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April 14, 2000 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-04-14

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'16 -the Michigan Daily - Friday, April 14, 2000

TAYLOR MADE

By Jon Schwartz N Daily Sports Writer

ri soft'all, there are two different players.
.j he haves, and the have-nots. Each group
competes to the best of its ability on every
given day. Each gives it all she has and
accepts the rewards as best she could.
And each brings an equally important
,aspect of the sport to the team.
No, to have or have-not has nothing to do
wIth talent. To compete on Michigan's soft-
ball team, a perennial national power, talent is
certainly not going to be the issue. Everyone
has it.
The dividing issue is speed. And those who
have it are in a class by themselves.
The best softball players, the power slug-
gers and the ones who consistently get on
base, only record hits four out of every 10 at
bats.
But the top-of-the-line baserunners can be
counted on to steal bases and advance extra
bases almost all of the time - far more valu-
able once on base than the homerun hitter
who drops one in for a single and then makes
her way around the diamond one base at a
time.
They are more often than not the ways that
teams sneak by in one-run games. They are
the ones who sacrifice the natural desire to
launch the ball over the fence and instead lay
down the bunts and get on base. And they are
the ones that often stay in the shadows, hiding
behind the power hitters and the ace pitchers.
Melissa Taylor is a have, and she plays the
role with pride.
SiXrY F:ET AND A CLOUD OF DUST
"Speed, enthusiasm and she's a great ath-
lete." That's how coach Carol Hutchins
describes her junior speedster.
The three terms accurately depict what she
brings to the team. But the intangibles are
what make her a clubhouse star.
It is the fact that she always has a smile on
her face, always a welcoming aura of
approachability.
It is the fact that she spends practices
cracking jokes on every subject imaginable,
to the point that even her coaches are not safe
from her wit.
And it is the fact that now, in her junior year
of collegiate competition, she has matured

into what Hutchins calls the team's "leader in
the outfield.
"I think she's done a great job teaching the
younger people," Hutchins said.
But it was Taylor's influences when she was
younger -much younger - that brought her
to where she is now.
It's a story that started when she was IlI and
it keeps getting better.
STiLL WAT'ERS RUN DEEP
Taylor's physique doesn't exude athleti-
cism. She's still one of the smallest players on
the team, but her size has never held her back.
She's always loved baseball, following in the
footsteps of other family members.
"My father and my brother always played
baseball," Taylor said. "So I played baseball
my whole life until I was like II."
Taylor's story isn't of the sad variety
though, where baseball loving parents push
their child into a sport for their own satisfac-
tion. Taylor had all of the influences that she
could ever need, but in the end, it was still her
decision to make. And she chose to play on.
"I've been playing my whole life and I love
it," Taylor said. "Once I knew that I could go
play at this level, there was no doubt that I
was going to."
As she entered school competition though,
baseball was no longer what she wanted to be
playing. She got interested in fast-pitch soft-
ball, and soon realized that it was what she
wanted to do with the next few years of her
life.
And what she wanted to do, she wanted to
excel in.
Lucky for her, she could.
She excelled in more than only softball,
though. Taylor continued to exceed expecta-
tion, taking her short figure onto the basket-
ball and volleyball courts.
"I was a decent basketball player in high
school, but I was too little to go anywhere,"
she said. "I got a lot of little school offers for
basketball, but I wanted softball."
And once she made up her mind, it was
time to make her mark.
She did that early in high school with her
speed, but maintained her stardom with her
skills.

Skills such as holding the role of captain
for three of her four years. Or a .611 career
batting average. Or being named Michigan's
Miss Softball in 1997, her senior year.
It all led to realizing her dream that went
back to when she was around 10, and a girl
from her high school chose Ann Arbor to con-
tinue her softball career. From that point, she
was hooked.
So much so, that when she was planning
her recruiting trips, and she visited Ann
Arbor, she quickly decided to cancel all of the
others.
"I wanted to come here," Taylor said. "I just
wanted to check out the other schools, but I
knew in my heart that I wanted to come here."
AT HOME IN ANN ARBOR
Taylor is now in her second season as a
Wolverine, and there have been both highs
and lows.
There have been trips to the Women's
College World Series. There have been disap-
pointments in the NCAA Regional
Tournament.
But with Taylor's attitude, nothing is ever
too bad. At least, nothing other than the
prospect of not reaching another WCWS
before her time here is up.
"I want to make it back to the World Series
this year and next year," she said emphatical-
ly. "It is a great feeling to be there."
And if she doesn't, she can look back on a
fine career.
Taylor has earned her position as a leader
on the team. She has earned the respect that
she gets from Hutchins.
She deserves the fact that the coaching staff
trusts her enough to give her a constant green
light and let her make her own decisions at the
plate - a decision that more often than not
ends up in a bunt and a burst of speed down
the line.
And in the end, she won't have many home-
runs to back up her career. She won't be
looked at by the amateur fans as the star of the
team, but she will have speed.
And to those who know the sport, her abil-
ities, her leadership, desire, and her smile
through it all will be a clear reminder of the
contributions she made to Wolverine softball.

DANNY KAICK/Daily
Melissa Taylor may not have the physique of most conventional athletes. But the junior brings all of the
intangibles to the Wolverines that help them consistently reign as national powers. A

Studious Softball team plays on through summer

DANNY KALICK/Daily
Junior centerfielder Chrissy Garza and the rest of the third-place Wolverines will
look to slide past Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.
J.,

By Arun Gopal
Daily Sports Writer
In a few weeks, the majority of the
students at this university will be gone.
Some will be off to internships in far-
flung locales; others will be at home
relaxing. Regardless of where they go,
the common denominator with all of
these students is that they will not be
here.
But there is one group of young
ladies for whom the school year doesn't
really stop. As far as the Michigan soft-
ball team is concerned, the only thing
that changes is that, for most players,
classes end - there will be no more 9
a.m. lectures to worry about. Instead,
those early classes will be replaced with
equally early practices.
"Some of our players are taking
classes, so we're structuring our prac-
tice schedule around their class sched-
ules," Michigan assistant coach Bonnie
Tholl said. "We'll still just be having
one practice a day"
The life of a student-athlete is not
easy. During the school year, players
must efficiently divide their time
between softball and classes. Hours
spent at Alumni Field have to be bal-
anced with hours spent at the
Undergraduate Library.
Once the summer hits, this problem
vanishes. Players can completely devote
their energy to the team and its drive for

a championship. But, when faced with a
sudden glut of free time, it can some-
times be difficult for players to maintain
their focus.
"For the freshmen, it's been a trying
year, more intense than anything
they've done before," Tholl said."At this
point, for them, it'll be nice to have a
break.
"For the rest of the players, it's spe-
cific for each individual. Some players
like the free time, others really like hav-
ing a lot of things going on."
The final month of the regular season
will go a long way towards determining
Michigan's fate in the postseason.
Currently ranked No. 12, the
Wolverines - who boast wins over
national powers UCLA, Arizona State
and Louisiana State -- are a legitimate
contender for the national title. If
Michigan has any designs on moving
from contender status up to favorite,
though, one thing has to pick up - its
offensive production.
The Wolverines are coming off of a
doubleheader against Central Michigan
on Wednesday where they mustered just
one run in two games. Fortunately for
Michigan, that one run was enough to
win the nightcap, 1-0.
But this win came on the heels of an
embarrassing 3-0 shutout loss in the
opener. In addition to only collecting six
hits, Michigan left nine runners on base
and, surprisingly, given the Wolverines'

defensive prowess, committed four
errors.
"We knew that Central wouldn't be a
walkover," freshman outfielder Melinda
Moulden said. "We just all needed to
step it up"
"Right now for us, it's just a lack of
timely hitting," Tholl said. "Once a cou-
ple hitters get some RBIs, it'll be like a
snowball effect - we can go from zero
runs or one run to five or six runs."
It should be noted that Michigan's
offense wasn't totally devoid of stars.
Amidst the ruins of yesterday's first
game emerged senior third baseman
Pam Kosanke, who continued her
strong performance at the plate this year
with two hits. Meanwhile, designated
hitter Stephanie Volpe was the star of
the nightcap, going a flawless 3-for-3.
But, aside from those two, there was-
n't much to cheer about. The rest of the
team was a combined 7-for-44 in the
two games.
"Volpe has done an excellent job dri-
ving in runs," Tholl said. "We've looked
to her and Kosanke as two of our bright-
est hitters. We expect them to be cata-
lysts for the rest of our offense. But
everyone has to take their own turn at
being the sparkplug."
Another bright spot was pitcher/first
baseman Marissa Young, who continued
her season-long brilliance with another
overpowering pitching performance in
the doubleheader's second game.
Young retired the first 14 batters she
faced before giving up a hit. The fresh-
man finished her complete-game, two-
hit shutout with a career-high 12 strike-
outs.
"She came in here good, and she's
been awesome for us," Moulden said. "I
really feel like she can keep it up for the
rest of the season."
"Young's been an impact player,"

Tomorrow PENN STATE

2 p.m.

Apr. 16
Apr. 21
Apr. 22
Apr. 23
Apr.27
May 2
May 3
May 6
May 7

PENN STATE 1 p.m.
Iowa (DH) 2 p.m.
Northwestern 1 p.m.
Northwestern 12 p.m.
INLANA ST. (DH) 2p m.
E MICHIGAN (DH) 2 p.m.
OHo (DH) 2 p.m.
Michigan State I p.m.
Michigan State 1 p.r.

Summer session
The No. 12 Michigan softball team is i
third place but only one game out of first.
Stop by Alumni Stadium this summer to
' find out if the Wolverines catch Penn
State and Iowa.
Today OHIO STATE (DH) 2 p.m.

May 11-13 Big Ten Tournament* TBA'
May. 18-21 NCAA Regional** TBA
May 25-29Women'sCollege World Series**"
*- at season champion
** - campus sites TBA
***-Oklahoma City, Okla.

*.

Tholl added. "She has an excellht
game sense. You can really tell from
watching her that she is a student of the
game."
Considering how much Michigan has
struggled to score runs, Young has been
an invaluable asset. Over the final
month-and-a-half of the season, she09
one of her teammates, will have to step
up and become a dependable hitter in
the clutch for the Wolverines. If that
doesn't happen, Michigan's players just
might get to join their schoolmates in an
extended summer vacation.

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