When Kate Eiland and Melissa Taylor were named as the captains of the Michigan softball team, Eiland was shocked.
“It is a great honor it was 100-percent unexpected,” Eiland said.
Why shouldn”t she be?
After seeing very limited action last year due to injury, Eiland”s appearances have again been limited this season because of injury. Her on-field performance could not be judged and many of the underclassmen had barely seen her play, if at all.
Her career record is good 14-5 with a 1.46 ERA but she has not seen the action that she needs or wants. She has appeared in just 31 games in her career so far, forcing her to do all she could to get the team going while viewing from afar.
“I haven”t traveled on all of the trips, so being a captain and being left at home, it gets kind of tough,” Eiland said.
Her leadership has shown and she has gained the respect of her teammates while being on the sideline.
“Being a vocal leader, try to get people fired up, and take care of the dugout,” Eiland said. “I”m doing everything that I can.”
Eiland was again surprised when she made her first and unscheduled appearance of the season in the home opener against Western Michigan. She came on in relief of Meghan Ritter to pitch three innings and allowed one run on three hits before the game was called due to darkness.
While Eiland was glad to see the field again, she knew that her game showed rust.
“My reaction time is really off,” Eiland said of her error against the Broncos.
As a junior, Eiland is in rare territory as most captains are seniors who have played for three seasons.
By contrast, Taylor has had a healthy career and an impeccable season so far. She is currently hitting .439 with an on-base percentage of .467. She also leads the team in stolen bases with six.
“I”ve been focusing a lot on my short game,” Taylor said. “I feel really fast, a lot faster (than last year) they aren”t throwing me out.”
Taylor leads with her performance on the field, which she has been on since she arrived to Michigan. She has started in 203 of the 205 games she has played in No. 7 on the career list and she has missed just eight games in her career. Ironically, one of the eight games Taylor has missed came against Western Michigan the same game in which Eiland made her return.
Taylor has gained the respect of her teammates through hard work on the field. Since her move to the outfield in 1998, Taylor has made just six errors in two and a half seasons.
“I am a leader I lead by example,” Taylor said.
As a senior, Taylor knows her time to step up has come.
“I feel I have more responsibility,” Taylor said. “I know when I was younger, I looked up to seniors.”
Eiland believes that their contrasting styles will work together well as they will lead the team for the rest of the season.
“People really respect her on the field and I think people respect me off the field,” Eiland said.
In addition to being captains together, they also have a good relationship off the field.
“We have a great relationship we are good friends,” Eiland said.
Eiland and Taylor are confident in their abilities, but Michigan coach Carol Hutchins doesn”t think that they have perfected their technique just yet. As Michigan got off to a bit of a shaky start at 14-11-1 its worst start in six years Hutchins believes that the captains must share some of that responsibility.
“Our leadership is not good enough,” Hutchins said.
Taylor remains hopeful about the rest of the season.
“We obviously didn”t peak early and hopefully we will do better than last year,” Taylor said. “I think this year”s team has more potential (than last year”s team.)”
As Eiland and Taylor work on their chemistry, the team is as well.
“It is a bit different your senior year you can”t really understand that until you have experienced it,” Taylor said.
It has yet to find its stride but its Big Ten season started well this weekend with two victories over Illinois. The Wolverines have reached NCAAs each of the past six seasons and have won the Big Ten regular season title as well or the Big Ten Tournament title in each.
The team knows what it takes to win and its captains are working to get it there.