Michigan Wolverines: Michigan softball

WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 30, 2012
Devin GardnerRick Osentoski/US PresswireDevin Gardner could see 15-20 snaps per game somewhere on the field in 2012.
Summer is here and Michigan's 2011-12 sporting season is at a close except for a handful of track and field athletes. Things won't pick up in earnest again until the end of July at Big Ten football media days.

But the Mailbag carries on.

As always, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask. Send those queries to michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or @mikerothstein on Twitter for next week. Now, on to this week's questions.
Amanda ChidesterCourtesy University of Michigan AthleticsThe bat of Amanda Chidester needs to get hot if Michigan is to advance to the WCWS.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was a season where so much of Michigan softball was an unknown.

Over the past two seasons, Michigan graduated the majority of its lineup, most of its power and saw All-American pitcher Jordan Taylor run out of eligibility after last season.

Unlike the previous two Michigan softball teams that slaughtered competition during the regular season only to have postseason failure when facing other top teams, this season’s team has had the opposite happen entering Thursday’s Super Regional at No. 3 Alabama (53-7).

For the first time since 2001, the Wolverines didn’t host a regional. They were in a race for the Big Ten championship, which they won or shared for the fifth straight season, until the last weekend of the year.

In prior seasons they relied on a litter of All-Americans in the lineup and the circle. This season has been nothing like that. While the Wolverines have a lot of talent, they rely more on contributions from every spot in the lineup.

While it was tiring during the season, those experiences helped Michigan now.

“Our defense has moved a lot and you have a freshman battery," senior first baseman Amanda Chidester said. "There’s been a lot of different changes. Our leadership roles have shifted and it was a little rough at the beginning.

“The things we were faced with at the beginning and even in the middle of the season have helped us grow and helped us work together better. We’ve been through everything. We’ve been through losses, been through wins, come back. In the past years, we had never been through everything because we just dominated everyone .”

This is Michigan-relative, of course, since the Wolverines are still 42-15. Consider, though, the Wolverines lost more than 10 games just once in the previous four seasons -- coincidentally the last time Michigan reached the Women’s College World Series. Before this season Michigan hadn’t lost 15 games in a year since 2006.

Michigan also lost two straight series in the Big Ten -- at Minnesota and at home to Illinois -- compared to the past eight seasons where the Wolverines lost four games or less in the Big Ten all year.

This season’s team, though, has embraced the message coach Carol Hutchins has preached throughout her 28 seasons at Michigan: “Everyone do her part.” To win, this season’s team has actually needed to do that.

“In previous years, we probably depended more on our All-American pitchers and big hitters and now it is spread out through the whole team and that is making us better,’ senior center fielder Bree Evans said. “We’re not dependent on just one person. Like everyone in the lineup can get a hit at that one moment."

One other thing has given Michigan confidence during this season of transition: An unlikely star freshman pitcher.

After splitting games with fellow freshman Sara Driesenga early in the season, the Wolverines have turned to Haylie Wagner for most of their big games down the stretch. She won all three games in last weekend’s Louisville regional and has won her last 10 decisions. Against Louisville in the regional final Sunday, Wagner set Michigan’s freshman record for wins, breaking the record of the pitcher she replaced, Jordan Taylor.

“We just, more than anything, try to take the pressure off her,” Hutchins said. “We are encouraging her to just do her part and that she can’t do all of it."
Michigan won its fifth consecutive Big Ten title last weekend.

On Wednesday, it swept the league's awards as well.

Senior first baseman Amanda Chidester was named the Big Ten Player of the Year for the second straight season after hitting .433 in Big Ten play. It is the third straight season a Michigan player has won the award.

Pitcher Haylie Wagner was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year, the first player to win both awards in the same season since 1992.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the 13th time.

Wagner and Chidester were also on the all-Big Ten first team along with freshman utility player Sara Driesenga.

WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 16, 2012
Khalid Hill, David Dawson, Shane Morris, Michael McCray, Taco CharltonTom Hauck/ESPNHSMichigan has a top class right now, but how will it finish come signing day?
While Michigan football and basketball continue long breaks with spring and summer sessions, other sports are hitting the postseason.

Included in that is Michigan softball, which travels for a NCAA tournament game for the first time since the 2009 Women’s College World Series when it heads to Louisville, Ky., this weekend for an NCAA regional.

And of course, there is always recruiting as Michigan continues to pile up recruits in both football and basketball.

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WolverineNation roundtable 

May, 10, 2012
With the offseason in full swing, our stable of writers took on some interesting questions this week, including who is the best current coach on campus, who impressed them at the various recruiting events they attended and what quarterback they'd take to lead a Michigan all-time team.

And for the first time, our panel disagreed on almost every topic. What do you think, WolverineNation?

Mike Gittleson
AP Photo/Susan SternerBrian Griese helped lead Michigan to a national title.
1) If you were putting together an all-time Michigan team and had to pick one quarterback to lead it, who would it be and why?

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Entering this season, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins had good reason to be concerned with her pitching. All-American Jordan Taylor graduated. In her place, more than likely, were going to be two pitchers, Sara Driesenga and Haylie Wagner, who had never thrown a college pitch.

So far this season, if there has been one consistent thing for Michigan it has been this -- even if they give up some runs, their pitching has not been a problem.

Michigan shut a team out in back-to-back games for the first time since the Wolverines had four straight shutouts in the FAU Kickoff Classic on February 17-19 this weekend, beating Michigan State 2-0 in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, and 5-0 in the second game.

It was the third straight shutout for Michigan, which beat the Spartans (11-30, 0-12 Big Ten) 8-0 on Saturday.

(Read full post)

Question of the Week: Historical figure 

April, 2, 2012
Vine LombardiDavid Boss/US PresswireLegendary coach Vince Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowls.
Question of the Week is a feature on Mondays at WolverineNation where we ask athletes, coaches and others we chat with the same question and compile the answers. If you want to see previous Questions of the Week, check them out here.

In grade school all the way through college, history classes are among the norm. Everything we ever do ends up being history, so it is in that vein from which this question of the week comes.

Who in history would you most want to meet?

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- They rolled along on the bus that day in early March, yet another day as part of an elongated road trip that has become tradition for Michigan softball.

This ride through Orlando, Fla., though, was different. Senior infielder Amanda Chidester had concerns. A two-time captain of the Wolverines, she used the time on the bus to call a players-only meeting where she implored her team to come together.

It was early in the season still, three weeks away from a Big Ten conference game, but Michigan was coming off a 3-3 stretch and things needed to be adjusted. She called the meeting to have the young team she was surrounded by understand they needed to believe in each other as much as themselves. And they needed to have fun.

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Rothstein's 5 moments from 2011 

December, 31, 2011
What a year for Michigan sports.

The school began 2011 with a embarrassing 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, changed football coaches, offensive and defensive philosophies and ended up on the last day of the year preparing to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The Michigan basketball team looked to be in trouble at the start of 2011 as well, going on a six-game losing streak before rebounding, beating Michigan State, having John Beilein see his first-ever player drafted (Darius Morris), and now the Wolverines are one of the up-and-coming programs in college basketball.

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Michigan C Cites Concussions In Decision To Quit
Joe Schad discusses how concussions and a concern over long-term health have helped Michigan center Jack Miller decide not to play football his senior year.