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March 20, 2014 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-20

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6A - Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

2014 Softball Preview

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has been the constant in Michigan's dominant
softball teams. At the start of the Big Ten season, she looks to continue to impart
her wisdom on her players to create yet another winning team.
O n softball: 'M'
looks to back
up coach speak'

A look around
the Big Ten
softball league
A look at plete wins (S5).
Northwestern (15-5)
Michigan's foes as Of Northwestern's five
losses this season, four were
it eyes its 17th Big against ranked teams. The
.pWildcats have only recorded
one win against ranked teams,
that being against then-No. 3
By KELLY HALL Washington back in February.
Daily Sports Writer Player to watch: Fifth-year
senior infielder Emily Allard
At Alumni Field, there's a Allard was named Big
tradition of domination in the Ten Player of the Week on
Big Ten. The Michigan softball March 10 after batting a
team has 16 Big Ten Titles, 10 .667 in five games at the USF
Women's College World Series Under Armour Showcase. She
appearances and 36 straight entered the weekend batting
winning seasons. The sixth- .316 and left with an overall
ranked Wolverines will have average of .400.
two ranked opponents in No. Nebraska (18-8)
14 Nebraska and No. 21 Min- The Cornhuskers, along
nesota in the conference. But with the Wolverines, went to
starting this Friday, the Mich- the Women's College World
igan softball team will begin Series last year. This year,
its campaign toward becom- Nebraska should once again
ing seventh straight Big Ten pose the biggest threat to
champions. Here's a look at Michigan and a Big Ten Title.
what the Wolverines are up The Cornhuskers finished see-
against. and in the conference last year
Minnesota (21-3) and accounted for the Wolver-
Big Ten pitchers will be ines' only Big Ten losses, but
challenged by Minnesota slug- Michigan won't be facing 14th-
gers like junior utility player ranked Nebraska in the regu-
Kaitlyn Richardson and junior lar season this year.
shortstop Tyler Walker. Rich- The Cornhuskers played a
ardson was named to the All- tough early season schedule
Big Ten first team in 2013 and to prepare for the Big Ten,
currently leads the Gophers recording a 4-6 record against
with a .446 batting average. ranked opponents.
Walker, who, after joining Player to watch: Senior
Richardson on the All-Big first catcher Taylor Edwards
team last year, boasts a .377 The senior was a first-
batting average this year. team All-Big Ten Selection
Player to watch: Senior in 2013 and has posted a .463
right-handed pitcher Sara batting average thus far in
Moulton 2014. The Big Ten should also
Moulton has an earned-run watch out for her twin, senior
average of 1.25 and already right-hander pitcher Tatum
holds the school record for Edwards. Edwards has an
career shutouts (35) and com- See BIG TEN, Page 7A

Michigan shortstop Sierra Romero will look to her powerful swing to meet
sky-high expectations after winning the Big Ten Player of the Year award in
the 2013 seasons. Romero is currently batting.324 early in the season.
* "

Coach Hutchins
continues to create
winning culture
among her players
Daily Sports Writer
"Coachspeak" has abad reputa-
tion. The media hates it, fans are
bored ofit, and players seem brain-
washed by it. But when it comes.
from the mouth of Michigan soft-
ball coach Carol Hutchins, it's far
from just lip service - it's the cul-

ture she creates for her players..
In 2014, the Wolverines are
stacked with enough talent and
depth to elevate her words from
soporific coachspeak to a bonafide
blueprint for victory.
Hutchins is on the University's
pantheon of prolific coaches. She
sets the standard for how a sys-
tem can cycle talent in and out
and hardly miss a beat. She instills
the same mantras in every player,
every year, and they all buy in
without fail.
So when you talk to anyone
affiliated with the program, you
can count on them to steer the con-

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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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(c)2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Michigan has
strengths all over
the diamond
Daily Sports Writer
Awaiting the opening of Big
Ten play later this week, the
No. 6 Michigan softball team
has already learned a lot about
its roster: This team has depth
at the plate, in the field and on
the mound.
The Wolverines create runs
from a number of hitters in the
order and are comfortable play-
ing in tight games and blow-
outs. Though Michigan coach
Carol Hutchins continues to
tinker with pitching, a stable
Michigan starting lineup has
emerged in recent weeks.
The Daily breaks down the
2014 Wolverines.
Haylie Wagner is back.
Michigan has a deep pitch-
ing rotation with freshman
Megan Betsa and junior Sara
Driesenga, but Wagner, who
was plagued by a back injury
last season, is perfect on the
year and sporting an unthink-
able 0.93 earned run average in
the 15 appearances she's made
so far. The left-handed junior
has faced top competition and
finally looks healthy.
Driesenga and Betsa, both
right-handed, throw harder
than Wagner and have shown
some great flashes from the
mound, but continue to be
inconsistent. Driesenga, who
was expected to be the go-to
pitcher before the season, and
Betsa, have each seen 30 fewer
innings than Wagner this year
but still figure to play major
roles. Hutchins wants to be
able to use her full rotation
come NCAA tournament time
in May, so both pitchers will
see a lot of game action.
Junior Lauren Sweet has
been solid defensively this year
and has continued to grow into
a vocal leader for the Wolver-
nes. Michigan could use a
little more offensive produc-
tion from Sweet, though, who
is batting just .224, but has hit
well in clutch situations this
season. Sweet's real value is
as a defensive rock behind the
plate, and her performance in
the first third of the season has
reinforced that notion.
First Base
First base emerged last
season as a steady point in
the Wolverines' infield when
then junior Caitlin Blanchard
stepped up to the challenge
and was named to the All Big
Ten First Team. Now a senior,
Blanchard has played an
important role in the batting

order, backing up sophomore
shortstop Sierra Romero to
make teams think twice about
walking Michigan's star at the
plate. Blanchard has exceeded
expectations, slugging .452
with 18 RBI.
Second Base
One of the Wolverines' most
important freshman contribu-
tors has been Abby Ramirez,
who has committed only one
error on the year in the field
and is batting a respectable
.324. Michigan would like to
see more clutch hitting out of
Ramirez, though, as she is bat-
ting just .125 with runners in
scoring position. If Ramirez
can continue to improve at
the plate, she will have a good
chance to be an All-Big Ten
Freshman Team selection at
the end of the season.
Short Stop
In her second season, sopho-
more Sierra Romero has dealt
with sky-high expectations
with aplomb. Romero, who was
selected to the ESPNW pre-
season All-America first team,
is slugging .791 with 31 RBI.
In addition to continuing to be
a threat in the field, Romero is
also batting .606 with runners
in scoring position, something
the Wolverines have struggled
with. Romero will continue
to wreak havoc on opposing
teams despite facing a large
number of intentional walks
already this season.
Third Base
Third base was a big ques-
tion mark for Michigan before
the season, but freshman Lind-
say Montemarano has ended
the debate. Montemarano won
the job with outstanding per-
formances in the infield all
winter, boasting a .953 fielding
percentage. The second fresh-
man in a young infield, Mon-
temarano, too, has struggled a
bit at the plate, but has started
all but three games this season.
The big three names in the
outfield have been sophomore
Sierra Lawrence and seniors
Nicole Sappingfield and Lynd-
say Doyle. All three have start-
ed the majority of games this
year and contributed signifi-
cantly at the plate.
Lawrence, coming off an
exceptional freshman season,
has been particularly strong.
In 27 at-bats with runners in
scoring position, Lawrence
has knocked in 22 RBI, second
only to Romero. Sappingfield
and Doyle are batting .398 and
.344 respectively and provid-
ing an important dose of senior
leadership. Hutchins has
repeatedly complained that the
Wolverines have lacked leader-
ship at times this season, and
both Doyle and Sappingfield
are in perfect roles to step up as
leaders in the coming months.




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