Last year, pitcher Nikki Nemitz had just four at-bats.
Just six weeks into this season, she has already increased that number twelvefold.
Nemitz has established herself in the sixth spot of the Michigan softball lineup, with a .292 batting average in 48 trips to the plate.
The St. Clair Shores native joined the lineup as the designated player in mid-February for the Time Warner Texas Invitational. In her first game at the plate, against then-No. 17 Cal State-Fullerton, she had her career best day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Since then, she has batted in 19 consecutive games, contributing to No. 9 Michigan’s 14-game winning streak.
Coming into the season, the coaching staff hoped Nemitz would improve her hitting. She led her Regina High School team in batting average for three seasons. A starting sophomore pitcher (8-1), she now has the chance to produce at the plate as well as from the circle.
As a pitcher, Nemitz is used to adjusting her mindset from hitter to hitter. In hitting, where streaks and slumps dominate, her pitching mentality helps her succeed.
“She’s got a great mind for the game,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Nikki’s got a savviness about her, and I’m certain that helps her.”
Nemitz may not be hitting grand slams or leading the team in RBIs, but her consistency has proven helpful in the lineup. She has tallied 14 hits and has the third-highest on-base percentage for the Wolverines.
“What she’s been doing best at all year is what we want all our hitters to do – not try to do more than they’re capable of,” Hutchins said. “We just need her to make good contact with the ball, have good at-bats, see the ball and drive it.”
After feeling nervous during her first game, Nemitz said she has settled in and become more comfortable at the plate. But though her offensive output has increased, she stressed the importance of keeping her hitting and pitching accomplishments separate.
“I’ve been hitting and pitching together my entire life,” Nemitz said. “When it’s hitting time, it’s focusing on hitting. When it’s pitching time, it’s focusing on pitching.”
In last Friday’s 7-2 victory over conference foe Minnesota, Nemitz earned the win from the mound with six strikeouts and backed up her pitching from the plate, hitting 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“When you hit the ball well, you’re not thinking about anything, and I think that’s her approach,” senior co-captain Samantha Findlay said. “(She) wasn’t thinking about her pitching, wasn’t thinking about anything, just wanted to get a hit and help the team.”