Michigan Softball 2018 Season Preview

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 9th, 2018 at 4:45 PM

[ED: Happy Softball Opening Day! Every year South Bend Wolverine writes these fantastic previews of Michigan's continuing softball dynasty. He put this up before the season started but they've already won two games, the second a no hitter by freshman pitcher Meghan Beaubien. I've added photos and captions. Enjoy the winning! -Seth]

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More great seniors where that came from! [JD Scott]

It seems as though Michigan softball is often at its best when other sports are scuffling.  Michigan’s mediocre 2005 football team played in the same year that Michigan softball won a national championship.  Softball’s 9-year Big Ten conference championship streak spanned the entire Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke years, covering some Beilein struggles and the late Berenson decline as well.  The high point of that run, the 2015 “Year of the Pizza” national runner-up squad, made names like Romero, Lawrence, Wagner, and Susalla household names while Wolverine fans were reeling from the collapse of the Hoke/Brandon fiasco.  If this pattern holds, then middling seasons in football, hockey, and arguably basketball as well just might be a good omen for the 2018 softball team.

Whatever the auguries, this is a team resolutely looking towards the future.  The conference championship streak is broken, all the biggest stars of 2015 have graduated, and one of the most exciting recruiting classes in program history has arrived in town, ready to get down to business.  The past is in the past.  With first-pitch just two days away, it’s time for a new generation to write some legends of their own.

Departures

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Will it be weird not having Megan Betsa around? You bet your ass it will! [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Michigan bids a fond farewell to a storied senior class.  The four players who made up the class of 2017 played on some of the greatest teams in Michigan softball history, including one of my personal all-time, all-sport favorite teams to watch, the 2015 team.  These women won an astonishing 202 games as Wolverines.  In conference play, they brought home 3 Big Ten Championships and 1 Big Ten Tournament Championship, while in the post-season they won 3 NCAA regionals, made two trips to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series, and finished as National Runners-Up once.

The star of the group was right-handed strike-out artist Megan Betsa.  She made 1st Team All-Big Ten 3 times, and 2nd Team All-American thrice as well.  Her name won’t be dislodged from the Michigan record books anytime soon, as she finished her career second in team history with 6 no-hitters, third with 102 wins and 1,201 strikeouts, and fourth with 37 shutouts.  As a senior, she led the nation in Ks by a country mile, setting down 412 batters on strikes, 52 more than the second-place pitcher.  On a team that didn’t have a deep rotation, Betsa was an iron horse, throwing 235.1 innings while maintaining a remarkably high level of play throughout.

[Hit THE JUMP for the new wave, just like the old wave]

Kelly Christner was also a shining star in her four years in Ann Arbor.  She burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2015, hitting .393 for the season and smashing 21 home runs, one of the best marks in program history.  She suffered a bit of a slump in 2016, feeling the pressure of that 1st team All-America honor from the year before, but still managed to have a productive year.  As a senior, she came out guns-blazing and was one of the most important leaders on a team that had lost a lot of talent to graduation.  Christner led the team in most offensive categories, including batting average (.402), home runs (9, tied with Faith Canfield), and on-base percentage (.508).  Replacing her production will be Michigan’s top offensive challenge heading into 2018.

Lindsay Montemarano was more of a role-player, and had to fend off more than one serious challenger to retain her spot in Michigan’s starting line-up, but always managed to do enough to stay on the field.  She played stout defense at the hot corner, and while she never had the highest batting average, she had a knack for coming up with big hits at the right moment.  She was also a memorable emotional leader, most notably inspiring 2015’s famous pizza theme.

Abby Ramirez was the fourth senior to graduate in 2017, and one of the most consistent on-base threats in recent memory.  A slap hitter, her power numbers were always negligible (she only hit two home runs in her career, both in one weekend against Rutgers), but she knew how to get on base and make teams pay with her speed.  Living in the 9-spot for much of her career, she turned over the line-up with a regularity that will be sorely missed.

New Faces (and one Old One)

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Girl's still got it. [JD Scott]

Michigan welcomes a substantial freshman class this year, with five new players on the team, including two of the top recruits in the nation.  I’ve got a lot of things to say about them, especially Meghan Beaubien, who comes to Ann Arbor with more hype than any single player since Sierra Romero.  That can wait until the sections below, though.  For now, let’s just take a look at the “Hello” posts that Wolverine Devotee for three of our top recruits:

Michigan also picked up a couple other players late in the process, including the first ever Wolverine softball player to come from Iowa in RHP Sarah Schaefer and another national top-60 player in Natalia Rodriguez.

As you can see, this is a class that will be expected to contribute in a big way from day one, featuring two top-10 players and two more in the top-70.  Michigan has seen a lot of talent graduate over the last two years, so these players will need to grow up fast if Michigan is going to compete at the levels they’re accustomed to this season.

In the Circle

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Senior Tera Blanco played 34 games at first base, 21 at pitcher, and two at DH last year.[JD Scott]

Heading into 2015, Michigan is once again trotting out a pair of killer Bs in the circle in Beaubien and Blanco.  While junior RHP Leah Crockett is still around, she has yet to show the ability to be a major contributor.  Freshman righty Sarah Schaefer may be in the same boat – at the very least, it will probably take her a year or two to get up to major Division 1 softball speed.  Her appearances in Michigan’s fall ball exhibition play indicated a player working through some growing pains at the higher level of competition.  That means that the great bulk of the pitching duties will fall on the shoulders of senior Tera Blanco and freshman phenom Meghan Beaubien.

Heading into her final season in Ann Arbor, Tera Blanco is looking to finally make good on her substantial promise as a pitcher.  She’s done well at the plate, especially in 2016 when she hit .404 while bashing 12 homers, but has never become the elite pitcher that the coaching staff hoped she’d be.  A rotation piece as a freshman and sophomore, Blanco was pressed into more serious duty last year as the only other pitcher capable of logging serious innings after Betsa.  Betsa, though, was the clear ace, usually taking the 1st and 3rd games of weekend series, and drawing almost all of the toughest assignments in non-conference invitationals.  If Michigan is going to improve on last year’s results and get back to winning the conference and hosting a regional, Blanco will need to step up her game in her second season as a regular starter.

When it comes to Michigan pitching in 2018, however, the name everyone wants to talk about is Meghan Beaubien.  Committed to Michigan for years, Beaubien has been lighting high school softball teams around the state on fire and building up a major hype train.  Beaubien hurled a boggling 1,442 strike-outs as a high school pitcher, won state championships in 2015, 2016, and 2017, with her most impressive performance coming in 2016, when she dished out back-to-back perfect games in the semis and the final to clinch the state crown.  Beating up on over-matched Michigan players (not a major center of HS softball) is one thing, but competing nationally is another.  Beaubien was up to that task as well, though, putting together an impressive travel ball résumé, highlighted by a 16U national title in 2016.

Michigan fans got an early glimpse of Beaubien in a Michigan jersey in the fall, as she stepped into the circle several times during exhibition play.  While the fall ball opponents Michigan takes on are not especially intimidating (featuring teams like CMU, WMU, and MSU), they’re still college players, more physically and technically developed than high school opponents.  Beaubien went through them like a buzz-saw.  Her exhibition stat line: 32 Ks, 3 BBs, 4 hits, over the course of 18 innings pitched.  Much bigger challenges await this freshman star, but the early returns are promising for her potential to play a major role – hopefully to be the ace – in 2018.  Michigan will need her to deliver, game in and game out, to compete at the highest level.  It's a lot to ask of a freshman, but this strike-out queen is showing all the signs of being up to the task.

At the Plate

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Useful swing players Amanda Vargas (above) and Taylor Swearingen will try to finally lock down a regular place in the lineup. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Offensively, Michigan fans were absolutely spoiled in 2015 and 2016, looking on as players like the Sierras, Kelly Christner, and Kelsey Susalla racked up team records and set the national pace.  In large part because of that, a pretty darned good offense in 2017 at times felt like a slog to watch.  An undeniable step back from the heights of the previous two seasons, the 2017 team was still #12 in the nation in batting average and #13 in on-base percentage and total scoring.  The bigger problem was luck – Michigan got a lot of hits, but often missed out on the big one in the key situation to flip a L to a W.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, even though the team loses two of their top hitters to graduation.

Last year, Michigan saw several players take significant steps forward in terms of their offensive production.  Headlining this group is junior utility player Faith Canfield.  After showing flashes of promise as a freshman, the sophomore version of Canfield became the second most prolific offensive player for the Maize & Blue, hitting .398 while smacking 9 long balls.  She could stand to get a bit more patient at the plate – only drawing 11 walks all season held her OBP back considerably.  Still, she’s on track to be the featured player in Michigan’s batting order this season, and even incremental improvement could put her on track for an All-American level season.

Fellow-junior Natalie Peters and senior Aidan Falk are also going to be key cogs.  Mainly a pinch-hitter as a freshman, Peters hit .313 in very limited action.  As a sophomore and a regular starter, though, she upped her average to .361.  She also needs a bit more patience at the plate, especially since her role is simply to get on board (she only has 5 career extra bases hits, out of 62 total).  Look for her to hit lead-off throughout the year, setting the table for Canfield and others.  Falk, meanwhile, showed tremendous promise in 2015, hitting .344 with 8 home runs in her rookie campaign.  She fought through a slight sophomore slump before returning to form as a junior, going .347 with 7 long balls.  If she can build on a strong junior year and reach the upper .300s with double-digit homers, it will bode very well for the Michigan offense.

Several other seniors fall into the “X-factor” category.  Tera Blanco heads this list.  A great hitter as an underclassman, Blanco was a first-team All-American as a 1B, hitting over .400, reaching base on the majority of her plate appearances, and punching out double-digit homers to boot.  When compelled to take on a full pitching load last year, though, her numbers declined sharply.  As long as she’s serviceable, she’ll stay in the line-up, but if she can get back to something resembling that sophomore outburst while continuing to improve in the circle, she can deliver a memorable senior season.  Others in this swing category include players like Amanda Vargas and Taylor Swearingen.  Both have gotten a good number of at bats over the years and impressed at times, but neither has been able to lock down a permanent starting role.  Seeing one or both of these players come through early on in 2018 would be a very good sign.  Juniors Alex Sobczak and Courtney Richardson are in a similar position.  As they head into the second half of their Michigan careers, they’ll need to break out sooner rather than later if they want to fend off the young talent.

Some of that talent is returning from last year’s squad.  Madison Uden in particular was a popular choice as a pinch hitter and played well at times.  Another year of development could bode well.  Even more tantalizing, however, are the highly-recruited freshmen Hutch reeled in this year.  Alexis “Lou” Allan was considered one of the 10 best players in this year’s recruiting class, and rightly so.  Coming out of the softball crucible that is California, she hit .600 over the course of her HS career, and added plenty of homers to boot.  Infielders Taylor Bump and Natalia Rodriguez aren’t far behind.  The two Floridians both ranked around 60 nationally, hitting very well as high school players.  They’ll be expected to contribute from day one.

In the Field

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Alexander's no slouch AT the plate either. [Bryan Fuller]

Defensively, the question mark for Michigan each of the last two years has been the catcher position.  After the luxury of four years of Lauren Sweet, who got stolen on about as often as Mike Hart fumbled, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride behind the plate.  Aidan Falk, Alex Sobczak, and Katie Alexander have all seen time behind the plate in their careers, but it was the former Saline Hornet Alexander who locked the spot down as 2017 rolled along.  Her good relationship with Megan Betsa combined with an aversion to errors and increased offensive production to make her the regular starter over the more heavily-recruited Sobczak.  The hope is that she’ll continue to improve and develop similar chemistry with the new Meghan that she had with the old one, providing some needed stability at a position that has been a sore spot of late.  If not, it is at least comforting to know that there are other experienced options the coaches can turn to.

Elsewhere in the field, Michigan has been absolutely stellar on defense of late.  Last year, they boasted a fielding percentage of .982, good for #2 nation-wide, behind only national runners-up Florida.  This continues a multi-year trend, as the Wolverines were in the top-5 the year before as well.  The infield will look a bit different this time around, with stalwarts Abby Ramirez and Lindsay Montemarano moving on, but this coaching staff has earned the right to a certain amount of trust in this department.  Repeating in the top-5 for the third year running might be too much to ask, but expect to see another defensively sound team taking the field in Ann Arbor.

Schedule

Preseason polls are meaningless in any sport, and in my experience, they are more of a guessing game in softball than just about anywhere else.  For the most part, they simply reflect performance from the previous year, with at most slight adjustments due to high-profile graduations.  Thus, Michigan was significantly, and obviously, over-rated at #6/#6 (USA Today/NFCA Coaches & ESPN.com/USA Softball) last year, and I won’t be surprised if Minnesota’s #16/#18 ranking this year proves too much to sustain in the face of their golden generation’s graduation.  Even so, Michigan’s #18/#16 ranking feels just about right.  This is a team that should contend for a regional seed and could end up in the top-ten if things break their way, but still has a lot left to prove.

Fortunately, they’ll have some good chances to do just that, as Carol Hutchins always believes in scheduling quality opponents from day one.  Yet again, the Wolverines will take on perennial powerhouse #2 Florida in the season’s opening weekend as they head South to the USF tournament.  From there, it’s off to Tallahassee for the ACC/Big Ten challenge, where Michigan will play a pair of games each against Notre Dame (just outside the top-25) and #9/#6 Florida State.  The Texas invitational the following week will provide more challenging games, including a pair against the Longhorns, who are also just outside the rankings.  The annual trip to the Judi Garman Classic in California features match-ups with #10/#12 Baylor and the #22/#24 ULL Ragin’ Cajuns.  They Cajuns are in the midst of some major turmoil involving the firing of their coach for abusive behavior, but went 47-8 a year ago and are often among the nation’s best.  After that, the gauntlet is over, as a pair of invitationals at which Michigan will be the only power team round out the traveling portion of the year.  It’s not as grueling of a non-conference schedule as we’ve sometimes seen, but there will be more than enough opportunities for the team to build the résumé and grow by facing quality opposition.

After a single game against Central Michigan to open up the home slate, Big Ten season will get underway.  Due to the vagaries of Big Ten scheduling and the difficulties of making a 14-team conference work in a sport based around 3-game weekend series, fans will yet again be deprived of the chance to watch the queens of the conference – Michigan and Minnesota – square off in a regular season series.  Indeed, the Wolverines will hardly face any of the teams who were relevant in the Big Ten a year ago.  A 3-game homestand against Ohio State in the final weekend of the regular season will be Michigan’s only match-up against a Big Ten team that had a winning record in conference play in 2017.  Road trips to Iowa, Penn State, and Indiana are not especially daunting, and it’s hard to quake in one’s boots at the prospect of Purdue, Maryland, and Rutgers coming to town.  The annual home-and-home with MSU will have a little extra intrigue, as the Spartans spoiled the party last year when Michigan hosted the Big Ten tournament, ousting our women in the first game, but that upset still marks the only Green & White win in the series that anyone can remember.  The Big Ten figures to be a top-heavy conference once again, and the season-ending tournament in Madison might provide some much-needed opportunities for quality wins if NCAA seeding is still an open question.

Bold Predictions

I always start this section by revisiting my wild-ass guesses from a year ago, and seeing how well I did.  Let’s go to the tape:

“Expect the non-conference schedule to be a bit rougher this year than last, especially when a re-structured Michigan batting order has to face elite pitching.  If Michigan is able to stay a good cut above 50-50 in games against highly-ranked teams, I’ll be reasonably satisfied, especially if they can avoid picking up any ugly losses.  There’s no reason this team shouldn’t be on track to host a regional (top-16), but cracking the top-5 might be too much to ask.”

Unfortunately, I was right to expect trouble against elite teams in non-conference play.  Michigan went a disappointing 2-6-1 against ranked teams, with both of the wins coming against Arizona State, who just barely held on to a spot in the top-25 over the course of the season.  A couple clutch hits in the Florida and Florida State games would’ve changed the outlook here in a big way, but 2017 wasn’t Michigan’s year to get lucky bounces.  Michigan would enter Big Ten play sporting a #19 ranking, slightly lower than I anticipated.

“The toughest part of these predictions is projecting the Big Ten.  I don’t see anyone challenging Michigan & Minnesota’s dominance as the queens of the conference … It’s really a guessing game until we see the teams take the field a few times, but I’m high on the Groenewegen-led Gophers, even though the pollsters put us ahead of them.  If a second starting pitcher doesn’t emerge and the Wolverines find themselves heavily Betsa-dependent, they might be better-suited to making a run in the Big Ten tournament (held in Ann Arbor this year) than to grinding out the 20+ wins that will likely be needed to pick up the regular season title.”

My hunch that Minnesota was the horse to back in the Big Ten proved accurate.  Michigan actually put together a good conference record, aided by a disappointingly soft schedule (thanks, Delaney), but ugly losses to OSU, Maryland, and Wisconsin proved too much in comparison with the blistering pace set by a once-in-a-generation Minnesota team.  Sadly, I was wrong about the Big Ten tournament, as Michigan collapsed late in a horrifying loss to MSU.

“Once we get to the NCAA tournament, I expect Michigan to host a regional, although that’s not a holy lock in the way it has been for the last couple seasons.  Even so, I believe in Betsa’s arm to get us enough quality wins to impress the committee that much at least.  With all the question marks on the roster, I can’t go so far as to predict a super-regional seed, though, and a WCWS appearance will require some break-out seasons.”

The poor record against elite opponents combined with the weak end to the Big Ten season in keeping Michigan out of the circle of regional hosts.  While Betsa gave it her all in the Washington regional, it wasn’t enough, as Michigan made a first-round exit for the first time since 2011.

“Finally, a freebie: needing only 16 wins to reach the 1,500 plateau, and holding a 16-game lead on #2 Mike Candrea, Carol Hutchins is a cinch to become the first softball coach in NCAA history to reach that particular benchmark.  Already the winningest coach in both softball history and Michigan history, Hutch just adds to her legend with each passing year.”

Well, yeah.  Hutch remains Hutch, and that’s good news for the Maize & Blue.

Now let’s look ahead to the 2018 season.  Here’s what I’m seeing in my crystal ball.

  • There are sure to be some bumps in the road early on as Meghan Beaubien starts facing seasoned Division 1 batters, and I am not optimistic about Blanco’s ability to pull games against elite opponents out of the fire.  Nevertheless, I’m high on Michigan’s non-conference potential this year.  Beaubien will have some struggles, but she’ll also shine in some big moments.  The offense has a lot of promise, especially if the freshmen can contribute early on.  Look for Michigan to nose their way over .500 in games against ranked teams, and to dominate weaker opposition.  I expect us to be sitting in a regional seed (top-16) by the time we play at Alumni Field for the first time.
     
  • The Big Ten schedule sets up favorably for Michigan to start a new streak of conference titles.  It’s always tough to be consistent over the long haul, but Michigan almost literally couldn’t have an easier schedule here.  Minnesota does get to skip out on us and OSU, but they have to face more of the middle while not getting any games against dire Maryland and Rutgers squads.  I expect Michigan to re-assert conference dominance by winning the regular season championship.  I’ll go further than that, though.  On the strength of Meghan Beaubien’s arm, I foresee a Big Ten double, as the freshman will likely be the best pitcher in the league, and that more than anything predicts tournament success.
     
  • I’m also high on our chances in the NCAA tournament.  I expect this team to be around the lower end of the top-10.  This means we should end up hosting a regional we can feel confident about, and hosting a super-regional is a realistic possibility.  Even if we don’t host in the supers, though, we should be playing in an evenly-matched series (something like an 8/9 or 7/10 match-up), and a return trip to the WCWS is very much a possibility.  I’m not quite ready to call a trip to Oklahoma City, but I like our chances a lot more than I did 12 months ago.

Comments

Michigan Arrogance

February 7th, 2018 at 7:45 AM ^

Just to let you know - I haven't read this yet but really appreciate it. Been a long winter and this is the 1st sign of spring!

 

EDIT: READ!

I like the preview - so much great info! I was able to see the MSU fall game at Seccia (ugh) in EL in Oct and MB looked the part - strong LHP with plus speed and good movement. Sometimes picked around the corners too much leading to BBs and made a fielding error that's easy to correct. Lineup didn't hit much that day tho.

I'm a bit down on expectations this year due to the losses of the last 2 years - the lineup has turned over completely, the infield lost the entire right side, I don't see the kind of power they had in the past, questions at catcher remain (to a limited extent) and they lost Betsa. Blanco hasn't shown the ability to miss the bat in the circle that I feel like M needs from a 2nd pitcher at times. I'm a believer in MB but she's a FR and will have struggles.

That said, they will likely run away with the B10 and probably take the tourney, but I wouldn't expect much beyond a regional in the NCAAs. The record will look good b/c the B10 is down, but they will struggle VS top 10 teams for sure.

Still very excited about this team tho- completely new challenges from a defensive standpoint and in the circle. If 1-2 of the FR class, 1-2 role players from the last year or 2 and/or Blanco  (at the plate and in the circle) make a jump, all bets are off and this team could go far.

 

Only thing is, what B10 team will contend? Seemed like MSU has a decent year last year, and I don't recall them losing too much. Wisc kind of the same IIRC? Minnesota lost a ton, but they and OSU seem to be the next 2 contenders. Am I forgetting anyone?

South Bend Wolverine

February 7th, 2018 at 8:10 AM ^

Thanks for the thoughts!  I was actually more down on expectations coming into the preview, and then as I started going back to the stats, I felt more & more positive.  It's true that I'm putting a lot on a freshman pitcher, and we'll need more from Blanco than we got last year - no way a freshman can iron-woman it like senior Betsa did.  Offensively, I feel like we just need a couple players to step up, whether that be a freshman like Lou contributing from day one or a senior like Vargas finally putting it all together.

If we whiff on all of those, it could get bumpy.  If we hit, we could definitely get to the WCWS.  Most likely is probably somewhere in the middle.  I lean towards optimism, but maybe that's just the excitement of finally having softball back talking!

tlo2485

February 7th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

I fully expect Hutch to throw Beaubien into the flames right away against Florida, as she has shown in this game for a few years now. I enjoy what has become sort of a regular week 1 rivalry with the gators. We will see what she's got right away, and I'm sure Florida will be doing the same against us. Theyve been loaded in the circle for years.

1975Blue

February 7th, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

Will be interesting to see who starts at SS and 3B, and who the new outfielder is.  

Also, Michigan won't play Nebraska this year.  Nebraska has never been to Ann Arbor for a series against Michigan.    Odd scheduling as Michigan has played a series at Lincoln at least twice. 

 

Alton

February 8th, 2018 at 11:11 AM ^

Are you sure Michigan has been to Nebraska more than once for a Big Ten series?

The problem with Big Ten softball scheduling is that it's done by division.  A team plays every other team in their division, but only 2 of the 7 teams in the other division--1 at home, 1 on the road.  This year, that's Purdue at home and Iowa on the road.  So any given team in the West division will only play 1 series every 7 years at Alumni Field, and of course it follows that Michigan will play at each West team once every 7 years.

So if you want to see Purdue at Alumni Field, for example, get out there this season because they won't be back until 2025.

1975Blue

February 8th, 2018 at 8:06 PM ^

that Michigan has played two series at Nebraska.  I think Michigan went 1-2 in both series.  I would have to check the UM records to confirm.  

I believe the East/West scheduling format only started a few years ago after MD and Rutgers joined.   Nebraska has been in the BIG since 2011.     

 

outsidethebox

February 9th, 2018 at 7:50 PM ^

I know Michigan played at Nebraska 2 years ago because we drove up from the middle of the godforsaken state of Kansas to see them on a Saturday-they had lost on Friday but won on Saturday...and I thought they won on Sunday too??? Got to see Romero and ah! who was their terrific centerfielder hit mammoth shots. Was actually hoping they were coming this way again :)

The frosh lefty threw a no-hitter today!

Love FP softball. Played a lot in Northern Indiana when it was a men's game...a World Championship team came out of our league in Goshen. Coached small college out here. I can't believe men have pretty much given up this great game :(

bronxblue

February 7th, 2018 at 1:47 PM ^

Nice write-up.  I usually read a preview for the softball team and then sort of forget about them until the late spring, but it's interesting to read about a team in transition that should still be pretty competitive.

HonoluluBlue

February 7th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

I live in SoCal and my 9 year old daughter who loves softball has already told me I am taking a day off work and dismissing her from school early to see Michigan take on Baylor and the Ragin' Cajuns. She can't wait. I have to admit, after reading this incredible preview (THANK YOU) that I am now pretty excited too.

South Bend Wolverine

February 7th, 2018 at 4:32 PM ^

Glad to help generate some excitement for this team!  That's awesome that you'll be going to the Judi Garman Classic.  There are always so many great teams there.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be very interested if you posted your impressions of the team, the games, the environment, etc. when the event rolls around.

Also, props for raising your daughter right! :)

HonoluluBlue

February 8th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

I will try and do that. We are going on Friday. We went last year too and had a blast. I was amazed at how big the girls look on those 60 foot basepaths after watching my daughter's 8U team play on the same size field. The game after Michigan's double header that day was UCLA vs Florida so we saw a lot of great softball. I grew up in Oakland County and can't say that softball was a big deal but it is still king/queen along with baseball in SoCal.

snowcrash

February 7th, 2018 at 7:06 PM ^

Looks like the offense and defense should be fine in any case. Beaubien (like anyone else) isn't going to do to elite teams what she did to the exhibition opponents, but if her fall performance wasn't a fluke she should be able to hold her own against anyone. In that case, who knows how far this team could get? 

RoseInBlue

February 7th, 2018 at 10:11 PM ^

Ahh softball season.  That time of year already huh?  Awesome. 

We've got some great freshman coming in and some good underclassmen waiting in the wings but consistency is mainly what we lost with the graduation of last years seniors.  The previous year saw the exodus of a lot of headline names but this year we lose the backbone players.  Similar to the loss of Lauren Sweet in 2015 mentioned here, the main loss to graduation this year is consistency and that may be the hardest to replace.  Players like Abby Ramirez, Kelly Christner and Lindsey Montemarano were stalwarts on defense (Ramirez and Christner accounted for this on offense as well).   They weren't really flashy but they got it done, and you just expected the out when the ball came their way.  Hutch has said she's excited about the athleticism coming in this year, but freshmen are not known in any sport for their ability to show up and do work every single play, every single inning.  So that's what I'll be looking for this season, especially from Beaubien (I am way too excited to see her play D1 college ball by the way).

As an addendum, Monte's energy and emotional presence is something that will be sorely missed.  It most likely cannot be replaced but perhaps a new energy will emerge to fill that void.

Also, I miss Romo.  I know I need to let that go (she did graduate 2 years ago afterall) but that girl was so fun to watch in the Maize and Blue and I don't think anyone else is ever going to come close.

Alton

February 9th, 2018 at 10:20 AM ^

Canfield-2B
Gonzalez-RF
Blanco-P
Falk-1B
Sobczak-3B
Vargas-DP
Uden-SS
Alexander-C
Peters-CF
Hoogenraad is in Left Field and out of the batting lineup.
 

Alton

February 9th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

Canfield-2B
Gonzalez-LF
Blanco-1B
Falk-RF
Sobczak-DP
Uden-SS
Swearingen-3B
Alexander-C
Peters-CF
Beaubein is Pitching and out of the batting lineup
 
Most of the switching (Blanco to 1B, Falk to RF, Gonzalez to LF, Hoogenraad out) is probably going to be standard when Blanco isn't pitching.  The other switch--Swearingen to 3B, Sobczak to DP, Vargas out--is probably just part of finding the ideal starting 3B, Sobczak or Swearingen.
 
 

LAURGOBLUE24

February 9th, 2018 at 11:36 AM ^

While I'm here with my young boys enjoying our 2nd snow day of the week:(  Hope U of M has a great weekend! My niece is18-19 commit, Lexie Blair!  She is thrilled to be there cheering on her future team! Can't wait to see what's in store for her next year!!!

 

 

Totally2

February 10th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

Ms. Hutchins is extraordinary.

I love watching these young women play. They're tough, talented and disciplined; they consistently exhibit class, and they seem to have genuine fun. I started watching a few years ago and have recently started watching Michigan women's basketball. Go Blue.