With the first weekend series in the books, the Michigan softball team has had time to reflect on its performance — ultimately deciding that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“We didn’t hit our best (at the USF Classic) as a team,” said senior catcher Lauren Sweet. “We just need to come out ready to go, and act like every game is a Regional, Super Regional or World Series game.”
This week No. 7 Michigan (3-1) travels to Tallahassee, Florida to compete in the Unconquered Invitational at Florida State (4-1), where it will play two games each against the No. 5 Seminoles and Georgia Tech (0-5), and one matchup versus Western Kentucky (4-1).
For Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, the lack of offensive production so far this season highlighted Michigan’s other strengths.
“Probably the biggest highlight of (last week’s) trip is that we really underachieved at the plate … and we were 3-1,” Hutchins said. “We were able to pull out games, and play defense and pitch well enough (to win) without the offense playing its part.”
The Wolverines belted four home runs last week, and scored nine runs against Hampton, but also have seven players batting at .200 or below.
The games against Florida State and Western Kentucky will undoubtedly provide a true early-season test for the Wolverines’ developing offense. The Seminoles return right-handed pitcher Lacey Waldrop, the 2014 USA Softball National Player of the Year.
And the Hilltoppers have a pitching threat of their own. Left-handed pitcher Miranda Kramer was named the most recent ESPNW player of the week. She became just the 19th player in NCAA history to strike out 19 batters in seven innings for Western Kentucky during a game against Troy.
“I’ve been scouting (Kramer) out and she’s really good,” Hutchins said. “We need to pitch well and play defense until our offense gets going.”
In a young season, getting a chance to play meaningful games is also just as much about smoothing out the offensive wrinkles as it is about the competition.
“We have to get used to having each other out on the field, getting used to this new team,” Sweet said. “I think that having this first weekend is going to help us a lot, whether you’re on the bench or getting one at-bat a game, just embracing the role that you have.”
It’s a concept echoed throughout the clubhouse.
“We just have to focus on taking it one game at a time,” said junior utility player Kelsey Susalla. “Every team is going to get better from game one to game 50. We just have to focus on the next game ahead.”
Given that Florida State eliminated Michigan from the NCAA softball Super Regionals in 2014, one would expect some edginess to the game, but Hutchins doesn’t find worth in dwelling on past experiences. Instead she sees an opportunity to play a high-caliber team that can contribute to the development of her team early in the season.
“You play tough competition and hopefully it hardens you,” Hutchins said. “Every week we run into top five teams, and I’m hoping we get better from it.”