Bercaw never had a chance to bat again
that game. She came up again in the second game of the doubleheader
and drove a couple of hard-hit balls foul before striking out
swinging.

Bercaw came into the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with
two runners on, and she was one of three hitters unable to drive
them in that inning. Michigan left two runners on in the bottom of
the sixth as well. In that inning, Michigan had two batters, Angie
Churchill and Lauren Holland, who stuck out while looking. Hutchins
said that she was not disappointed with leaving the runners on
base, but she was upset with the Wolverines who went up to the
plate looking at pitches.

“The only thing that mattered was some of the people who
went in there and took a lot of pitches,” Hutchins said.
“I just thought that was ridiculous. Go up there and get your
cuts. There is no pressure on us. We don’t have to get a hit
to win the game.

“I just felt that being aggressive was what we did well
today, and I didn’t think that, near the end of the game, we
did it nearly as well.”

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