With the Big Ten season right around the corner, the roster for the No. 4 Michigan softball team is finally settling into place. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins continues to shuffle players in and out, especially in the infield, but a handful of Wolverines have consistently made the starting lineup.
Defensively, the team is well rounded and has immense depth, so starting spots are largely earned on the field by standing out with the bat.
The Daily examines the 2015 softball team position by position.
Michigan’s pitching staff is robust. With all three pitchers returning from last season, experience has not been an issue. Senior left-hander Haylie Wagner currently has a 1.98 earned-run average, and was named to the preseason Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List. Wagner is known to be a contact pitcher, jamming up right-handed hitters.
Sophomore right-hander Megan Betsa has been lights out lately, and Hutchins refers to her as a “strike out pitcher” that you want to have in the circle late in games. Against then-No. 3 Alabama, Betsa allowed just two runs while striking out six in a complete game. Her confidence, which was lacking last season, seems to be off the charts so far.
Finally, senior right-hander Sara Driesenga is a drop-ball pitcher, getting a lot of ground balls from her opponents. She is currently dealing with a nagging injury and has appeared in just seven games. Nonetheless, Driesenga holds a 0.78 ERA, the lowest on the staff.
Freshman Tera Blanco also makes occasional appearances in the circle, and Hutchins hopes to work her into the rotation more as the season matures.
Senior Lauren Sweet is the go-to catcher, but she was injured in a game against Kent State, and the length of her recovery is still unknown. Freshman Aidan Falk has since taken over. While Falk seems capable of filling her duties as catcher, she will have to make up immense ground offensively.
This preseason, Sweet put up a .329 batting average, recorded 27 runs batted in and hit six home runs. Though her bat might not be as strong as Sweet’s, Falk has been impressive, hitting three home runs so far this season.
Since joining the roster, Blanco has stepped in as the Wolverines’ first baseman. Blanco started all but one of Michigan’s games, earning her starting role right out of the gate. Blanco boasts a .423 slugging percentage and has 25 RBI. Freshman Taylor Swearingen also appears in the lineup often at first base.
Both junior Sierra Romero and sophomore Abby Ramirez are seeing a lot of time at second. Now, Romero seems to have settled in. One of the best players around college softball, Romero carries a .531 batting average, by far the highest percentage in the starting lineup. Her 1.109 slugging percentage is the fourth highest in the nation, and the second highest among power conferences. Her biggest threat is with her bat, but nonetheless, Romero is a solid defensive choice for second base.
Romero has been swapping in and out of shortstop with Ramirez. As Romero plays more at second, it’s becoming clear that Ramirez seems to be earning the starting spot at shortstop. Consistent with her bat as well, Ramirez holds a .303 batting average and has started all 29 games.
Sophomore Lindsay Montemarano and Swearingen have both seen plenty of innings at third. Montemarano has started 22 games, all at third. She struggled to hit throughout the non-conference schedule, posting a .196 batting average as well as going hitless through nine games. Swearingen has seen more time at third lately, but if Montemarano gets back on track with her bat, it will be tougher for the freshman to crack the starting lineup.
If there are any positions that are actually set, it’s the outfield. Sophomore Kelly Christner will be in leftfield, junior Sierra Lawrence in center and junior Kelsey Susalla in right. The trio is part of Michigan’s core power hitters, and all three of them are in the top four of the batting order.
While Susalla is new to the outfield this season, she has adjusted well. Christner, who rarely started during her freshman campaign, has played in every game so far. Finally, Lawrence, who has a perfect fielding percentage, has become one of Michigan’s most consistent and reliable outfielders, tallying just four errors in her 151 appearances.