Jacksonville, Fla., is probably not high on most people’s list of top Spring Break destinations.
Unless you’re a member of the Michigan softball team.
Making the trip down south for the Jacksonville University Tournament, the Wolverines were not disappointed to be spending their Spring Break away from home. On the contrary, the Wolverines’ unity made it one of the their best.
“Our team chemistry is the best I’ve ever seen of any team I’ve every played with,” sophomore Allison Kidman said. “We’re all best friends and like sisters. It affects the team playing-wise. We’re best friends on and off the field.”
And it was on the field that No. 13 Michigan (20-1) made best friends with the run column of each game’s box score, tallying 26 total runs over the course of four games.
The team had become close with the record books prior to the Jacksonville Tournament. With a doubleheader sweep over No. 19 Florida State on Feb. 28, the Wolverines gave Michigan coach Carol Hutchins her 1,000th career win. She became just the sixth Division I NCAA softball coach to reach the landmark.
But the Wolverines quickly put the accomplishment behind them and had no trouble moving on to Jacksonville.
Three of the weekend’s games (against Jacksonville and twice against Virginia) were decided early, as Michigan went up by eight or more runs before the seventh inning to secure run-rule victories.
The weekend’s lone close call came in a 1-0 defeat of unranked Notre Dame. The Wolverines’ solo run came in the fourth inning when Kidman doubled down the right field line, scoring shortstop Teddi Ewing.
Pitcher Lorilyn Wilson anchored the team on the mound with another dominant performance, striking out 13 batters en route to a one-hit complete game.
“We won a really tough game against Notre Dame and we needed a really good pitching performance and we got one,” Hutchins said.
Wilson was particularly pleased with her 2-0 (11.0 IP, 24 K) showing this weekend. Against the Seminoles, the senior didn’t feel she had enough movement on her pitches. But Wilson said she felt more relaxed in Jacksonville and that the movement on her pitches improved significantly. An umpire even mentioned to the Salem, Ore., native the noticeable difference in the ball’s movement.
And Wilson wasn’t the only pitcher with a strong performance in the tournament. Freshman Nikki Nemitz extended her undefeated collegiate record to 9-0, pitching 11 innings (surrendering just two hits) in Michigan’s pair of 8-0 rule-run victories against Virginia.
On the offensive side, Kidman highlighted the Wolverines’ Sunday double-header with a five RBI performance. Her first RBI of the day proved to be the game-winner against Notre Dame, and the next three came on the sophomore’s first career home run in the day’s second game.
“It felt great,” Kidman said. “When the ball was coming in from the pitcher’s hand it looked like a volleyball almost. I just took it and it just flew off my bat. . It felt awesome.”
But despite the runs that the Wolverines put on the board, the team knows that it still hasn’t reached its potential.
“I feel like no one feels like they’re at their top right now,” Wilson said. “Overall, I feel like we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
And Hutchins pointed to the offense as the area where the team is going to get better as the season progresses.
“It won’t be good enough down the road,” Hutchins said. “Our next tournament will be our toughest test, so I look forward to that and that will tell us really where we’re at.”