As Michigan coach Carol Hutchins embraced her players one by one after the second-ranked Wolverines’ 8-0 win over Indiana Saturday, senior outfielders Olivia Richvalsky and Mary Sbonek crept up from behind carrying a large Gatorade jug.
Hutchins noticed the duo at the last second and unsuccessfully tried to escape the impromptu shower.
Nonetheless, she appreciated her players’ celebration of her new status as the all-time NCAA wins leader. Hutchins collected career win No. 1,458 on Saturday and added No. 1,459 on Sunday in a three-game sweep of the Hoosiers.
“One of my favorite things to do is to be with my team, and we were all in it together,” Hutchins said. “I told them, ‘This is not about me; this is about us.’ I think my team continues to represent every woman who’s ever played before them. That’s an important tradition to uphold, and it’s an important duty, one that comes with wearing the Block M.”
Now, Hutchins can add winningest softball coach in NCAA history to a list of life accomplishments that reach far beyond the softball field.
Hutchins, as a student, successfully pursued legal action against the Michigan State administration over equal treatment of female athletes, and hosts the Michigan Softball Academy, an annual event that both increases awareness about breast cancer and raises funds for the American Cancer Society.
“She’s more than just a softball coach,” Montemarano said. “She’s touched so many people’s lives, she’s affected my life in such a positive way and she’s there for you no matter what. She’s worked so hard — not just in softball — for women’s rights, to affect people’s lives. It’s a blessing to play for her and to learn from her every single day.”
Hutchins was quick to attribute her record to the efforts of those around her.
“It’s an achievement by the University of Michigan softball program,” she said. “It’s not a personal achievement. It’s a reflection of every person who has ever been involved with Michigan softball, including our support staff. Everybody’s committed to the same thing. We’re very proud, and I thought our kids were very excited to be a part of that.”
The victory on Saturday was one of three of a successful weekend for Michigan.
The Wolverines (5-1 Big Ten, 27-3 overall) jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the series opener Friday, before the Hoosiers (3-3 Big Ten, 20-13 overall) cut the lead to two in the third inning. But that was the closest Indiana would get, as Michigan scored six more runs en route to an 11-5 victory.
After giving up two runs off four hits and three walks in four innings of pitching Friday, junior right-hander Megan Betsa came back strong Saturday.
Betsa tossed five innings of shutout ball, with nine strikeouts and only one walk, as the Wolverines cruised to a 8-0 run-rule victory.
“I thought (Betsa) really stepped it up this weekend and did a great job,” Hutchins said. “After she struggled a little bit Friday night, she came back yesterday and was just really solid in really difficult conditions — the winds were just absolutely horrendous.”
In Sunday’s game, the Wolverines’ bats stayed hot. Michigan launched four home runs, including two grand slams.
After freshman catcher Alex Sobczak started the home run parade in the second inning, senior second baseman Sierra Romero followed her lead by launching a homer — her third of the weekend — to begin the fourth inning. Later in the frame, the Wolverines extended their lead off Montemarano’s grand slam, and senior center fielder Sierra Lawrence put the game out of reach with another grand slam in the sixth.
“I’m pleased,” Hutchins said of her team’s performance. “We got better in some areas, and that needs to be our focus — just trying to get better every day. Indiana is a feisty team. They’ve got good, young pitchers, and I thought our kids did a nice job. We played well for the most part.
“We took better cuts. We put Alex Sobczak back behind the plate, and I (think) she’s getting better. And I thought we jelled as a group. I thought we really played as a team. Sometimes we get a little individual, whether that’s on the mound or at the plate. I thought our kids were locked in as a team, and that’s when we’re at our best.”