Michigan Freshman Annabelle Widra Is A Dual-Threat Star
The clank of the bat. The yelling of the umpire calling a strike. The dust kicking up in the air from someone sliding into second base. All this is familiar to many of us, including Michigan standout Annabelle Widra.
Her brother, Tristan, played baseball in college at Samford University. The two grew up together playing the sports they loved in Hoover, Ala. and each worked their way to the college level.
“There’s Hoover Central Ballpark that is about five minutes from my house,” Widra said. “I started there on the smallest field. As he continued to skyrocket, I did too.”
Fast forward to today and Widra is making a name for herself. She chose Michigan to be a part of something special.
“Coach Hutch (Carol Hutchins), coach Bonnie (Tholl) and coach Brundage (Jennifer Brundage) made Ann Arbor feel like Birmingham,” she said. “I love just being here, being with the girls and being with the family atmosphere that I really wanted.”
Widra ranked No. 18 on SA’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings and now finds herself in a unique position as a freshman.
To begin the season, she hasn’t allowed a run in 10.1 innings and is batting .320 in 20 games played for the Wolverines, who are currently ranked No. 18 in Softball America's Top 25.
Her role as a dual-threat player could prove to be crucial to Michigan’s success as the postseason approaches.
“If they need me to come in for a couple innings, if they need me to hit, if they need me to run,” Widra said. “Whatever this team needs is what I want. I want us to make the World Series and I want us to show what Michigan softball can do.”
Her high school coach, C.J. Urse Hawkins, has had a profound impact on Widra. She joined the varsity team in seventh grade and primarily wanted to play shortstop, despite the skills she had as a pitcher. Eventually, she decided she could play both as an infielder and a pitcher.
“She wanted to make sure that she could find the school that she could do everything,” Urse Hawkins said. “And I said, that’s going to be really hard to do. Most coaches won’t allow it.”
Once both Widra and Urse Hawkins worked together, it was a life-changing experience and elevated what was an already impressive skillset from the Alabama native.
“When I was younger, I was told I was too small to be a big hitter, too small to be a catcher,” Widra said. “C.J. Urse Hawkins, when I say she believed in me, she allowed me to be truly who I am, which is to be a pitcher.”
With interest from the likes of UCLA and Alabama, it was her talent both in the circle and in the batter’s box that was so appealing to other big-time college softball programs.
“I wish I could have cut her into threes, but I couldn’t,” Urse Hawkins said. “She’s so versatile. I think that’s what made her so marketable. She’s really a middle infielder pitching.”
In what is already a crowded rotation with Alex Storako and Meghan Beaubien anchoring the pitching staff, finding time in the circle at Michigan this season may prove to be a difficult task. But when she’s not pitching, Widra plays second base for the Wolverines.
Despite not having a solidified role in the rotation, Widra has been able to feed off her teammates as she gets adjusted to playing college softball.
“I think coming in as a freshman, I was a little intimidated, like I’m with Alex and Meghan,” she said. “Really, they’re like the best big sisters. It’s so nice being able to learn from them because you can watch them go through the experiences that we’re going to go through.”
To this day, her brother still comes to games and supports her. It’s a bond that the two of them will always have through the sports that they love.
“My brother has been the best role model I could ever ask for in my entire life,” Widra said. “Watching him go through what he went through and being a part of his process and now having him as my biggest fan in college, it’s very surreal.”