In any sporting event, there is far more that goes on than what you see on TV.
This sentiment led me to craft this photo essay recapping the Michigan softball season. The Wolverines finished the season with a 45-13 record, compiling a 17-2 record at home and winning Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.
From photographing this team at many points beginning at a practice in February until the final out of their season in May, I learned that the Michigan softball team truly represents what it means to be a team. They work together from start to finish and put forth a valiant effort in every game.
I attended a practice in end of February after the team completed three invitationals, holding a 6-8 record at this point in season. The Wolverines were preparing for another round of invitationals on the West Coast before returning home two weeks later.
Freshman outfielder Lexie Blair catching a fly ball during a practice. Blair had a much success in the outfield throughout the season. Buy this photo
Freshman right-hander Alex Storako works with assistant coach Jennifer Brundage during a practice in the Shepherd Softball Center. Buy this photo
Freshman catcher Hannah Carson during a set of drills at a practice in the Shepard Softball Center. Buy this photo
Moving away from practice and into the games, a notable event at the start of the action is the announcing of the team lineup. When the Wolverines’ lineup is announced, every team member has a unique handshake with junior captain Madison Uden.
Sophomore outfielder Haley Hoogenraad partakes in her handshake with Junior third baseman Madison Uden. Buy this photo
Even when away at places like Secchia Stadium in East Lansing, the Wolverines still continue their pre-game ritual. Buy this photo
Sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez does her handshake with junior third baseman Madison Uden during a game against Michigan State. Buy this photo
Freshman infielder Morgan Overaitis with junior third baseman Madison Uden before a game against Wisconsin. Buy this photo
The players would not perform as cohesive as they do without the guidance of their coaches. The Michigan softball coaching staff is led by coach Carol Hutchins, along with associate coach Bonnie Tholl and assistant coach Jennifer Brundage.
Each coach has specific aspects of the game they work on with the players. But they all are motivating and supportive of every player on the team.
Coach Carol Hutchins comforts senior first baseman Alex Sobczak after Sobczak is hit by a wild pitch in a game against James Madison. Buy this photo
Coach Bonnie Tholl reminds the outfield there are two outs. This was in the bottom of the 7th inning in the championship game of the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Coach Carol Hutchins with senior catcher Katie Alexander in between innings during a game against Michigan State in East Lansing. Buy this photo
Coach Jennifer Brundage works primarily with the pitchers of the Wolverines. This is during a game against Minnesota during the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Coach Bonnie Tholl congratulates sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez after Rodriguez hits a single in a game against Wisconsin. Buy this photo
Head coach Carol Hutchins shares an emotional hug with senior catcher Katie Alexander after clinching the victory in the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Michigan softball is also joined by three student managers. Their responsibilities include assisting the coaching staff in practices, organizing team equipment, and preparing Alumni Field for game-day operations.
Student managers Alexander LeMire and Samantha Thick, and graduate manager Haylie Wagner celebrate after the Big Ten Softball Tournament victory in Bloomington, Indiana. Buy this photo
From suspense to celebration to cheering on teammates, there is always something going on inside the Wolverines’ dugout.
Teammates celebrate senior outfielder Natalie Peters after Peters scores a run in a game against Michigan State. Buy this photo
Senior first baseman Alex Sobczak waits in hope for another run after putting the Wolverines on the board with a homerun in the previous play. This is in Michigan’s final game of the season against James Madison. Buy this photo
Freshman right-hander Alex Storako shares a laugh with her teammates during a game against Michigan State. Buy this photo
The Wolverines’ dugout starts a “go blue” chant with Michigan fans during a game against Minnesota. Buy this photo
The Wolverines wait in suspense during the bottom of the seventh inning, with the tying run at the plate, in their final game of the season against James Madison. Buy this photo
Freshman outfielder Lexie Blair as the team packs up after the Big Ten Softball Tournament celebration. Buy this photo
Throughout the season, Hutchins referred to her team as “jungle tigers,” meaning they play aggressive in order to win. Still sticking with the jungle tiger theme, at the beginning of the postseason, a new mascot was introduced.
Theo the Tiger in the Wolverines dugout at Alumni Field. Buy this photo
From the beginning of the Big Ten Tournament, Theo the Tiger appeared in the dugout, on the field and the team bus. A Twitter account was even created for Theo and continues to be active, even with the season over.
Theo poses in the team photo after the Big Ten Softball Tournament victory at Andy Mohr Field. Buy this photo
Theo watches from the Wolverines' dugout during the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Theo celebrates with the team after a walkoff homerun victory against Illinois in the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
By the time NCAA Regionals came around, Theo the Tiger had made itself known to the Michigan softball community. Fans even had mini versions of Theo to support the Wolverines during the games against James Madison.
A Michigan softball fan supports the team with his own Theo the Tiger look-alike during the games against James Madison at Alumni Field. Buy this photo
While the season may have not ended on a high note for the Wolverines, there were many peak moments of celebration throughout the season. And from an in-person perspective, the enthusiasm runs high from warm-ups until the team has left the field. As a photographer, while you are able to get much satisfaction from an in-game action photo, it is nothing compared to the satisfaction you feel after capturing an exciting celebration photo.
Freshman outfielder Lexie Blair and senior outfielder Natalie Peters run towards their team after Blair makes the final out to win the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Freshman Grace Chelemen helps lead the Wolverines to victory as a pinch runner during a game against Minnesota in the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Freshman right-hander Alex Storako celebrates with her teammates after finishing the inning in a game against Michigan State. Buy this photo
Sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez and senior catcher Katie Alexander have some fun after Alexander hits a homerun. Buy this photo
Senior utility Faith Canfield and her teammates raise the Big Ten Softball Tournament trophy in celebration. Buy this photo
The Wolverines wait in anticipation of junior third baseman Madison Uden as she rounds the bases in a game against Wisconsin. Buy this photo
The Wolverines’ two starting pitchers, freshman Alex Storako and sophomore Meghan Beaubien, embrace in a hug after the Big Ten Softball Tournament victory. Notice the familiar face making an appearance in the background. Buy this photo
The Wolverines lead their fans in “Hail to the Victors” after the post-game ceremony at the Big Ten Softball Tournament. Buy this photo
Senior designated player Mackenzie Nemitz shares her enthusiasm with the team in a game against Wisconsin. Buy this photo
Senior first baseman Alex Sobczak shows her excitement after trying to help the Wolverines rally back in the second game against James Madison. Buy this photo
Michigan softball had an action-packed season, full of celebration as well as defeat. While the team will be losing five seniors to the upcoming year, it will not lose the high energy it carried throughout the season.
Here are some more highlights from the Michigan softball season: