In locking up a routine run-rule victory over Kent State, 11-3, in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins became the first college softball coach in history to reach 1,500 career wins.
But after the game, senior centerfielder Kelly Christner and junior first baseman Aidan Falk — brows raised — shared a bewildered look upon hearing the news.
“I didn’t even know,” Christner said.
“We had no clue,” Falk added.
Hutchins flies under the radar as much as a coach with her pedigree can. The magnitude of her accomplishments can often go unnoticed, often by her own insistence.
“I just want to win the game,” Hutchins said. “The only game I care about is the game we’re playing. I don’t count wins. I don’t win any games. I’m just the coach, they win the games.”
After a momentary pause to allow for proper context, though, Christner emphasized the low-profile nature of Hutchins’ monumental accomplishment.
“The fact that none of us even knew that it was her 1,500th… I think that says a lot about her as a coach, that she’s not worried about that, she doesn’t care about that. She’s focused on the team we have right now.”
While Hutchins is quick to deflect the credit of her big-picture feat to her players, the nitty gritty of her coaching prowess lies in the smaller details throughout each game.
With the offense sputtering in the fourth inning of the final game of the weekend in what seemed to be another lackluster performance against Kent State ace Ronnie Ladines — who held it to just two hits in Saturday’s contest — Hutchins held a lengthy meeting with the whole team outside the dugout. Her demeanor in the huddle signaled an unhappy tone.
“I think (the meeting) was more just talking about our at-bats and how we really needed to see the ball deep and let the ball get there because we were all just early,” Falk said. “So that was the main focus, just on the offensive side. I think after that we did pick it up.”
Added Hutchins: “I know how well these kids can hit. I watch them every day, and they’ve been tight endlessly throughout the season and trying too hard, and it’s not working for us. So they really need to just relax and believe that their swings’ good enough.”
And when she talks, the Wolverines listen.
The Michigan offense immediately responded in the bottom of the fourth inning to break the 0-0 tie. Falk keyed a 3-run rally with a slicing double down the left field line to score the first two runs of the game. The 3-run inning would be plenty for Michigan ace Megan Betsa, who completed her second shutout of the weekend in the Wolverines’ 3-0 win.
In the first inning of the second game of the doubleheader, Christner — who, prior to the game, hadn’t had a hit in her last nine at bats — fouled off a pitch down the first base line. The lefty immediately turned her attention to the third base side, where Hutchins was flailing her body and arms in a swinging motion, as if to symbolize Christner’s imbalance at the plate.
Christner’s single in the bottom of the fourth — notably to the opposite field — was key to the three-run Wolverine rally that would prove more than enough to extend Hutchins’ win total to 1,501.
Inarguably one of the most — if not the most — successful coaches in softball history, Hutchins’ accomplishments speak for themselves.
Thirty-three seasons and 1,501 wins. Twlelve Women’s College World Series appearances. Nineteen Big Ten titles. The winningest coach in Michigan athletic and NCAA softball history.
But to Falk and Christner, their coach means a whole lot more than just her numbers.
“It’s kind of us taking it as it goes and really embracing what we have—what we’re blessed to have — that a lot of other teams dont,” Falk said. “I think (Hutchins is) making us better women as well. Everyday that we come in here, I can feel myself being better — being a better person, being better overall.”