Loss created ‘huge shift’ in Michigan's attitude

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Oklahoma City — Aidan Falk’s usual accessories after games and practices are two bags of ice wrapped around her knees.

Falk is Michigan’s catcher, and anyone who has ever played the position understands the beating knees take.

“It’s more preventative and being smart about it,” the sophomore said. “I’m so used to icing I don’t want to figure out what it feels like not to ice my knees. I’ve actually been feeling very good, surprisingly.”

That’s good news for second-ranked Michigan (51-5), which is among eight teams competing in the College World Series at ASA Stadium in Oklahoma City. It was set to face LSU in the opening game Thursday night, but the two-game session was postponed by rain and lightning.

This is Michigan’s 12th World Series appearance, second consecutive and third in four years.

Michigan was the runner-up last season behind Florida, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year that was eliminated in the the Super Regional. That left the Wolverines as the highest remaining seed.

UM World Series opener pushed to 9:30 Friday

Falk said during Christmas break the team watched a few games from last season, including the loss to Florida in the final game. Something about that viewing changed the team’s perspective. The Wolverines had been feeling like they did it last year, so they’ve got to do it again, but watching the game six months later with fresh eyes offered a new perspective.

“It was just like it was a different feeling,” Falk said. “I don’t know why it was, but it was good. We finally put that behind us.”

She said she felt the team change late in the season during a trip to Penn State. She and teammates Kelly Christner and Sara Driesenga were walking around campus and they agreed the team had undergone a transformation.

“There was a huge shift there,” Falk said. “That’s when I knew this was going to be different. Everybody clicked as a team. I don’t know how, but it felt so different. It felt like everyone was so concrete, so steady.”

Falk has been steady this season in part because of the previous Wolverines catcher, Lauren Sweet. Sweet is now a member of the USSSA Florida Pride, and the two worked out last summer every day. The two are best friends.

“Just having her kind of behind me and I always have her little voice back in my head,” Falk said “That’s been a huge factor of helping me stay calm. We have so much confidence in our pitchers there’s no time for me to have anxiety. We just have to get stuff done.”

Last week while preparing for Missouri, known for its base stealing, Falk worked all week throwing from her knees, something she and Sweet had done during the summer.

“That gave me a lot of confidence, so I wasn’t too concerned,” she said.

Pitching coach Jennifer Brundage calls the game for the Wolverines.

“If Meg (pitcher Megan Betsa) wants to throw a different pitch, she’ll shake it off and I’ll give her different options. “Then she’ll shake it off and shake it off until she gets the pitch she wants. She’ll throw it and I’ll catch it.”

At that, Falk broke into laughter. After all, fun is what Michigan coach Carol Hutchins wants her players to have every day, but especially during the World Series.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com: @chengelis