- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 3, 2013
For Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins, it’s program first and country second.
Hutchins, in her 29th year as coach of the Wolverines, helped coach the U.S. National and Elite Teams in 2005, but said even wearing the red, white and blue doesn’t compare to wearing the block ‘M’.
“I’ve gotten to wear a little bit of both,” Hutchins said. “And there’s nothing like Michigan. I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing like Michigan. This place really gets in your heart.”
Despite her program-over-patriot feelings, Hutchins is excited for freshman shortstop Sierra Romero and freshman left fielder Sierra Lawrence, who were selected to play on the 2013 Junior Women’s National Team.
The duo learned on Friday that it would play alongside 15 others on the under-19 team which will compete in the Junior Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Ont. during the first week of July. The team will hold exhibition games in Glenville, W.Va. the last week of June to prepare for the competition. Even if Michigan were to go to the Women’s College World Series, the international play would not interfere with end of their season. The U.S. squad will look to defend its title after winning the world championship in Cape Town, South Africa in 2011.
The freshmen are at the helm of a Wolverine team seeking their sixth-straight Big Ten title. Romero, who took over the starting shortstop role from senior Amy Knapp in the fall, has been Michigan’s biggest offensive force. She leads the team in nearly every offensive category, hitting .395 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI. She also owns an .860 slugging percentage.
Lawrence’s production isn’t far behind. The Snellville, Ga. native is batting .341 with 26 runs scored. She has hit out of the nine-hole in six games — all of which Michigan has won. She’s also been a threat on the bases and is tied for third on the team with six steals in as many attempts.
“I like running the bases,” Lawrence said. “I just like the challenge. The other team, if they take a pitch off, then I’m going.”
Lawrence found out at the beginning of the year that she had been put in a pool of players that would eventually be whittled down to the final roster.
“We found out … towards the beginning of the year that we were being put in the player pool and that we would find out mid-April,” Lawrence said. “Looking on the list on Friday morning when we got it, and seeing your name, it’s just amazing. It’s such a blessing, and I can’t wait to represent USA this summer.”
The members of Team USA were originally identified by recommendations from coaches, observations at the ASA Junior Olympic National Championships and through the National Identification Program through Softball Factory. The list of candidates was cut down to 40 players, and then the final roster was released Friday by the Women’s National Team Selection Committee.
“I think choosing both Sierras is a great selection for the team,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “They are both really deserving, and they are both great players. Playing for the junior national team is a great honor for them and their families, and it’s a great honor for Michigan. It’s just really exciting for them, and I don’t even know if they realize how exciting it is. They’ll help USA softball a lot.”