Softball is normally a game of pitching and defense. Good teams routinely play to 2-1 or 3-2 finishes, and games often go into extra innings.
Michigan”s 11-game winning streak is not, however, just a product of great pitching and stingy defensive play those things have been around all season for the Wolverines.
Their bats have come alive in the last two weeks, and the team is having success because of it.
Michigan”s team batting average, which reached a season low at .240 on March 17 after a 1-for-22 performance against Nebraska, has been on the rise ever since.
Entering the games against Central Michigan, the Wolverines were hitting .293 and after going 22-for-53 against the Chippewas, the team is hitting .300.
Many of the usual faces have been on top of the team leaderboard for the Wolverines, but it has been the contributions of some one-time defensive specialists that has helped catalyze the streak.
Senior catcher Kim Bugel, a career .185 hitter entering the year, is enjoying her best season at the plate, hitting .278.
Bugel thinks that the mental approach of the team has led to its offensive success.
“I think we”re going in there believing that we can hit, so we”re being more aggressive,” Bugel said. “We”re being very mentally sound and just swinging at the good pitches.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has been using Bugel for defense for much of the season, with the designated hitter taking her at-bats something Bugel is not expecting to change.
“Oh, she still will,” Bugel said, laughing.
Another hitter that has been improving as the season has passed is senior shortstop Rebecca Tune. Tune was hitting just .226 after 18 games, but has been on a tear of late, and has raised her average to .318.
Melissa Taylor has been the Wolverines” top hitter all season, and does not look to be slowing down any time soon.
One of the national leaders for batting average and on-base percentage, Taylor is hitting over .600 during the Wolverines” winning streak and holds a gaudy season average of .481.
Perhaps the most important change in the offensive attack for Michigan has been the play of junior leadoff hitter Kelsey Kollen.
As a freshman, Kollen hit .376 with 89 hits and was named an All-American. Last season, she dipped to just .278 with 55 hits in five fewer games.
Kollen struggled at the beginning of the season, but is currently enjoying a 12-game hitting streak. She went 4-for-6 with three runs scored against Central Michigan and has teamed with Taylor to give the Wolverines a dominant one-two punch at the top of the lineup.
During the streak, the pair has combined for 30 hits and 19 runs over the 11-game streak.
For her efforts against Indiana and Purdue, Kollen was named the Big Ten Player of the Week.
With the play of Kollen, Taylor, Tune and Bugel, the table has been set for RBI machines Stefanie Volpe, Monica Schock and Melinda Moulden.
“That”s their job,” Hutchins said. “Nine-one-two”s job is to get on base and three-four-five”s job is to hit them in. That”s just simple softball.”