National Championship marks softball first

BY KEVIN WRIGHT
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 5, 2005

With one swing of her bat, Michigan freshman Samantha Findlay changed the landscape of women’s college softball.

Michigan Softball
The Michigan softball team won its first ever National Championship in Oklahoma City on June 12, becoming the first Midwest team to do so. (Mike Hulsebus/Daily)

Findlay’s tenth-inning blast over the leftfield fence carried the Wolverines past UCLA, 4-1, in the Women’s College World Series championship series on June 8 and secured Michigan’s position as the first school east of the Mississippi River to win a Women’s College World Series.

“It was a great moment for Michigan and for Michigan softball,” coach Carol Hutchins said. “I was so proud of those kids. They were incredible all week.”

The Wolverines enjoyed a stellar year, finishing with a 65-7 record. In addition to maintaining a No. 1 ranking for the majority of the season, Michigan won the Big Ten regular-season championship and the Big Ten tournament championship. The team used that momentum to win an NCAA Regional and Super Regional to qualify for the Women’s College World Series.

In Oklahoma City, the Wolverines won their first two games (including one against the nation’s best pitcher, Cat Osterman of Texas) before falling to Tennessee in extra innings. Michigan rebounded with a 3-2 win in a rematch against the Volunteers to clinch a berth into the championship series against the No. 12 Bruins.

UCLA took the first game in the best-of-three series, but the Wolverines didn’t hang their heads. Maintaining the composure that propelled it through the season, the team stormed back to capture the first national championship in Michigan softball history.

“It was just a great team, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play for,” Findlay said. “I would take this team over any individual award.”

Michigan’s infamous six straight loses in the WCWS had been broken in dramatic fashion.

On July 12, the Wolverines capped off their victory with a trip to the White House. President Bush honored the team with a brief ceremony and a photo-op.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hutchins said.

The championship tour will continue tonight when the Detroit Tigers will honor the Wolverines at Comerica Park. The team will be able to meet Tigers players and watch batting practice before the game.

“I’m looking forward to meeting Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson,” Hutchins said.

The team then will return to Ann Arbor and the University will honor them at Michigan Stadium this Saturday.

Even the Wolverines have enjoyed the success from last season, they will have to prepare to defend their national championship.

Although coach Carol Hutchins lost just two starters from last year’s squad, she will have to find a way to replace All-American Jessica Merchant at shortstop.

“The shortstop is like the point guard in basketball,” Hutchins said. “Merchant was a key to every aspect of last year’s team.”

Hutchins’s first step in leading the Wolverines to another national championship this season will start with participation in three fall tournaments.

Michigan will see its first action in the Elk Rapids Tournament on Sept 24-25.