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Team mentality a successful formula for Michigan softball

Terra Molengraff/Daily
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By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 27, 2013

From a busy Tampa, Fla., airport on Sunday afternoon, just a few hours after the No. 14 Michigan softball team finished a five-game tournament, senior second baseman Ashley Lane picked up the phone. Lane was asked how hitting her 31st-career home run – good for sixth place on Michigan’s all-time home run list – felt. Confused, she asked if the question could be repeated.

“I actually didn’t know that I did that,” Lane said to the Daily. “That’s pretty cool.”

The home run was one of Lane’s five hits in the Wolverines’ 10-inning victory over Illinois State on Friday. Lane’s eight hits last weekend raised her season batting average to .361 – the fifth-highest average on the team. But when asked about her career day in the batter’s box on Saturday, Lane turned her attention to the team.

“It feels good, knowing that now,” Lane said. “But all that really matters is that we won the game. Everyone really stepped up. If my hitting helped the team win, that’s good enough for me.”

Sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga’s own career moment came the next day against Hofstra. The right hander, who had pitched 17 innings on Friday, struck out nine batters in her first no-hitter.

“I actually really didn’t know I had (a no-hitter) until after the game,” Driesenga said. “We’re all about the win. Whether we get that or not, everybody has to do their part. I guess that was my part (Saturday), that’s how I contributed to the win.”

In moments of congratulations when individual credit is due, the Michigan (10-3) softball players and coaches alike utter a similar response: individual contribution – a home run or a strikeout – is for the team.

When asked about sophomore pitcher Haley Wagner’s potential as a Player of the Year preseason candidate, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins opened her response with: “Yeah, I hate that stuff.”

Hutchins’ message is one she has made clear to her players, freshmen and captains alike.

“We are a team and we’ve been very goal-oriented when it comes to team success,” said senior outfielder co-captain Jaclyn Crummey. “We know that team success is much more important than individual success.”

Added Hutchins: “Our expectation is that (the freshmen) are here to contribute. Although Michigan softball may be new to them, the game of softball’s not new. The game hasn’t changed, so we brought them here to help us win and that’s what our expectation is.”

Among several Wolverines contributing to the Wolverines’ season is freshman shortstop Sierra Romero. Earlier this month, Romero was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week for her then-.346 batting average and team-leading 9 RBI. Romero is the first Michigan freshman to receive the award since Driesenga last March. But Hutchins and the team won’t celebrate for long.

“We already know that Sierra Romero is capable of helping use win,” Hutchins said. “That’s her job.”

‘Team 35’ adds new faces to a program built on success. Michigan softball has won 15 Big Ten championships in the past 20 years, and a national championship – the first for a school east of the Mississippi River – in 2005. And while several Wolverines have gone on to achieve success outside of the University, Hutchins’ expectation of contribution from ‘Team 35’ remains unchanged.

“I want their mentality to be: I’m here to play, I’m here to compete, and I’m here to help Michigan win.”


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