After a disappointing ending to a season that was not up to the Michigan softball team’s lofty aspirations, coach Carol Hutchins had a simple answer for the softball team’s focus throughout the offseason.
“Pitching, offense and defense. You know, you catch and throw.”
With the winningest coach in college softball at the helm, the Wolverines recognize that any sort of rebound from last year starts with the fundamentals.
Ranked No. 19, according to the USA Today, Michigan once again is predicted to come out victorious in the Big Ten with No. 21 Minnesota being the only other team from the conference appearing in the rankings.
But winning the Big Ten isn’t going to be enough for what the Wolverines have their sights set on.
“In every aspect of our program, we are gearing up for a chance to be a World Series contender,” Hutchins said. “That’s the expectation of the program, so all we can do is hold the standards of the program in everything we do, whether it’s working hard, whether it’s showing up on time, whether it’s doing the little things properly.”
Being ranked towards the bottom of the top-20 would be encouraging for most programs. For Michigan, it’s uncharacteristic. However, the players have their blinders up.
“Honestly, we don’t talk rankings in here,” said sophomore pitcher Meghan Beaubien. “Like, coaches don’t bring it up. I don’t think the team has brought it up as a group, it’s just not something we focus on. Because ultimately, the preseason ranking doesn’t mean anything when you get to the end of the year. So much time and anyone can beat anyone, you know.”
“We try to not pay attention to rankings, what happens outside of us,” added junior third baseman Madison Uden. “I mean, we have our own little thing where we just try keep everything within us. You know, a lot of great players talk about just trusting the process and doing what you know. And that’s what we’re kind of working on right now.”
But questions have arisen about whether the Wolverines’ style is primed to defeat the Pac-12 and SEC powerhouses that make up a majority of the top-15 teams. With college softball slowly shifting to power-hitting over consistency, Hutchins’ long-standing (and proven) offensive philosophy will continue to be challenged.
Michigan trusts her, however, and knows that 35 years of coaching has brought some tried and true methods to Hutchins’ name.
“I think we keep to what (Hutchins) wants us to do, but I think actually, it just kind of depends on who she brings in,” Uden said. “Obviously when (former Wolverines Sierra Romero) and Sierra Lawrence stepped out, we became more of a consistency team than a power hitting, which they’ve adapted to that great over the past couple of years. We struggled with that, I know, my freshman year. But I know this year is gonna look a lot better.
“We are a more consistent team, not so much of a power hitting team but who says you can’t get the job done with consistency?”
If Uden’s point is to hold true, the rankings should follow suit.