Catcher Monica Schock has recorded a base hit in each of Michigan’s last six games, but she isn’t doing anything superstitious to keep the streak alive. In fact, she wasn’t even aware of it until someone informed her yesterday afternoon.

Paul Wong
Sophomore Calli Ryals concentrates on perfecting her uneven bars routine during the NCAA Regional last weekend in State College.

Schock’s hitting streak, her longest of the year and currently the longest of any Wolverine, has been the result of sticking to a simple routine before her at bats and creating a game atmosphere in practices.

“In practice, I’ve been trying to have the same mindset as I do in the game, and I think that’s helped a lot,” Schock said, adding that she has been “trying to see the ball all the way in on every pitch instead of really just going out there and hitting.”

The sophomore, batting .385 – second on the team behind Stefanie Volpe’s .404 – and leading the team with 31 RBIs, enjoys the expectations placed upon a clean-up hitter.

“I love the pressure of having people on base,” Schock said. “When you’re hitting No. 4, you’re going to have people on base, so I love that kind of pressure. I love getting up to it, and it’s like a challenge.”

Schock may feel some of that pressure this weekend, when No. 12 Michigan meets Northwestern on Friday and Saturday and then battles No. 20 Iowa for the top spot in the Big Ten on Sunday. But first the team travels to Kalamazoo today for a doubleheader against Western Michigan (7-6 Mid-American Conference, 12-15 overall).

Although the Wolverines have important Big Ten match-ups on the horizon, Schock doesn’t plan on letting up against the Broncos this afternoon.

“I play the same (against) every team,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an Iowa or a Penn State or a nonconference team. I try to go in there with the same mindset every time.”

But Schock also admitted that the midweek game is an opportunity to prepare for the big weekend.

“To go out there and play like you always play is key, but at the same time, if any of the players have kinks that they want to work out, it’s a great time to do it,” Schock said.

Michigan will need all of the kinks worked out before it heads to Evanston and Iowa City. Northwestern (6-4 Big Ten, 15-10 overall) sits just two spots behind Michigan in the conference standings. The Wildcats have lost three in a row, but after finishing 8-12 in the conference last year, some Big Ten teams have been surprised that first-year coach Kate Drohan has Northwestern playing so well. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has expected the Wildcats to have a strong season.

“They didn’t surprise me,” Hutchins said. “I knew they were good. I think with a coaching change sometimes there’s kind of a new vigor in the program, and I think they’ve got some of that.”

Michigan’s Sunday double header against Iowa (8-2, 25-14) could break the tie at the top of the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes currently share the lead with the Wolverines and have won three straight, including a sweep of Penn State. Iowa’s two Big Ten losses came at the hands of Ohio State.

Schock tried to downplay the magnitude of the four-game stretch.

“It’s as big as every other weekend, but as far as our stats go, of course it’s going to be huge – we’re tied for first with Iowa,” she said. “But, every game is huge.”

As if facing two of the top teams in the conference wasn’t enough to handle this weekend, the Wolverines also have to squeeze in time to study for finals. Schock said a two-hour mandatory study table on the way to and from games and sympathetic professors help, but that it’s still difficult.

“It’s one of the hardest times of the year,” Schock said. “Trying to prepare for the tests and softball is really hard.”

But Schock should be able to handle it. After all, she likes pressure.

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