After slow start, 'M'
By Mark Snyder
Daily Sports Editor
While it may not have been as easy as
past years, this season's Big Ten softball
title was as sweet as any for Michigan
coach Carol Hutchins.
The depths from which Michigan had
to rise were unusual for the defending
league champs, but that made last week-
end's Big Ten championship all the more
Three wins in three games -two over
the No. 3 team in the nation - were
beyond Michigan's realm of thinking
earlier in this campaign.
The trouble started early in the confer-
It was April 6 when Hutchins' prob-
lems came to a head.
Her top pitcher, Sara Griffin, collided
with teammate Traci Conrad, Michigan's
top hitter, in a game against Iowa, and
Continued from Page 16
Michigan then scored the winning run
in its half of the fifth. Melissa Gentile
knocked in the clincher for the
Saturday morning, Michigan State
defeated Purdue, 4-2, then lost to Iowa,
4-3, forcing a Michigan-Iowa rematch.
Iowa struck first, picking up two runs
in the first inning. Holmes allowed only
two more hits the rest of the way.
Michigan tied the score with two runs
in the top of the fourth. Traci Conrad,
Gentile and Pam Kosanke all singled in
the inning. The Wolverines clinched the
tournament with two runs in the sixth.
"There was never a feeling that we
weren't going to come back," Holmes
said. "Once we tied it, I knew we were
going to win."
Holmes had every right to be confi-
dent. The second Iowa-win was her 29th
of the season and 21st in a row.
"We had something to prove to our-
selves and to everyone else;" Holmes
said. "To show we have the courage to go
back and win was great for the team."
CLEANING UP: Mithigan might not
have been the best team in the Big Ten
during the regular season, but it made up
for it in Big Ten hardware.
Kelly Holmes garnered the Big Ten's
pitcher of the year award.
The senior starter was nearly perfect
after staff ace Sara Griffin was hurt in
the first weekend of April. Over the last
NCAp #l~flt homell tournament
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both fell to the ground.
Griffin emerged with a broken left
arm, sidelining her for the year, and
Conrad suffered a concussion.
"We all knew we had to step it up with
Sara being out,"Conrad said. "She's a big
part of our team that we had to fill in"
Iowa had ended Michigan's season
the two previous years at the College
World Series and was putting a similar
hurt on the Wolverines this time
The Hawkeyes trounced Michigan, 8-
2 and 15-4 - this was not the Michigan
team which won two straight Big Ten
championships. This team was only 3-2
in the Big Ten and destined for medioc-
There are moments when a coach
needs to take control of her team and
This was one of those moments.
month, Holmes went 21-0 to finish at
29-9 with a 1.07 ERA.
Also honored was Melissa Gentile,
who was named freshman of the year.
After a rocky start, Gentile gained
confidence and finished with a.314 bat-
ting average and four home runs.
Four Wolverines were also named to
the All-Big Ten first team - Conrad,
Holmes, Kellyn Tate and Tammy Mika.
REGIONAL ACTION IN ANN ARBOR:
Michigan will host regional action this
weekend at Alumni Field. Michigan
State, Central Michigan and Cleveland
State come to town for a double-elimi-
The winner earns a spot in the
Women's College World Series in
Oklahoma City, May 22-26.
Michigan faces Cleveland State at 3
p.m. on Friday. In their last meeting,
March 23, 1996, Michigan won, 3-1.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins warned
that the Wolverines cannot look past
anyone in the regional.
"We're just going to take it a game at
a time;' Hutchins said. "All those teams
got into the tournament for a reason."
Should the Wolverines escape the
regional, they would head to the cham-
pionship round for the third straight
year. In each of the last two seasons,
Michigan was knocked out of the tour-
nament by Iowa.
If the Wolverines win Region 6, they
face the winner of Region 3 in the first
round in Oklahoma City. The No. I seed
in Region 3 is none other than Iowa.
Wednesday, May 14, 1997 - The Michigan Dail- 15
softball on the comeback trail
The freshmen anchoring the left side falls off," she said. infield) being freshmen, I hadto step
of the infield - Pam Kosanke and And she did. up," she said. "That's the role you have to
Melissa Gentile -continued to develop, Holmes won 18 straight games to take."
but their inexperience was the least of close out the regular season, earning Big She is currently hitting at a .400 clip,
Hutchins' concerns. Ten pitcher of the year honors in the after a 7-for-10 performance at Iowa
The Wolverines, stocked with talent process. City. But it was Conrad's leadership that
from all corners of the nation, could But she wasn't finished. At the Big stood out among her peers.
overcome the loss of their stars and were Ten tournament in Iowa City last week- Michigan defeated the Hawkeyes
about to prove it. end, Holmes won all three games for twice on their home field to capture the
After splitting a doubleheader with Michigan, including two over the Big Ten title last weekend, and nothing
Purdue two days after the Iowa debacle, Hawkeyes. could have been sweeter for the
Michigan began to roll. During Michigan's current 15-game Wolverines than avenging the gents of
And it was senior pitcher Kelly winning streak, opponents have mus- April 5 and 6.
Holmes doing the pushing. tered just over one run per game, while "We had something to prove - that
Hutchins made her the full-time Michigan has hit consistently, averaging we could beat them," Holmes said. "It
starter and she left the Big Ten in her 5.3 runs per outing. showed we had the courage to come
wake. The defense solidified and Michigan back and win."
Following a dramatic doubleheader began playing with a sense of purpose. Three more wins at Alumni Field will
sweep of visiting Michigan State on Conrad, who had been hovering near be necessary for Michigan to keep play-
April 22, Hutchins made her intentions .300 at the time of the collision, returned ing beyond this weekend but taer this
clear. to the field with a vengeance. season's obstacles, that is a minor dis-
"We're going to pitch her until her arm "With the whole left side (of the traction.
Contnued from Page 16
Moon and Sarah Cygania pulled
out a tight, 9-7 victory at No. I dou-
bles, but Erryn Weggenman and
Jennifer Boylan kept the pressure on
the Wolverines, losing, 8-5, at No. 3
The championship fell into the
hands of freshmen Brooke Hart and
Danielle Lund at No. 2 doubles. The
tandem trailed 7-8 before forcing a
tie-breaker and eventually emerging
with a 9-8 (5) victory.
"Danielle had been struggling in
doubles," Ritt said. "But down, 7-8,
she held her serve and that made the
: Sunday's nailbiter was the-second
in as many days. Michigan fared the
same in singles each day, splitting
the six matches before securing a
victory in the doubles point.
Despite the last couple of agonizing
steps, the Wolverines finally reached
the top - only to find another stair-
well awaiting them later in the week.
Michigan begins play in its first-ever
NCAA championship tomorrow in
Palo Alto, Calif., against Florida.
1220 S. University, Ste.208
Tel: 313-998-0200 t