WCWS Update: The SEC walked into the WCWS in full ESS-EEE-SEE mode. You saw the 6th seed Bama last night; there's an entire bracket of SEC teams (#1 Florida, #5 LSU, #4 Auburn, and #8 Tennessee) opposite us. Last year Bama lost to Florida in the national championship series, and Florida is a favorite to repeat. In a sport dominated by pitching the Gators have the best, Lauren Haeger, who just narrowly defeated Michigan's Sierra Romero for the college softball version of the Heisman.
The rest of Michigan's side of the bracket is UCLA, which owns a third of the national championships ever, not including the 1995 one that the NCAA vacated, demonstrating a dedication to the sport most D-I teams athletic departments can't afford for football.
This is the dispersal (bigger dot = more national championships) of softball titles since 1982:
Some of these things are only somewhat like the others; one is definitively not.
The last member of our bracket is fully owned Nike™ subsidiary the Oregon Nikes, who wear spacey backpacks everywhere they go so Nike™ can convince a demographic of schoolgirls who wear stupid-looking athletic gear to school to get Nike™ backpacks. The Oregon Nikes also have a great pitcher who finished third in the PoY running.
A distant third. Really the competition was between the senior pitcher with 194 K's who held a league that hits .330 to .183, and our own Sierra Romero.
Romero. Yes I am making this whole column about softball this week. ROMERO! Here's what a hitter who challenges for the PoY in a pitching sport looks like: Romero hit .472 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI, 55 walks, and set the NCAA career grand slam record. She also had 20 steals on 24 attempts. She plays shortstop with a Jeter smoothness (or second base because Abby Ramirez is such a good infielder).
The thing about Michigan is Romero isn't the only star. Kelly Christner hit .407 this year and matched Romero for home runs. Sierra Lawrence had a .484 OBP from the leadoff spot, plus 14 dingers. Kelsey Susalla matched Sierra2's power numbers while hitting .379. Lauren Sweet, the catcher, hit .324 with 12 homers. Michigan too has great pitchers—sophomore Megan Betsa and senior Haylie Wagner are Ace 1 and Ace 2, with senior Sara Driesenga (.078 ERA) still around as a luxury, and the future, freshman Tera Blanco, waiting over at 1st base.
Theory: Jim Harbaugh has spent all of his free time since he graduated pretending to be a softball coach. Michigan softball isn't a monster program from the heart of baseball country, isn't a golem assembled from overcharging for shoes made by underpaid slaves, and certainly is not from the conference that believes Pat Forde columns about its greatness should fulfill writing requirements.
The thing it's best known for across the softball world is it has a pinata-smashing softball Harbaugh if Harbaugh was more successful coaching it. Betsa said she gets her mental toughness from competitions like who can balance heavy logs on their hands while doing workouts. Last night Hutch literally fell over while trying to put the breaks on Romero at 3rd base; Romero ran through it but scampered back safely to leave the bases loaded for Sweet to turn a 1-0 game into the 5-0 game.
Present 1999 1986
Harbuagh/Hutch through the years
It had a .461 on base percentage this year, and outscored its opponents by an average of 9 to 1.5. It made making pizza into a theme, complete with complicated hand gestures and fan signage. It won a map-contradicting national championship ten years ago, and dances more often than that one. It led the country with 171 homers this year, and sprinkled every one of them with cheese.
Etc. The South didn't like Michigan camping there—and couldn't do anything about it—in the mid-1860s either. SEC rules changes troll Tom Brady and Brady Hoke, plus Notre Dame's faces and Dantonio's favorite tackling strategy. What a blue shirt is. Terry Frei on the Rob Lytle book. Michigan Stadium Movie Night opted for Disney fantasy flick (Remember the Titans) over a documentary on Scandinavian economics (Frozen).