What can we expect from Michigan softball in 2015?

Submitted by ಠ_ಠ on May 26th, 2014 at 12:11 AM
Pitching will be outstanding with everyone returning and the addition of Blanco.
 
The most notable losses are Doyle, Sappingfield, Blanchard, and Hasselbach. 
 
My opinion is that Falk can slide in for Blanchard at 1B, and Hasselbach's bat can be replaced by Susalla. Shouldn't be much of a drop-off with those two, if any. Blanco is also a very good hitter and should get chances at the plate.
 
Doyle and Sappingfield will be tougher to replace. Christner will probably take one of the two open outfield positions, but I have no idea who will get the other. Vargas and Swearingen are infielders but maybe one of them could play there. I'm sure at least one will also be transitioned to a lefty slapper role because Abby is our only slap hitter left. (And to be honest, I would like to see Abby revert back to her former style.)
 
My biggest concern is finding the 1, 2, and 4 hitters who can set up and protect Romero. If Falk can immediately step into the 4 slot and be effective, that will be huge. I'm a big fan of hers but you never know how quickly players will adjust to college ball.
 
How far will they go? I really have no idea. Hutch, the pitching staff, defense, and the Romo factor can carry the team, but the new regulars will determine where they end up.
 
Regardless, I think 2016 is our best chance to win it all. Pitching will be strong, Romo will be a Senior, and there will be quality depth everywhere. I'm as excited about Sobczak coming in as I was about Romo. Peters will start from day one and Canfield has a good shot to do the same. Those three are absolute studs. Overall, it may be the most talented Michigan softball team ever.
 
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Comments

ಠ_ಠ

May 26th, 2014 at 1:02 AM ^

Michigan has won seven consecutive regular season conference championships, as you probably know, and the potential is certainly there for the team to achieve everything you listed and return to the WCWS.

My hope is that the consequences of the late season downturn in form -- no outright conference championship, no conference tournament championship, and having to travel to play regional and super regional games in broiling heat -- will be enough to prevent it from happening again.

South Bend Wolverine

May 26th, 2014 at 1:13 AM ^

Nice breakdown.  I agree that Sappingfield & Doyle are the toughest two to replace.  Great defensive outfielders (as Doyle recently so perfectly highlighted) and hit around .400, which made them great table-setters.  One thing I've been wondering is if Sierra Lawrence might move up higher in the line-up.  She hit .351 and cranked 9 round-trippers this past season, and her on-base was better than either Doyle or Sappingfield.  As an outfielder, she's got solid speed as well.  I could see her maybe moving into the 1 or 2 spot, depending on how Hutch wants to set things up.  Certainly she's one of the more under-rated cogs in our offensive machine (although after that regional final, I think people are pretty aware of her!).

I expect our pitching to be pretty top-notch as long as we can avoid the inconsistency that plagued us late in the season.  Last time around for Wagner and Driesenga, both of whom have played the ace role at times.  At her best, Wagner is one of the top 5 pitchers in the nation, so if she puts it all together for a full season, things could go very well.  If not, we have depth, with Betsa presenting a serious challenge to Driesenga as the #2 pitcher.

As always, Big Ten Championship & WCWS is the goal.  The Big Ten is tougher now, though, so it'll take a top-notch effort.  I'm already looking forward to it, should be a great year!

ಠ_ಠ

May 26th, 2014 at 2:17 AM ^

I agree with pretty much everything. SiLo is one of my favorites and would also be a good option at the 4. With her speed she can fit in anywhere. Swearingen also has some speed so my suspicion is that Hutch wants to turn her (or perhaps Vargas) into a slap hitting outfielder like Colie and use her at 1 or 9 in the batting lineup. Otherwise our recruiting makes very little sense because we have a glut of talented infielders and serious lack of talented outfielders until Peters and Canfield arrive in 2016.

I think Haylie and Sara will step up their play as Seniors and Betsa obviously had a very good Freshman year. But don't sleep on Tera Blanco -- she is about as proven as any prospect can be. Some have her ranked as the top pitching recruit in the country.

South Bend Wolverine

May 26th, 2014 at 2:42 AM ^

I also thought about the possibility of Silo batting 4th.  Her power might be a little more suited to that spot, and she could provide a great 1-2 punch with Romo.  I suspect a lot will be determined by team needs & who steps up in fall ball, spring practice, etc.  I wouldn't rule out the possibility of one of the rising sophomores stepping up, either.  They had some expected freshman struggles at certain points, but the played very well in the regional.  Apart from the Sierras, Ramirez's on-base is right in the mix with most of the other returning players, so with some progress, I could see her go from turning of the line-up to getting it started at some point in her career.

You may well be right in regards to the need to convert someone, too.  I was also noticing that we have been bringing in a lot of infielders, esp. odd given that we're graduating two excellent outfielders right now.

Absolutely Blanco will have a chance to get into the mix as well.  It's a good thing that there are so many games in the softball season - hopefully there will be enough innings to go around!  We're probably looking at the deepest, and one of the most talented, pitching staffs Michigan has ever had.

ಠ_ಠ

May 26th, 2014 at 3:18 PM ^

I agree, Abby is just so reliable in everything she does. I was actually really disappointed to see that she was turned into a slapper because she was a national all-american in high school hitting over .600 with 20 homers her senior year (which I think was an Illinois state record but I may be wrong). But she's taken to slap hitting very well and seemed to get better as the year went on. I could definitely see her at the top of the order.

Also, whomever leads off next season will just be holding the spot for Natalie Peters, who will likely have it all four years here. My sister has watched her play a number of times and chatted with her, and thinks Peters is just as talented as Bree Evans, brings the same great intangibles, and is even quicker around the bases.

bluebyyou

May 26th, 2014 at 6:06 AM ^

I watched a bunch of games near the end of the season.  It seemed like inconsistency did us in, particularly some sloppy defense that cost us a bunch of games. I don't follow softball much so I don't know anything about new recruits, but coach Hutch seems to be able to bring in some first class talent and I would guess that at least one freshman will fill one of the spots.

pearlw

May 26th, 2014 at 6:28 AM ^

Hutch is going to have a real challenge in managing the piching and keeping the pitchers happy. Tera blanco is rated as high as the #3 player in the country by services ( http://www.studentsports.com/softball/2013/10/18/hot-100-seniors-10-1/ ). All 3 returning pitchers have pitched in key NCAA games and will expect to get increased innings and Blanco will expect to play alot so it will be interesting to see what happnes. Hutch probably had some trouble keeping the 3 pitchers happy this year let alone 4 next year.

Michigan Arrogance

May 26th, 2014 at 9:59 AM ^

I feel pretty good about the losses from this year (relatively). I think the gains will add depth and overall we gain a ton of experience with only 2 outfields and at 1B as losses. return ALL FO THE PITCHING. I'd expect and outright B10 title and 50 wins, with another super regional appearance, but this time in A2.

The outfielders were good OB hitters and speedy- but in '15 I like the best 2 hitters not named Sierra at 1 and 2 in the order, followed by Sierra L and Romo at clean-up. With Romo protecting Sierra L, she should be doing a lot of hitting and with those 2 protecting the 1st 2 hitters, the Sierras should have a lot of hitting w/ RISP.

hopefully the pitching will improve as well

ಠ_ಠ

May 27th, 2014 at 8:23 PM ^

When they announced the finalists I thought they would probably give it to Carda, but UCLA was just upset by Kentucky and she struggled in that series on the mound. I think Waldrop will probably win it now that FSU is into the WCWS and how she pitched after getting shelled in game one. But you can't totally disregard the shelling and her ERA is over 1.00 now, so she's not the perfect candidate that she was coming in.

Neither is Romo, though. Perhaps some of it was due to the flu, but her batting average did drop by about twenty points after Tempe and Tallahassee. Ceo from Oregon actually passed her in that category yesterday after Romo had a dominating lead all season. I think she and Chamberlain are still pretty cleary the best offensive players in the country, but Waldrop and Carda are probably more likely to win the award.

Edit: Waldrop just won it. Congrats to her. I really do like her, I just wish she played at a classier program. Cat Osterman voted for Romo, if anyone cares.

Wolvie3758

May 26th, 2014 at 2:38 PM ^

its pretty much the only way a non- west non sec team can get to the WCWS....This team SHOULD have made it BUT like all year long MISSED OPPORTUNITIES..that last game against FSU left bases loaded 3 DIFFERENT times...score 17 runs in first game then 2 Total next two..its hard to be dissapointed when the team wins the conference, wins the regional on the road and almost pulls the upset at FSU but this year feels  somewhat of a dissapointment

HAIL 2 VICTORS

May 26th, 2014 at 4:30 PM ^

Just a quick TY to MGoSoftball and Eyeglass Denard and anyone else that keeps this sport on the radar of this blog.  I enjoy the game and the girls seem genuine and the program represents the University so well.

ಠ_ಠ

May 27th, 2014 at 1:58 PM ^

If I remember (and anyone wants to read it) I'll do another post like this a few games into the new season when the picture is clearer. Maybe then we will get more opinions since MGoSoftball won't be preoccupied trying to sell plane tickets to OKC.

maizenblue92

May 26th, 2014 at 8:06 PM ^

What is the possibility that they redshirt Blanco. She will obviously be a seldom used 3rd or 4th pitcher next year behind Wagner, Betsa, and maybe Driesenga. So why not RS her in order to save the year of eligibility?

ಠ_ಠ

May 26th, 2014 at 9:29 PM ^

No chance, barring a legitimate medical reason that she shouldn't play. Basically, if you're capable, Hutch will play you, and Tera Blanco is certainly a capable player. Hailey and Sara will be seniors and I hope those two will step up and be our go to pitchers for big games, but Hutch will treat all four equally. It's not out of the question that Blanco comes in and outperforms everyone. And even if she doesn't, any experience she gets will be valuable for 2016. She has some history with back issues, but Haylie has dealt with pretty serious back problems here and has not redshirted.