As No. 24 Michigan (11-9 overall) prepares for its home opener against Western Michigan (6-11), coach Carol Hutchins is focused on the game at hand even when she is on the verge of a milestone.
The first game against the Broncos will mark Hutchins” 1,000th game of her coaching career 965 of which have come in her 16-and-a-half seasons as coach of the Wolverines. The milestone was supposed to come this past weekend, but Michigan”s game against Loyola was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Hutchins didn”t even know that the game was her 1,000th until she someone told her.
“I just think about the game at hand,” Hutchins said. “I don”t think of much of (coaching the 1,000th game) I”ve been here a long time.”
In preparing for the upcoming games, Hutchins has tried to raise the team”s level of intensity. She has used various practice devices to try and simulate a game environment.
“We are trying to create a more pressured atmosphere,” Hutchins said. “It is hard to create game (pressure) in a practice setting.”
In order to create consequences for losing, Hutchins has given punishments to the losing team, such as forcing it to run or buy milkshakes for the winners. Hutchins believes that this type of pressure has produced the results that she wants to see.
“Last week we (gave consequences) and we saw a greater consistency level,” Hutchins said.
A very consistent aspect for Michigan has been the play of senior co-captain Melissa Taylor. Through 20 games, Taylor is hitting .456 with an on-base percentage of .479. Taylor”s averages are well above those for her career .317 and .360, respectively.
“She has gone back to her short game,” Hutchins said. “Her on-base percentage is right where it needs to be (when hitting second).”
This past weekend, Taylor hit six-for-nine with three RBI, in two games.
“She has been a sparkplug and we need other to follow,” Hutchins said.
Western Michigan is also hoping find some consistency under first-year coach Kathy Leitke. After winning three consecutive games, the Broncos have dropped three of their last four.
Despite the struggles, Hutchins knows it is early in the season and has a lot of respect for Leitke.
Leitke “is an excellent coach,” Hutchins said. Western Michigan is a “program on the ups.”
Michigan last played the Broncos in a doubleheader in 1998. The Wolverines won both games, 10-0 and 9-1.