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This Week in Michigan Softball: Breaking out of a slump

After going 3-7 in their past 10 games, the Wolverines desperately need a good weekend.

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 23 Playoff Regional - Michigan v Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When it rains, it pours for the Michigan Wolverines softball team.

After a 4-1 start to the season, the Wolverines have hit a considerable slump, following up a 2-3 weekend at the Clearwater Invitational with an even more disappointing 1-4 record at the Stanford Invitational. With a midweek game against the Saint Mary’s Gaels canceled due to weather, Michigan enters the upcoming weekend at 7-8, a rare sub-.500 record.

While the Wolverines have the opportunity to turn things around this weekend, the Judi Garman Classic poses a formidable slate — especially with where this team currently stands. With that said, here’s this week’s trip around the Diamond in the world of Michigan softball.

Scouting Report for the Judi Garman Classic

Any Wolverines fans hoping for a reprieve are going to be solely disappointed; this is a tough slate of games, and Michigan faces an uphill battle leaving Fullerton, CA with a winning record on the weekend.

Though the UCF Golden Knights have hit a bit of a skid lately, they’re still one of the top 30 teams in the country, and Michigan fans surely want little reminder of the 8-2 drubbing that came from these teams’ first encounter two weeks ago. Outfielder Chloe Evans is still UCF’s top bat in the lineup and posts a solid .362 batting average headed into the weekend.

Hosts Cal State Fullerton are perhaps one of the weaker teams in the Judi Garman Classic, but that’s not nearly as much of a slight as it appears. The Titans are still a talented squad, and with wins over Tennessee, Oregon and Florida, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Fullerton boasts a strong pitcher in Myka Sutherlin, who in 10 appearances has given up only six earned runs while striking out seven batters per seven innings.

Entering the weekend with a 15-1 record this year, the No. 15 LSU Tigers are a powerhouse unlike any team the Wolverines have played this season. With three different players with a batting average over .400, most prominently infielder Taylor Pleasants who’s already launched seven homers over the wall this year, Michigan’s pitchers will be heavily challenged.

The Seattle RedHawks don’t have the same profile as the more well-known teams in the invitational, but a 12-3 record is nothing to sneeze at regardless of where a team stands in the NCAA pecking order. The player to watch for Seattle is infielder Jocelyn De La Cruz, who enters the weekend with a .455 batting average and a 1.145 OPS.

Last but certainly not least are the No. 2 UCLA Bruins. Coming off a 15-0 blowout against the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners last weekend, the untrained viewer may be inclined to think the Bruins aren’t as good as they’re made out to be. Don’t be fooled — they are, and if anything they’re better. UCLA boasts four players with a batting average over .390, a certified ace on the mound in Brooke Yanez who posts an ERA of 0.83, and will unquestionably enter the weekend on the warpath to prove Oklahoma caught them on a bad day.

In summary: buckle up Michigan fans, this weekend is a gauntlet.

First pitch times

The Wolverines play UCF and Cal State Fullerton in a doubleheader Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 6 and 8:30 pm EST, respectively.

On Friday, Michigan again plays back-to-back games, starting with a 12:30 pm EST matchup against LSU followed by a 3:00 pm game against Seattle.

Capping the weekend is their matchup with UCLA, scheduled for 3:00 pm EST on Saturday.