The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 3B
$uccess hinges on Griffin
By Mark Snyder
Daily Sports Writer
With two weeks left in the Big Ten
season, the Michigan softball team is in
first place - finally. And it looks to
The Wolverines have the components
to lead the pack, and now the standings
reflect the team that takes the field.
Michigan's success starts on the mound
as the Wolverines sport two aces.
All-American Sara Griffin was
named the Big Ten pitcher of the week
for April 16-22, improving her record
on the season to 24-5. Griffin has been
the backbone ofthe staff, having pitched
a no-hitter and a perfect game.
She allowed only two earned runs in
23 innings this week, lowering her ERA
toan astounding 1.19. Griffin's 22 com-
lete games may be the most important
statistic of all, however.
By pitching the full- seven innings,
Griffin allows Kelly Holmes to save
her arm for the following game, which
she usually pitches. The Wolverines'
staff consists of Griffin and Holmes as
the starters while third baseman Tracy
Carr occasionally pitches an inning of
Holmes also posts an ERA below two
runs a game, putting Michigan in a posi-
tion to win every time it takes the field.
And that is all the Wolverines need.
Sporting the most balanced team in the
conference, Michigan's second-place
standing in both runs per game and
earned run average reinforce the Wol-
we face is really
But the sign of
a great pitcher is
tion. Now that the
race is entering its
final weeks, Grif-
fin sees a need to
keep the hitters
they're out to get Michigan," she said.
"We just (have to go with) more strate-
gic pitching now. I'll pitch it where I
want them tohit it. (So far)it's worked."
Fortunately forthe Wolverines, a lack
of run support is not an issue. The
offensive firepower gives Michigan
pitchers nearly six runs per game to
Griffin is not only the team's leader
on the mound, she sets the standard at
the plate as well.
She paces Michigan with two home
runs and 37 RBI and leaves her impres-
sion on visiting pitchers. Griffin's 21
doubles this season have helped her tie
the Michigan season record for two-
One player alone doesn't win games,
and that is why Michigan is feared. The
Wolverine lineup is effective top to
bottom, with every hitter playing a role.
Kellyn Tate has the team's highest
average - nearly .400. Leadoff batter
Tate's 12 steals, combined with a team-
leading 68 hits, creates opportunities
for the hitters behind her.
Freshman Traci Conrad is contribut-
ing with her bat as well as her feet.
Conrad has stolen 12 bases and had her
17-game hitting streak halted Sunday at
While Michigan was taking two out
ofthree on the diamondin Bloomington,
Minnesota shot itself in the foot, losing
two games to Purdue.
First place is where the Wolverines
ended last season and where most ex-
pected them to be this year.
But the pressure of leading the con-
ference hasn't gotten to Michigan, and
coach Carol Hutchins is the reason why.
"(Discussing success) is one thing
(Hutchins) never does - focus on
records or where we are (in the stand-
ings,)" Tate said. "She rarely even talks
about it. We just go out there and focus
on the jobs we have to do every game."
An early season loss at the hands of
Iowa dispelled the thought that Michi-
gan would coast to the Big Ten title, but
the shadows suited them just fine.
While in the background, Michigan
has held winning streaks of seven and
nine games in the Big Ten, never losing
two in a row. The Wolverines have
hung around in second place, hoping
the Golden Gophers will slip up.
The prize for the league's regular-
season champion, in addition to receiv-
ing the top seed, is hosting the Big Ten
Forthe.Wolverines, this carries extra
Michigan is nearly unbeatable at
home. The Wolverines have not lost at
Alumni Field since the first game of the
conference season when they dropped a
6-2 decision to Iowa. The Wolverines'
nine-game winning streak at Alumni
Field is an obstacle which is difficult
for opponents to overcome.
The three necessities of a champion-
ship team are strong hitting, powerful
pitching and focused coaching.
Michigan has them all.
Sara Griffin, a
~' California, hopes
weather heats up
the team. Griffin
is one Wolverine
who needs no fire
set under her-
she is far and
sporting a 1.19
ERA with 22
Griffin Is also the
u: batting over .400
Continued from Page 1B
The top four teams at the end of the
regular season go to the conference tour-
nament, and if the season ended today,
Minnesota, lowaand Indianawouldtravel
to Ann Arbor for the tournament, since
the regular-season champion plays host.
Should Michigan advance to the NCAA
tournament, the Wolverines will be look-
ing to repeat as regional champions.
Overall, the Wolverines finished seventh
in the Women's College World Series last
season. Iowa ousted Michigan from the
Series, 9-7, in a 14-inning marathon.
This year's championship will be held
at the Olympic facility in Columbus, Ga.
Big Ten standings
5. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
S. .t5 S 0S
Carol Hutchins hopes this summer will be even more successful than the last.
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