- Terra Molengraff/Daily
By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Editor
Published May 23, 2012
The Michigan softball team is getting hot at the right time.
After allowing just three runs in three games in the Louisville Regional last weekend, the 21st-ranked Wolverines are moving on to Tuscaloosa for the NCAA Super Regional.
Michigan’s dominating performance in the Regional was led by freshman left-hander Haylie Wagner, who pitched three complete games en route to 32-5 on the season — a program record for freshman wins.
And for the offense, the Wolverines tallied a total of 22 hits in the Regional following their season’s motto — “one-pitch softball.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins stressed the importance of waiting for the right pitch to hit, and the squad has been successful through most of the Big Ten schedule with patience at the plate. But even against some of the better pitching staffs in the country — Louisville’s is ranked fourth in the nation — the Wolverines found success.
And with No. 2 Alabama coming up, they don’t have any time to slow down.
“I think the biggest thing is that you have to go in there and swing,” Hutchins said. “(Alabama pitcher Jackie) Traina brings it. You’re not going to take pitches and take pitches and get one swing. We’re going to try to get our cuts.”
Michigan will look to get some hits from seniors Amanda Chidester and Bree Evans, two of the offensive leaders of the team. Chidester had a 2-for-3 performance and knocked in her 199th-career RBI in the game against Louisville on Sunday, and Evans, the leadoff hitter, recorded at least one hit in each of the three games in the Regional.
But the Wolverines will not have offensive success against Alabama if their stars are the only ones who have good days. In past seasons, Michigan has breezed through the year, losing just a handful of games behind the bats of stars like Samantha Findlay and Dorian Shaw. But this year, the Wolverines don’t have a standout player, and they learned quickly that they have to win as a team.
“I think something that this group had to learn about each other was that it was going to take everybody to win,” Hutchins said. “We’ve had a number of superstars over the years. This year, we are not superstars.”
Michigan also suffered some tough losses this season, losing conference series to Illinois and Minnesota and dropping a nonconference game to Western Michigan.
Though the Wolverines didn’t get to host a Regional or Super Regional site because of their record, the squad doesn’t see those setbacks as a negative.
“Our defense moved a lot in the beginning, (we) have a freshman battery. Our leadership roles have shifted, (and) I just think it was a little rough in the beginning," Chidester said. "I think that was a good thing. ... (they) have helped us grow and work together better (because) we’ve been through everything.”
Fellow senior Bree Evans agreed.
“Mentally, it’s easier for the game," she said. "We don’t panic in a situation of us getting behind a few runs as we might’ve done in a previous year. It’s been rougher than the years we’re used to, but we’re improving at the time we need to.”