Ann Arbor – Alex Sobczak has made a smooth transition from her Miss Softball days at Farmington Hills Mercy to being a freshman catcher at Michigan, ranked the No. 2 team in the nation.
After fighting through the frustration of getting intentionally walked frequently in high school, Sobczak is now getting pitched to and is making the most of her opportunities.
Sobczak has made an immediate impact at the plate and behind it, helping the Wolverines to an 8-1 start. They will play in Palm Springs this weekend, facing Oklahoma Friday afternoon.
Sobczak, UM’s starting catcher, is off to a .350 start (7-for-20) at the plate with two home runs and nine RBI. She was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after hitting .444 (4-for-9) with a homer, double and three RBI to help the Wolverines to four wins in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. She homered in the 10-3 rout of No. 13 Florida State last Saturday and had two hits, a walk and two RBI against Virginia Tech.
Sobczak credits senior infielder Sierra Romero, last year’s ESPN Player of the Year, for her start at the college level.
“We have some great role models. Sierra Romero has my back; she’s like my big sister and looks after me,” said Sobczak of Romero, who is hitting .500 with five homers and 13 RBI. “She tells me to stay confident regardless of what adversity brings. She says it doesn’t matter if you’re 0-for-3 or 4-for-4, you have to stay positive.
“I knew coming in I wouldn’t have to be in the same situations as high school and it’s great because I get to see pitches -- a lot of them -- and it’s nice because if I don’t produce I know that whoever is after me will. I know my teammates will pick me up.
“At Mercy we had great players, but at Michigan you have a full lineup and that helps all of us tremendously because it takes the pressure off to produce (every at-bat). We just go out and do the best we can, swing hard, trying to hit the back of the ball.”
Sobczak is no stranger to quick success. She hit three home runs in one game her freshman year at Mercy, then slugged 17 her sophomore year and finished her prep career with 40. She would have had many more, but was walked 39 times her senior year, 18 times intentionally.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins puts Sobczak sixth or seventh in the lineup, which also helps relieve the pressure so she can concentrate on her work behind the plate. Sobczak has replaced Lauren Sweet, who hit over .300 with double-figure home runs her senior year.
Catching Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Megan Betsa and Sara Driesenga has been a work in progress for Sobczak.
“It definitely was an adjustment period for me because in high school you don’t deal with that amount of movement and having All-American pitchers,” Sobczak said. “The movement and speed these girls have on the ball is phenomenal. I think the past couple of weekends I’ve really developed behind the plate. It’s definitely a difficult position to come into, especially with Sweet leaving -- big shoes to fill -- but it’s also a very rewarding position.
“There’s always going to be those nerves that you want to do the best you can while working with phenomenal pitchers. I get so excited for them when they get strikeouts. I think I’ve been pulling my own back there and really trying to help them out with some calls and keeping the ball in front of me. “Overall, I think it’s a very rewarding position and I’m very excited to begin my journey here at Michigan as a catcher.”