Pick a card, any card.
At this point, it seems like Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins has resorted to grabbing names out of a hat to fill the designated player position for the 12th-ranked Wolverines.
First, it was junior Tiffany Worthy. Then, freshman Allison Kidman got her chance to prove herself. Next up was sophomore Angie Danis.
But that was just the beginning. Starting March 4, Kidman saw action in 6-of-7 games, only to find herself back on the bench for six of the following seven games. Worthy picked up the slack for most of that stretch, starting in five games – four as the designated player.
Kidman got the call last Friday and Saturday in wins against Indiana. But then Hutchins switched to Danis for last Sunday’s doubleheader split with Purdue.
So what is Hutchins waiting for?
“(The position) is open, and it’s up for grabs,” Hutchins said. “Whoever takes it will get it, but no one has stepped up and been a consistent hitter.”
Danis leads the trio with a less-than-spectacular .182 average. Worthy has a .154 average and is tops among the three players with 11 RBI, but she has seen much more action (she has more at-bats than Danis and Kidman combined). Kidman has the best on-base percentage (.364). She has drawn six walks and been hit five times compared to Worthy’s two walks and one hit-by-pitch and Danis’s two walks.
“They all can hit the ball,” Hutchins said. “But the key is to be able to do it in a game and to do it for average. Right now, every one of them doesn’t hit much over .200, and it hurts us in the long run not having a (designated player).”
The competition among teammates hasn’t been much of a distraction for Worthy, Kidman and Danis. There are no intra-team rivalries. The players understand what Hutchins is looking for and what it will take to win the everyday job.
“(Hutchins) is trying to figure out somebody who is going to be consistent,” Worthy said. “None of us have been very consistent. She is just trying to get a (designated player) to do a (designated player’s) job.”
Part of the designated player’s challenge is not playing defense. Instead of being involved the entire game, designated players have the tough task of getting ready for one at-bat every few innings after a long stretch of doing nothing but sitting.
But the players don’t view that as a problem. Playing or not, they’re always a part of the game.
“You have to have your head in the game all the time,” Kidman said. “What we really focus on here is five seconds in and five seconds out, so we’re constantly thinking about being in the game, the next move, the next at-bat and staying in the present rather than the future or the past.”
One possible wrinkle to Michigan’s designated player battle could be the health of Lauren Talbot, who has fought nagging injuries all season long. Hutchins has looked for ways to get Talbot at-bats as the sophomore gets back into game-shape. Talbot has a .154 average in just 13 at-bats.
But for now, it looks like a two-person battle between Worthy and Danis.
“I’ve been very pleased,” Hutchins said. “I think (Danis) has given us some good at-bats, and Worthy has certainly had some good at-bats as of late. Those will be the two candidates this weekend.”