Softball Season Preview

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 11th, 2011 at 12:41 PM

[This started out as a board post, but obviously got way too long. Hope there are a few other folks as excited as me for a Michigan sport where we still own fools mercilessly!]

Other excited folks / Detroit News

Michigan's softball team returns to action this afternoon with a pair of games against Southern Illinois & Houston.  As always, expectations are high at the start of the season for us, being one of the elite teams nationally, and still the only team East of the Mississippi to win a National Title.

Last year, UM won the Big Ten championship for the third year running, but the playoff run came to an end all too early in the super-regional, dashing hopes for a second National Championship. This year, Hutch and the team have been clear that the goals (Big Ten & National Titles) are the same as always.

Ranked #8/#11 in the preseason polls, the Wolverines will have a lot to do in order to climb those mountains. Last year, Michigan was led by a large senior class and steamrolled the competition for much of the year, invoking the mercy rule on 19 separate occasions, en route to a 49-8 (18-1 Big Ten) record.

Those seniors have gone however and the roster is packed with 7 freshmen looking to prove themselves. Other younger players like sophomore pitcher Stephanie Speierman will be called on to step up as well, with players like star pitcher Nikki Nemitz, power hitter Maggie Viefhaus, and others no longer in Ann Arbor.

Despite the youth, however, Michigan does not lack for senior leadership. Pitcher Jordan Taylor and first-base/power-hitter Dorian Shaw are both on the pre-season Player of the Year watchlist, and will need to take a leading role if this Michigan team is to succeed.

Last year, Dorian Shaw lead the way for Michigan in the home-run department, going deep 21 times. One of those shots broke the letter A on the now-rechristianed "lumni Field" scoreboard. And while Nemitz was the senior pitcher on staff, Taylor led the way for much of the year, going 26-4 with an ERA of 1.44. The highlight of her year came in April when, on the 10th she tossed 5 perfect innings as Michigan mercy-ruled Minnesota 9-0.  Not two weeks later, Taylor was on the mount again, and once again was perfect through 5, as UM mercy-ruled PSU 8-0.

The Wolverines in softball are the sort of team that does not rebuild, but reloads. A strong class of freshman recruits lead by sure-fire All-Americans like Taylor and Shaw will be a tough matchup for any team they face. The seniors will be looking to put the stamp on some great careers with a fourth straight Big Ten Title and some National hardware as well, and the younger players will be looking to make names for themselves on one of college softball's biggest stages. Let's go BLUE!

Comments

Beegs

February 11th, 2011 at 12:55 PM ^

As someone who does not follow Softball closely (other than our gals), which teams are the main competition in the Big Ten? (or i guess i'm now supposed to say "B1G")

South Bend Wolverine

February 11th, 2011 at 1:09 PM ^

Well, Michigan is definitely the class of the conference, and has been for some time.

On the ESPN poll (which has us at #8), Illinois & OSU are the only other teams ranked, being tied at #24.  The USA Today/Coaches poll (UM #11) has OSU at #22 & Illinois at #24.  This matches pretty well with the results from last season, where Illinois & OSU ended the season 16-2 in conference, with Northwestern (a team that's often been tough in the past) coming in fourth, going 10-8 in conference.  Both Illinois & OSU lost in the regionals.

MGoSoftball

February 11th, 2011 at 1:25 PM ^

the only team that can catch us. OSU is good but will finish third behind M and Ill. I agree that NW can play some serious ball.

This season might be a slow start because of the loss of senior leadership, but Jordan will take control and we will be in mid-season form in no time.

I cant wait for Spring ball to start. Hopefully all this white stuff will be gone by April 1.

South Bend Wolverine

February 11th, 2011 at 1:29 PM ^

Jordan Taylor is definitely the player to watch this year.  For the last few years, we been in the fortunate and rare position of having essentially two aces on staff.  Speierman showed some real potential in her appearances last year, but Taylor is now the unquestioned #1, and will be called upon to throw a lot more games than she has been before.  Of course, I have no doubt that she's up to the challenge!