It may not be the storybook ending to an athletic career many have experienced, even to the tune of famous Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger of Notre Dame.

But in the end, it still makes one’s heart melt a little bit.

This winter, Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins had a sit-down with senior outfielder Kristin Larsen, who hadn’t started in a single game since her high school years in Orion, Michigan. Over her first three seasons in Ann Arbor, she appeared just in pinch-hit and pinch-run capacities a total of 70 times.

And it was unlikely she would see a start before the end of her collegiate career. The 2010 Wolverine outfield was already etched in stone: sophomore Bree Evans in left, senior Molly Bausher in center and senior Angela Findlay in right.

Larsen’s conversation with Hutchins was essentially a consolation talk.

“I said, ‘You know what — you have really improved. This year in particular,’” Hutchins said. “I’ve noticed. I want you to know that I’ve noticed.”

With that, nothing really changed for Larsen — she set off to do what she had done for the previous three seasons. She played hard in practice. She seized opportunities when she was subbed into games.

And she studied her butt off.

Larsen, a movement science major in the School of Kinesiology, has earned the U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award in each of her three seasons so far, as well as Academic All-Big Ten in her last two. She hopes to attend graduate school either for physical therapy or health care and nutrition.

But in game two of a two-game set at Indiana earlier this month, Larsen’s softball career was temporarily revived. The day before, sophomore shortstop Stephanie Kirkpatrick suffered an unfortunate meniscus tear in her knee while trying to beat out a groundball to first base.

Hutchins knew it was her opportunity to get Larsen into the starting lineup.

The next day, she moved Evans from left to center and Bausher from center to shortstop, clearing up leftfield for the senior that had been waiting patiently for her moment to shine.

Larsen took up Kirkpatrick’s spot in the lineup — the eight-hole.

“Being a position player coming off the bench for the past three years, you only have so much you can do to really contribute and help your team win, and I’m so excited to finally be in the lineup,” Larsen said. “To be getting this opportunity makes my senior year.”

Thus far, the switch has been seamless — more than her .200 batting average shows.

“She’s just helping us win,” Hutchins said. “She’s had good at bats, gets her bunts down, draws walks — she’s been on base once a game since she’s been in. That’s awesome. Let alone getting RBI hits.”

Perhaps her real welcome-to-the-team moment came on Wednesday in junior pitcher Jordan Taylor’s perfect game against Penn State.

Michigan needed one run in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game, mercy-rule style, and avoiding a sixth inning was key to keeping Taylor’s perfect efforts in tact. Three batters in, Larsen stepped up with one down and a runner on second base.

She wasted no time. She lined the first pitch she saw into left center, scoring the runner from second and sending the Wolverines into celebration.

“I’m just really happy for her because she’s worked hard over the years and persevered.” Hutchins said. “She just deserves to play.

As of now, Kirkpatrick’s timetable for a return to the lineup appears on schedule for postseason play. And until then, Larsen will enjoy the ride.

But if anything goes awry, one thing is for certain — Larsen will be ready for action in the NCAA Regionals later this month.

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