The preseason softball poll is out, and it looks like MGoSoftball & myself aren't the only ones with high expectations for the team this season! The owners of six straight Big Ten Championships clock in at #5 in the preseason poll and are the highest-rated Big Ten team. Nebraska is the only other ranked Big Ten team at #9 in the country. Obviously preseason rankings never mean a whole lot, but it is nice to see the ladies ranked so highly. Hopefully they live up to the expectations!
Season opens in about two and a half weeks with games against #4 Florida and #25 USF. I'm working on a full season preview, which I will post once we get a little closer to first pitch.
As we now sit exactly one month before the beginning of softball season, Mgoblue.com coverage is starting to ramp up a bit. Today they posted a nice interview with Coach Hutch, addressing a number of aspects of the upcoming season, including the pitching staff (now with three legit pitchers, given the addition of freshman Megan Betsa), the strength of the Big Ten conference, and who she expects to make the leap forward. I was happy to see Kelsey Susalla get mentioned there, as she's someone I've had pegged as a potential break-out player since last season.
For those of us ready to see a Michigan team that will win a pile of games & represent the University in the best way, softball season can't get here soon enough!
One of the last pieces of softball news to come out before things get started in February, the team has released it's 55 game slate for the 2014 season. (LINK: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/110513aab.html )
I really like the non-conference schedule, which features a good balance of some games where we'll have an opportunity to get warmed up, test out some different things, etc. along with a number of top-shelf opponents so we can prove ourselves against the best & hopefully build a great tournament resume. Highlights include a season-opener against Florida along with rematches against tournament foes Lousiana Lafayette and Washington.
The conference schedule is an interesting one, as the B10 continues to use the three-game series format that leads to more teams being left off the schedule entirely. Notably, Michigan misses out entirely on Nebraska, the only team to hand us a regular-season in-conference loss last year when they took 2 of 3 in Lincoln en route to a 2nd place finish in the B10. They are replaced on the schedule by a strong Wisconsin side that Michigan will face in the final series of the season. Depending on how things shape up, that could provide a fantastic finale to regular season play.
All in all, another exciting season lies before us. Hopefully the ladies can rise to the challenge!
Michigan softball team 37 saw their first action over the weekend, breezing through an exhibition tournament in Traverse City 5-0, racking up 29 runs while allowing only 4 against CMU, WMU, and Oakland.
It sounds like Hutch was pretty happy with the team overall. I am especially encouraged by her comments regarding the pitching, as she noted that Wagner "looks strong, she looks fitter and better" and that freshman Megan Betsa looked like an immediate contributor. I stand by my view from last year that Wagner's sophmore slump was just a factor of the nagging injury, and that now that she's had time to heal from that, she'll be back to the high level of play she showed as a freshman.
There is a lot for this team to work on of course, and it will be one of the youngest teams we've seen in a while, but I think there's is tremendous potential here. With talented freshmen coming in, two returning pitchers, and a whole pile of offense including the landslide Big Ten Player of the Year award winner, we should have a great season ahead of us.
Hutch's full comments available here: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/100113aad.html
Just a couple weeks after wrapping up another successful season (51 wins, B10 title, WCWS appearance, #6 ranking in final polls), some more good news for the softball team. Two players who will be joining the Wolverines this coming season were honored as the Gatorade Player of the Year in their respective states (Illinois & Georgia). One looks like a complete hitter, hitting for power & average very impressively, while the other looks to be another great pitcher. I'm especially excited about that, because if she produces immediately, we'll be the rare team that can throw 3 different pitchers successfully, and if it takes her a bit, she's got time to come along & play understudy to Driesenga & Wagner. The future remains bright under Carol Hutchins' guidance!
As I mentioned yesterday, Coach Hutch landed 3 outstanding players in this year's recruitment. One of those players is Megan Betsa, a pitcher from the Union Grove Wolverines located in McDonough Ga.
Megan is a 5-8 pitcher. Not much is available about Megan because the Wolverines are not your typical State PowerHouse softball team. As a matter of fact, the Wolverines won their first Georgia State Championship primarily due to Megan's arm.
I was able to garner some data on Megan. She has an over-powering fastball (A-la Traina) and an off speed pitch that drops off the table (A-la Ricketts). This is a wonderful combination to have. Stephanie Spierman graduates this spring so we certainly need a third pitcher for 2014.
The Mothership says, "She led McDonough to the state championship this fall, marking the first title in school history. A three-time all-state and all-region selection, Betsa set a single-season record with 464 strikeouts as a senior. She finished her career with 1,349 strikeouts and nabbed Pitcher of the Year honors for the state of Georgia as a freshman and a junior."
Megan has a real good stick as well. She had some big knocks in the State Championship tourney.
Welcome Megan to the family. It will be an easy transformation from high school named Wolverines to us. Good luck in your collegiate career. Please make sure you bring snow boots and a snow shovel. You are welcome to visit us on the blog anytime and I hope you like football and basketball because we have World Class teams.
Again, welcome Megan. We are a better team with you on the team and Go Blue!!!