If there was an opening in centerfield, sophomore catcher Roya St. Clair found it Sunday.
Struggling at the plate through much of this season, St. Clair entered Sunday’s double-header against Illinois with the lowest batting average in the Michigan lineup (.167).
But it didn’t take long for St. Clair to find her sweet spot.
The Livonia native went 3-for-3 in the first game against the Fighting Illini, each time lining the ball into deep centerfield. In No. 5 Michigan’s 8-0 five-inning mercy-rule win, St. Clair’s three base knocks catapulted her out of the recent slump.
“I’ve talked to the coaching staff, and they just told me to keep plugging along and the hits would come,” St. Clair said. “I just keep swinging, (taking) a one-pitch focus, and it seemed to work.”
St. Clair continued to connect in the second half of the double-header, going 1-for-3 at the plate. With the Wolverines up 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth and the bases loaded, she delivered a two-run blast to the centerfield fence to give Michigan a commanding 4-0 lead.
“When there’s runners on or there’s runners not on, your focus has to be see-ball, hit-ball,” St. Clair said. “You just have to make sure the ball’s in the strike zone and do your job at the plate.”
When the Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten, 32-4 overall) take on Central Michigan today at Alumni Field, they hope to maintain the level of confidence that recent hitting explosions like St. Clair’s have brought.
“You have to accept as a hitter, you’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “And if you accept that, you can move forward because you have the next at-bat. You always have another opportunity.”
Hutchins emphasized to her team all season the importance of controlling its emotions at the plate and in the field. After a timid start to the weekend with a 2-1 loss to Iowa Friday, Michigan rebounded Saturday and carried that momentum Sunday and came out swinging.
In Michigan’s 8-0 win, every player reached base at least once, but St. Clair’s stellar afternoon stood out the most because of her recent slump.
“You can give her direction on how to do something, but all you really need is to get on base that one time, and you feel confident,” sophomore third baseman Maggie Viefhaus said. “That’s what she did.”
Today, the Chippewas (4-1 Mid-American Conference, 12-11 overall) come to Alumni Field riding a five-game win streak and sitting atop its conference standings in victories.
Even though Michigan has been led all season by its outstanding pitching duo of sophomore Nikki Nemitz and freshman Jordan Taylor, the team’s recent hitting speaks volumes. The Wolverines outscored their opponents 17-2 over the weekend, guided by Viefhaus and freshman Dorian Shaw. Even with recent success at the plate, Hutchins sees room for improvement against Central Michigan.
“I want to see us keep playing good defense, keep pitching well, but I really feel for our hitters,” Hutchins said. “They’re going to explode one of these days.”