In the moment they made history, it was business as usual for the Michigan softball coaching trio of Carol Hutchins, Bonnie Tholl and Jennifer Brundage.
When senior first baseman Alex Sobczak secured the Wolverines’ 8-0 run-rule victory over Nebraska with a monstrous home run, the team locked up its fifth consecutive victory. But when the blast landed on the adjacent warning track of the Ray Fisher Stadium baseball field, Michigan celebrated more than just the home run when Sobczak rounded third base.
With the win, Hutchins, Tholl and Brundage tallied their 1,000th total win in 21 years of coaching in Ann Arbor. Over the course of those 21 years — a tenure which began with the hiring of Brundage ahead of the 1999 season — the Wolverines have captured 15 Big Ten titles and the program’s lone national championship in 2005.
“I lost track of that a long time ago,” Hutchins said. “I’m very fortunate and I think it’s shown in the consistency of our program. Our coaching staff is a cut above. Bonnie (Tholl) and Jen (Brundage) have been extraordinary as assistant coaches, they’re invested in this program as any coach could be. They’re a large reason for the success we’ve had. We’re fortunate to have had them this long.”
The trio’s players echoed a similar sentiment after the game.
“You don’t ever go into a game thinking about that,” said senior first baseman Alex Sobczak. “It’s the last thing on our mind and I know it’s the same thing for our coaches, but obviously it’s great that our coaches get rewarded in that sense and all their hard work pays off. It’s nice to hear about that.”
Added junior third baseman Madison Uden: “That’s amazing. It’s awesome to hear that. I’d expect nothing less from this group of coaches, they’re an amazing trio and they know what to do to help us win. Kudos to them.”
Brundage accepted a job at Michigan after serving as an assistant coach at UCLA and Tennessee-Chattanooga. She has primarily coached Michigan’s pitchers in her time with the program, transforming the position into the team’s strong suit. Under her tutelage, 19 pitchers have received All-American honors.
Five years prior to Brundage’s hiring, Hutchins brought Tholl into the fold to work with the defense and improve the program’s efforts on the recruiting trail. From 1988-1991, Tholl excelled during her four-year playing career as the Wolverines’ shortstop. Tholl was a staple atop Hutchins’ lineup, highlighted by her Big Ten-best zero strikeouts as a team captain in the 1991 season.
Now in her 35th season, Hutchins is a living legend and the icon of the program. Her 1,587 wins and counting are the most in NCAA softball history. Hutchins is also the winningest coach in the university’s history, a title she earned with her 638th victory in March 2000. In 2006, she was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The Wolverines’ coaching trio has shown no signs of slowing down, as the program has won 10 of the last 11 Big Ten crowns. Saturday’s conference opener at Alumni Field marked the beginning of a quest for yet another.