After a 12-game winning streak that lasted the better part of three weeks, the Michigan softball team looked like it was on a mission.
But after losing two of their last three contests, its clear the 12th-ranked Wolverines are still searching for consistent offensive production.
In Iowa City on Friday, Michigan (6-2 Big Ten, 26-11 overall) appeared to be on its way to a prolific weekend at the plate after posting three runs in the first inning. But the Hawkeyes went on to hold the Wolverine bats at bay, leaving the Maize and Blue scoreless for the rest of the weekend.
“We just weren’t bringing in the runs,” senior co-captain Stephanie Bercaw said. “We were seeing the ball well and getting good hacks at it, but we just weren’t getting the hits.”
After the trip to Iowa, Michigan’s team batting average plummeted to a season-low .264. Senior Becky Marx and sophomores Alessandra Giampaolo and Samantha Findlay remain the only Michigan players who still boast averages above .300, leaving it up to senior pitcher Jennie Ritter to keep Michigan in close games.
Michigan hopes to awaken its offense and give the pitching staff more run support in a non-conference doubleheader against Central Michigan (4-4 Mid-American Conference, 13-19) today at Alumni Field.
Last season, then-No. 1 Michigan faced off against the Chippewas in a doubleheader in Mount Pleasant and was stunned 5-4 in game one. The team rebounded with a victory in the rematch.
Neither team has performed as strong as they did last season, but both sides retain crucial members from last year’s squads. The Chippewas used pitchers Jessica Garvin and Jill DeRoche to defeat Michigan last season, and both hurlers return as upperclassmen this year. Junior Lorilyn Wilson saw action in both games last year for the Wolverines and will likely put in work today as well.
But offensive improvement remains the focus.
In Sunday’s game at Wisconsin, which was cancelled because of rain, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins looked to sophomore designated player Michelle Weatherdon for a spark. Weatherdon isn’t normally a part of the starting lineup, and Hutchins hoped the lineup shift would tip the scales in Michigan’s direction.
“We’re just looking for some production,” Hutchins said. “She puts the ball in play, and maybe she gives us a little fire.”
Weatherdon will likely get a chance to strut her stuff in at least one of today’s two games.
Fortunately for Michigan, today’s games are ripe for an offensive surge seeing that Central Michigan has given up 10-plus runs in five different games this year. Also, Michigan boasts a 5-1 record against teams from the Mid-American Conference this year.
But Michigan won’t depend on statistics in its effort to win.
“We’re looking forward and trying not to concentrate on the past,” Bercaw said. “We’re just looking to improve and taking that for what it’s worth.”
Said Hutchins, “We certainly need some punch in our lineup. We need some people to string things together.”