The Michigan softball team is heading south again.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines have traveled to Louisville, Kent. annually since 2008, and this year they’ll face No. 16 Louisville, Saint Louis and Illinois State in the Red and Black Classic at Ulmer Stadium.
Michigan (15-5 overall) is coming off a loaded spring break trip to Florida. The Wolverines played 11 games in 10 days and faced tough competition in the two tournaments. Last weekend, the squad went 4-1 and took down then-No. 14 UCLA and then-No. 19 Auburn thanks to rallying efforts from senior centerfielder Bree Evans and senior first baseman Amanda Chidester and solid pitching from freshman lefty Haylie Wagner.
Though Michigan’s offense was proficient, the Wolverine defense had its faults.
The games during the Florida campaign were riddled with errors — 11 in total. Michigan dropped a 10-7 slugfest to Louisiana-Lafayette as a result of two errors, but did a better job recovering defensively in its game against Virginia after committing three errors.
Senior second baseman Ashley Lane realizes the defense hasn’t been on the top of its game lately but has confidence that it will continue to improve before conference play.
“We know we’re a good defensive team,” Lane said. “I think it’s just staying in that one-pitch focus. We might lose it sometimes, but we’re a really good team, (both) defensively and offensively.”
And though the defense has been struggling, it’s come up big in games against ranked opponents. So far this season, the Wolverines are 4-1 against ranked teams, committing just three errors in those five games. This weekend, Michigan takes on No. 16 Louisville on Saturday morning.
Lane notes that the team isn’t focusing its preparation on one particular team.
“We take every team we play with the same process, the same mindset, because anything could happen on any given day,” she said. “We could be playing a non-ranked team and they could have the best game of their life, so we have to come out ready every single game.
“We’ll talk about the pitchers and what they’ll be throwing and their strengths and weaknesses (later in the week), but right now, we’re working on fundamentals. We’re focusing on things we need to improve on.”
Michigan will be tested this weekend, especially when it takes on Louisville (15-0) in the second game of the tournament.
The Cardinals return two of the best pitchers in the Big East: senior Tori Collins and sophomore Caralisa Connell. The duo is undefeated and combines for an ERA under 2.00.
But the Wolverines aren’t without star pitching. Wagner and fellow freshman Sara Driesenga have posted impressive numbers for such an early point in their careers and look to be improving with every game.
Lane is confident in the two rookies and is excited about their early, dominating performances.
“They’re doing awesome,” she said.
“I think we’ll be just fine (with them this weekend).”