When Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins earned her 1,200th career victory Saturday — an 8-3 decision over Ball State that improved on the Wolverines’ unblemished record — it seemed that the milestone may be just one of many reached this season.
After all, it’s no secret that No. 8 Michigan (22-0 overall) is very capable of a special spring, showing no signs of slowing down while traveling across Florida en route to a perfect trip over break. The team completed its tour of the Sunshine State with a 7-2 triumph over host South Florida on Sunday.
Hutch, as she’s affectionately known, doesn’t like talking about her accomplishments and gives the credit for her success to virtually anyone who will take the spotlight from her.
“I don’t really keep track of that stuff,” Hutch said of the milestone. “It just means I’ve had a lot of good kids in my program and a lot of good assistants.”
Of the 1,200 wins — many of them coming in convincing fashion like Saturday’s 8-0 trouncing of Arkansas — 1,177 have come during her tenure in Ann Arbor, so it’s clear that success in Maize and Blue is nothing new to Hutch.
But this year has a different feel to it.
Different from last year’s run to the NCAA Super Regional. Different from the 2009 trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City — where the Wolverines hope to return this year. Even different from 2005 when Michigan completed its magical run, coming back to beat UCLA for the national championship, giving Hutch her ring.
But anyone who knows her knows one title isn’t enough to appease her will to succeed — a deeply rooted desire that she, in turn, lends to each one of her student-athletes.
That’s why nobody should be surprised when after leading Michigan to its best start in school history, after being named to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, after claiming 13 of the last 18 Big Ten regular-season championships, Hutch refuses to relent.
The words “day off” aren’t a part of her vocabulary. She won’t accept from her players anything less than their best. Settling for less isn’t what brought the Lansing native from a two-sport athlete at Michigan State down I-96 to become one of the greatest coaches in college softball history.
And the Wolverines have been creeping up the national polls. While the schedule thus far hasn’t been filled with national powers, some difficult challenges await Michigan. If it can overcome them, the ascend up the rankings will continue. But don’t tell Hutch — she doesn’t read them.
“We don’t care about the polls,” Hutch said. “You play (the games) on the field. We’ll get our opportunity.”
This weekend, the Wolverines will attempt to remain unbeaten when they travel to Louisville to play a pair against both the Cardinals and Western Kentucky. In order to remain one of the nation’s few unbeatens, they certainly won’t need to deviate from the sound fundamentals that Hutch preaches from the moment her players put on that uniform.
“We’re just trying to get better because everyone in the country is doing the same thing,” Hutch said.
And she hasn’t given us any reason to think otherwise. In fact, she has given us 1,200 reasons to believe.
Here’s to 1,200 more, Hutch.