The No. 4 Michigan softball team is coming off an impressive weekend, having forced the mercy rule twice in a pair of blowouts against Purdue.
Now, Michigan will take a break from Big Ten competition and host two in-state rivals — Western Michigan on Tuesday and Central Michigan on Wednesday.
Though the games won’t count toward the Wolverines’ conference record, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins wants her team to use its weekend surge as fuel, while still taking the contests one game at a time.
“We talk about putting everything behind you because yesterday doesn’t have anything to do with today,” Hutchins said Sunday.
Michigan (5-1 Big Ten, 35-3 overall) has had a solid defense this season as a whole, but the recent resurgence in the batter’s box is what the Wolverines will need in order to stay ahead of their competition.
Junior third baseman Amanda Chidester led the way last weekend with a grand slam to earn this week’s Big Ten Co-Player of the Week accolades.
“It’s the same approach every time,” Chidester said. “We just have to see the ball, hit the ball, have fun. It’s all about our energy. When we have good energy out on the field and in the dugout, it carries out to our hitting.”
Sophomore second baseman Ashley Lane and senior first baseman Dorian Shaw also made strides last weekend that the team can put to use. Lane knocked out her 13th home run of the season. She leads the Wolverines with 14 multi-RBI games. Shaw snapped a seven-game slump by earning her first RBI since the end of March.
But games always seem more intense when the competition is local.
The Broncos (4-4 MAC, 10-23 overall) had a rough start to their season after a 17-0 loss to No. 3 Arizona State — the same team Michigan edged 1-0 on March 17. Western Michigan enters Tuesday’s matchup coming off an extra-inning loss to Buffalo to tally its fifth loss in April alone.
The Chippewas (5-3, 20-12) will pose a greater challenge for the Wolverines on Wednesday. Central Michigan is on a six-game winning streak, having taken each game by eight runs or more.
Both games will be decided at the plate.
“It’s all about confidence,” Chidester said of Michigan’s hitting success. “So we can’t look at anything different. We just have to go out there the same way every time.”
The Wolverine lineup currently includes six players with batting averages of .300 or higher. Though the Broncos have just two players batting over .300, the Chippewas’ lineup includes six starters who hit over .300, and four more players who’ve chipped their way into that bracket as well.
If Michigan doesn’t stay consistent at the plate as it did last weekend and earlier in the season, it could very well have a loss on its hands.
But Hutchins is confident that if Michigan stays on its toes and takes its in-state foes seriously, the success will come.
“The season is a journey and it’s a long journey and you have to stay even-keeled,” Hutchins said. “So I think we’ll do a nice job and stay within ourselves and keep working.”