48 - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - April 3, 2000
GIRLS OF SUMMER
Softball aims to extend
dominance of Big Ten
3y Arun Gopal
)aily Sports Writer
There are certain athletes who are
-eferred to as "born winners."
Regardless of the sport they play,
:hese people seem to have an innate
ibility to finish ahead of the compe-
:ition, even when the situation looks
For nearly a decade, the Michigan
softball program has been filled with
a lot of born winners.
Since 1992, the Wolverines have
-uled the Big Ten, winning six regu-
ar-season titles along with four con-
erence tournament championships.
In fact, over the last two years,
\4ichigan has only lost twice in con-
erence regular-season play, amass-
ng a 43-2 record against the rest of
:he Big Ten.
Against that towering historical
aackdrop, the 2000 Wolverines take
:he field, knowing that anything
short of a conference championship
will be a disappointment.
"There's always going to be pres-
sure," freshman outfielder Lisa
Mack said. "But, it should just be
confidence for us, not pressure."
Michigan has always prided itself
:n having a balanced team - the
Wolverines' combination of pitching,
offense and defense has proved lethal
for the vast majority of their oppo-
nents in recent seasons.
This season, one of the three facets
of Michigan's attack has sputtered -
the Wolverines' normally vaunted
offense has had a difficult time get-
:ing on track.
Consequently, Michigan has lost
six one-run decisions this year.
Clearly, this is a trend that has to be
reversed if Michigan has any designs
on the conference championship.
"We're looking for the people in
the bottom of the order, like Garza
and Rebecca Tune, to step up,"
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said.
"We're still looking for everybody
to contribute, because we haven't
accomplished anything yet."
It might seem that the road to the
Big Ten Championship will have to
go through Ann Arbor this year. To
an extent, this is true - Michigan's
conference record over the last two
years speaks for itself.
But, this is the Big Ten, and the
competition is going to be tough,
week in and week out.
"This is a deep conference,"
Hutchins said. "The reason Michigan
has won as many championships as
we have is because we don't look
past anybody. The conference race is
all about being consistent every
Adding fuel to the Wolverines' fire
this season is the bitter manner in
which the 1999 campaign concluded.
After winning the regular-season
conference championship. Michigan
was upset by Minnesota in the Big
Ten Tournament final. In spite of that
loss, the Wolverines still received a
No. 1 seed in the NCAA
Tournament, which gave them the
right to host a regional champi-
But Michigan fell flat on its face,
losing first to Florida Atlantic and
Hitting woes continue
to plague Wolverines.
By Jon Schwartz
Daily Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE - Whoever
said that defense wins games is smil-
ing over the Michigan softball team.
With four victories to start the Big
Ten season, three by one run and the
other by two, the Wolverines are
accepting the fact that a win is a win,
despite the margin.
Yes, Michigan should be hitting the
Yes, the team has to start capitaliz-
ing on more of its opportunities on
And yes, criticisms aside, the
Wolverines are 26-6, with the first
weekend of Big Ten play behind them.
Catcher Melissa Gentile summed up
the team's performance as simply as
she could - it's not good, it's not bad,
but it's not over yet.
"We realize that we've been fortu-
nate to win these games by holding
on," Gentile said. "That's not what
Michigan is about. The runs are going
But before the runs can come, the
hits have to appear. In Sunday's final
game of the weekend, both the
Wolverines and Boilermakers connect-
ed for five hits apiece.
The only thing separating the two
was a big second inning for Michigan
- one that included a long shot by
Gentile to the centerfield wall that
scored third baseman Pam Kosanke
and a throwing error on a sacrifice
bunt by shortstop Rebecca Tune on
which Gentile advanced home.
The game bore more similarities to
Saturday's than simply the opponient
and the field. In both, Michigan did all
of its scoring in one inning, and until
the final out of both contests, Purdue
was still threatening.
Neither, similarity particularly
pleased Michigan coach Carol
"We need to hit the ball better,"
Hutchins said. "We want to keep
putting the pressure on them."
But Hutchins is not worrying a d
her team remains confident as well.
The coach claims that as long as the
Wolverines' pitching keeps them in
games, they can afford to try to find
the solutions to their tame offensive
attack - for a little while at least.
"We're not peaking yet," Hutchins
said. "That's why your defense has to
show up hard every day. I give soy
credit to the opponents' pitching, to
And her coaching reflects it. After
finding a lack of offense on Friday and
Saturday, Hutchins worked with her
players on their batting stances, send-
ing them farther up in the batter's box
where they could react to the pitches
before they began to drop.
One particular change in Gentile's
stride was a more concise swing,
which she hopes will bring her more
success in the long run.
"I'm known for hitting the long bW,
and sometimes that hurts me because I
have that big swing," Gentile said.
On paper, this team is too good for
the hitting slump to continue. And
Gentile is sure that it's nearing its end.
"Throughout our team, everyone has
so much potential," Gentile said.
"More offense has to come"
then to Notre Dame - the latter loss
knocked the Wolverines out of the
With the stinging disappointment
of those losses still fresh in their
minds, Michigan players feel that
they have some unfinished business
to take care of this year.
"I do think that the older players
want to make up for last year," fresh-
man outfielder Melinda Moulden
"They want to improve on what
they did last year. But, we don't
dwell on the past - we just play for
MICHIGAN 2, PURDUE 0
Player AB RH BI Player A
Nixon cf 3 0 0 0 Kolien 2b
Roush 2b 3 0 0 0 Taylor rf
Crabtree ss 3 0 0 0 Volpe ani
Jones 3b 3 0 0 0 Young1b
Davie rf 3 0 1 0 Moulden If
Foster lb 3 0 2 0 Kosanke Sb
Paxson pr 0 0 0 0 Gentile c
Roembke If 2 0 0 0 Tune ss
Nice ph 1 0 0 0 Garza cf
Inmandhi 3010 Barda p
AS R H BI
3 0 1 0
30 2 0
2 0 0 0
2 0 0 0
2 0 0 0
2 0 1 0
26 05 0
Continued from Page 1B
inning, where she allowed a single that rallied the Purdue team.
But Hutchins kept her on the mound, and Barda kept her nerve,
not allowing any more hits and finishing the game.
"I had Jamie Gillies ready to go, but I was still confident that
we were okay," Hutchins said.
It was Michigan defense, both fielding and pitching, that
maintained the Wolverines' 16-game winning streak. After a
shaky first inning start with an error by Kelsey Kollen, the team
played six errorless innings.
Highlights included the top of the third inning when second-
baseman Kollen made up for her error in the first - diving to
capture a line drive that was smacked up the middle she
wheeled her body around and flipped the ball to shortstop
Rebecca Tune at second. putting a stop to a Purdue advance.
Tune continued to make key plays. At the end of the forth. she
recovered a slightly mishandled ball by Barda and heaved it to
first. The ball and the runner arrived at nearly the same time, but
the runner was called out, receiving jeers from the Purdue fans.
"The umping was consistent in both days, good or bad,"
This weekend held the first games of the Big Ten conference
season. On Friday, Michigan played a doubleheader against
Indiana, winning the first game 1-0, and the nightcap 3-2.
Saturday included a road trip nort to West Lafayette, where a
single game was played and won, 3-2.
But good the pitching and defense was in these games, they
were low scoring.- uncharacteristic of the powerhouse team
that Michigan wants to be. Three of the four contests were oAly
won by one run.
"I think we've been fortunate to win these games," co-captain
Melissa Gentile said. "We've scored and then we just kind of
held on. We're not about holding on - we need to be more
aggressive and get those timely hits that it takes to win."
Hitting is what is lacking, at least compared to defense,
Hutchins said. She cited yesterday's game, on how the two only
Michigan runs were scored in the second inning, and how the
team remained scoreless the rest of the day.
"If you're only going to get two runs, your pitching better be
pretty dam good, and fortunately for us, it has been.," Hutchins
said. "We're blue collar. We'll just keep plugging away."
But there have been bright spots.
As Gentile pointed out, "the people that are producing con-
sistently right now are Pam Kosanke, who has just been on fire,
Melinda Moulden, a freshman who has been doing a great job,
and Stephanie Volpe, who has been very consistent. But I think
all of us need to step it up, those included."
When the Wolverines finally do step up and show their true
potential, opposing fans, including Purdue Pete, might have a
lot more to cry about than a miscalled strike.
E - Purdue 2 (Dooley. Foster), Michigan 1
(Kolen). DP.- none LOB - Purdue 5, Michigan 6
2B - Gentile SB.- Nixon SH - none SF - none
Dooley L, 7-5
Barda W, 9-3
IP H R ER BB SO
7 5 0 00 0
7 5 0 0 0 6
Umpires- Jim Garman (Home), Lenny Brickens (1st
base), Mike Wallace (3rd base)
At: Purdue Varsity Softball Complex, West
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It wasn't easy, but the Michigan softball team ran past the opposition this week-
end. The Wolverines won all four of their games to start the 2000 Big Ten season.
21 - Melinda Moulden
.,,:.xrF. ::;J.u.:r, ;:;x
2 - Chrissy Garza
10 - Melissa Taylor
The first item that caught my attention was
the mention of a waterslide. After compet-
ing in the Recreation and Education softball
league of Ann Arbor for five years, I received a
brochure that invited me to participate in the
Michigan softball team's summer camp.
The brochure highlighted the events for each day
and emphasized the use of a waterslide to practice
sliding into a base.
I knew nothing of the team or its success and my
father insisted that, before I attend the camp, I
should learn something about
one of the most successful pro-
grams at this University, for
That summer the Wolverines
won the Big Ten title. For most,
this wasn't a surprise. In coachf
Carol Hutchins' 16-year tenure,
Michigan has finished outside STEPHANIE
of the top three teams in the ()FFEN
conference only twice and has Off The
captured six of the last eight Record
regular season titles.
With her success, Hutchins became the win-
ningest coach in Michigan history - again, for
such as football and hockey, the softball team is the
only program in Michigan history to never have a
And from competing with the team to writing
about them last year for this newspaper, nothing
has changed. Kelly Kovach turned into Sara
Griffin, who graduated in 1998. Griffin, the next
power hitter/star pitcher, recorded the most wins
and most strikeouts of any Wolverine during her
career, while leading the team in home runs in
1995 and 1996.
And Hutchins is still leading the team to Big Ten
championships. Last season, the Wolverines again
won a Big Ten title and barely missed out on their
fifth-straight Women's College World Series.
The continued success of Softball is more than I
can say for any of the revenue sports. The current
student body may have not been alive, but there
was a stretch in the early 1960s where the football
team had mediocre seasons of 2-7 and 3-4-2. As
for my lifetime, I personally can't call an Alamo*
Outback Bowl loss a successful end to a season.
Meanwhile, the hockey team went through a
stretch in the early 1980s that included no CCHA
championships and virtually no conference wins.
Furthermore, the baseball team's probation in the
early 1990's led to the Wolverines five straight sea-
Waterslides and 'M'softball or:
How I learned to love a great team
12 - Kelsey Kollen