- Terra Molengraff/Daily
By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Editor
Published June 3, 2012
Now that the Michigan softball team’s season is over, it’s time to take a look back and mention some highlights of the year.
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BEST WIN: May 20, 4-0 over Louisville.
It may be easy to call the Wolverines’ NCAA Regional-winning victory their best win of the season, but take a look at the box score and you’ll see why.
For starters, Michigan’s pitching was dominating. Freshman lefty Haylie Wagner — who had already pitched two complete games in the Regional — made it three consecutive starts in the circle in the May 20 game against the Cardinals.
Wagner went the full six innings, giving up six hits, no earned runs and walked just one batter. The Orange, Calif. native also picked up her 32nd win of the season, pushing her past former ace Jordan Taylor for the most wins by a freshman in a season.
The Wolverines’ offense was also stellar in the victory over the Cardinals, scoring their four runs on eight hits and drawing five walks. Seniors Bree Evans and Amanda Chidester both went 2-for-3 on the day, and junior Ashley Lane contributed two RBIs.
But the reason behind their success was what Michigan coach Carol Hutchins calls “one-pitch softball.” Hutchins has been preaching patience at the plate and playing one-pitch softball — both at bat and in the circle — all season, and she finally saw a well-rounded game by her team in the Regional championship game.
“I thought our kids were brilliant in one area in particular, and it was one-pitch softball,” Hutchins said after the May 20 win. “We harped on that all day. We told them before the game, don’t worry about whether we get (a win), just worry about one pitch.”
WORST LOSS: April 11, 1-0 to Western Michigan.
The Wolverines were in the midst of a 5-1 start to Big Ten play when they played the midweek game against the Broncos.
The squad was used to blowing through its conference schedule and taking down weaker nonconference opponents, so it figured its game against Western Michigan would be a breeze.
But with a stalling offense, Hutchins was not pleased with what she saw that Wednesday evening.
“They just thought they were going to walk in here and show up because they have Michigan on their chest,” Hutchins said after the April 11 loss. “We got what we deserved.”
The game against the Broncos was a wake-up call for the Wolverines, pointing out to the squad that they were not invincible and they would have to work hard and come prepared to play for each and every game the rest of the season.
TURNING POINT: May 1, 4-2 over Eastern Michigan.
After faltering a bit in conference play — Michigan lost four of six Big Ten games to Minnesota and Illinois — the squad rallied in extra innings to beat the Eagles and began an offensive hot streak for the team.
Freshman Sara Driesenga hit a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap the 4-2 victory over Eastern Michigan. Six Wolverines recorded a hit, and the win launched an eight-game win streak for the squad, right when the team needed it the most.
“We just decided May 1 we start over,” Hutchins said after the victory. “Reboot. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past.”
Michigan would go on to sweep Wisconsin and Purdue, clinching its fifth-consecutive Big Ten title, and win the Louisville Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
SILVER SLUGGER(S): Amanda Chidester and Driesenga.
The senior first baseman and the freshman designated player both had outstanding years at the plate.
Chidester led the team in batting average (.347), runs scored (37), doubles (12), RBIs (46) and slugging percentage (.597) and was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, making her the Wolverines’ most potent power hitter.
The Allen Park, Mich. native had a 25-game on-base streak in the heart of the season, and became one of two Wolverines to break the 200 RBI mark when she hit a home run against Alabama in the NCAA Super Regional.
But Driesenga was the Wolverines’ offensive weapon for most of conference and post-season play.
The freshman was slotted as the desginated player in the March 21 matchup against Eastern Michigan, and with a two-run homer that game, she found herself a permanent spot in the lineup.
After that game, Driesenga improved her batting average to .340, good for second-best on the team, and proved that pitchers can be offensive weapons, too.