Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
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!!!
Now that the FB regular season is over, I wanted to let the board know about a few things happening on the Softball team. IMO this team will bring us the next National Championship.
1) The team scrimmaged against National Pro Fastpitch All-Star team on 06OCT12. Former M Star and current M coach Nikki Nemitz pitched for NPF. The Varsity team took it to them and had a walk-off, 3-2 win. Sara Driesenga was the winning pitcher. Newcomer Sierra Romero was the hero at the plate by going 3 for 3 with a 2 run homer in the 5th to tie the game. Then in the bottom of the 7th, M worked the bases loaded when Ashley Lane drew a game-winning base on balls.
NPF travels around the country playing various NCAA teams and has a 60-4 record in the past three years. Out of 22 games played this year, NPF lost 3 games: us, UL-Lafayette (5-4) and Okalhoma (5-3).This is the first real test for the Varsity team.
2) Coach signed 3 very good standouts recently. I will profile them in separate "Hello" posts.
3) The Board of Directors approved a multi-million dollar improvement project to Alumni Field. We have very good facilities however they are not "World Class". The improvement will take us to the top. Tennessee has the best overall facilities IMO and this should catch and maybe even surpass Tennessee. This will help recruiting, along with the FB and BB successes. We should have a NC within 5 years (aggressive I know).
The 2013 schedule begins 08FEB13 in Tampa Florida for the USF Tourney.
The future continues to look bright. Coach Hutch is certainly the best in the game, as she re-loads every single year. This, along with the new projects, your "game-day" experience will be much better.
SOFTBALL. That's right, its almost softball season. Michigan Softball opens the 2012 season on 10FEB12 in Baton Rouge in the LSU Tourney.
This year will be an interesting year for the ladies. We lose some serious senior leadership in Jordan Taylor and Dorian Shaw. Replacing just one of these would be difficult enough, let alone both. Coach Hutch will certainly have her hands full.
The good news is that although we lost the best pitcher in Michigan history (IMHO), Jr. Stephanie should be able to step in and perform to Michigan Standards. Now Jordan's shoes are very large, Stephanie did a good (not great) job last year. Her numbers were very similar to Jordan's; however it appreared that Stephanie struggled with stamina and needed help in some big games.
Jordan pitched 241.1 innings, her record was 31-5, and pitched 30 complete games. Stephanie pitched in 122.2 innings, her record was 18-1, and pitched in 6 complete games. Her stats are acceptable because she was learning and growing. Now its her time so shine and I think she will be just fine.
The other loss is Dorian. Coach Huch will probably give Sophomore Mandy Gardner an opportunity to play first base. Mandy is 6' and has better range than Dorian. Last year Mandy hit only .083 in 15 games. But I have seen her take BP a few times and let me tell you; she is going to be just fine.
Now for the positives; my All-American choice Ashley Lane is back for her junior year. She led the team in HR, Slg % and was a close second in RBIs. She was thrown into the starting 2nd baseman's position after the injury to Stephanie Kirkpatrick. Lane struggled early last year on defense but settled in very nicely. She will only improve.
Another positive is the return of Stephanie Kirkpatrick. She blew out her knee early in the season during a freaky play. She had surgery in March and was walking just fine in May. Stephanie has awesome range, is quick as a jack rabbit and can hit for power and average.
Nicole Sappingfield's knee injury late in the season was a major blow to us. It was obvious that we missed her speed on the basepaths late and during the playoffs. She was walking on it in the regionals but I dont know if she had surgery or not.
Bree Evans is back for her senior year. This young lady is a real treat to watch. She reminds me of the story about Babe Ruth calling his shot. Well Bree calls her own shot every single pitch. The entire world knows she is going to slap, and I think this game-plan has been translated in over 10 languages. No one can get her out consistantly as she scoots down the line. Bree probably leads the nation in infield hits, including 1 infield double that I witnessed.
Amanda Chidester will be a beast this year. She exploded into elite status with last year's transition to 3B when Kirkpatrick when down. Chiddy has much room to grow as well; with off-season workouts, expect a few more bombs at Alumni Field.
Keep an eye on incoming freshmen Haley Wagnar (LHP-CA) and Sara Driesenga (RHP-Grand Rapids Mi). Both of these young ladies should factor in our successearly should Stephanie stumble a little.
Overall, this will be a team of adjustment. If we can get settled in early; look out. If we get a slow start, we could have a little trouble. Lets not forget the goal: Win the B1G.
In a few days, I will provide a Big Ten Preview as well as introducing two more high-end recruits to the Michigan Family. GO BLUE