EVANSTON — When the No. 4 Michigan softball team arrived in Evanston on Saturday for its weekend series against Northwestern, the weather didn’t seem much different from other previous venues. The sun was shining, the sky was a bright shade of blue and there was a light breeze.
When the Wolverines stepped off the bus, though, they knew they weren’t in Florida or California anymore.
Playing in 30-degree temperatures both days, Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 31-2 overall) swept the two-game Big Ten opening series against the Wildcats, but not without some adjustments to the biting cold and wind.
“I tell my kids that they have to focus on the game and work extra hard to stay warm,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said Sunday. “You got to work hard to just stay warm, and then you got to just play the game.”
The Wolverines got off to slow starts, falling behind early to the Wildcats in both games. The normally-hot bats of the Michigan sluggers looked cold in the first few innings, due in large part to the frigid temperatures.
“I think that was where part of our energy was — focused on the cold instead of the game,” junior third baseman Amanda Chidester said. “Once we got used to it and the coaches were on us, it helped us get our energy going.”
Chidester became the second Wolverine in as many days to get hot in the cold and bring the team back. Her grand slam in the fifth inning gave Michigan a three-run lead, and was one of the first well hit balls of the game for the Wolverines.
“The weather does become a factor — it’s harder to swing, it’s harder to move,” Hutchins said. “We both had to play in it, so there are no excuses. I always tell them there are no excuses on the scoreboard. It doesn’t say it was cold — it just says who wins and who loses.”
Senior right-hander Jordan Taylor, who pitched all 14 innings this weekend, didn’t even stand in the cold when it wasn’t necessary. Hutchins and the coaching staff sent her into the clubhouse while the Wolverines were batting to keep her arm warm during the pitching breaks.
“I thought that was a brilliant move, by the way,” Hutchins said with a smile. “I think (the cold) is hard for both (pitchers and hitters). You try to throw a pitch that has to break a certain way, and you have to have your hands out there … It’s tough.”
For the Wolverines, this won’t be their only run-in with the cold weather. They return to Ann Arbor for their home opener against Bowling Green on Wednesday before a weekend series against Indiana.
The projected temperature for Wednesday in Ann Arbor? 42 degrees.
“(The cold) is here,” Chidester said. “We can’t do anything about it. We just have to come out and play.”