14 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, May 28, 1997
'M' senior quintet leaves behind championship standard,
Daily Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY -They came to Michigan
in the fail of 1993 with different backgrounds but
the same goals.
Each of the five seniors on this year's Michigan
softball team was recruited by head coach Carol
Hutchins to help bring the program to the next level
- the national level. Two traveled from California
while three came from Michigan to play the sport
When the careers of Kelly Holmes, Jessica Lang,
Jennifer Smith, Tracy Taylor and Mary Adams
began four seasons ago, the Wolverines had just
won two consecutive Big Ten titles, but had yet to
take that next step - making it to the Women's
College World Series.
The 1994 season was a rebuilding year for the
Wolverines, who struggled to replace leaders from
the '93 squad. Michigan fell to third place in the
conference and failed to qualify for the NCAA tour-
nament. Holmes, Lang and Smith were all given the
opportunity to play everyday as freshmen. Taylor
platooned in the outfield, and Adams established
herself as a reliable pinch runner.
In their second year with the program, the five
sophomores - three of them in starting roles -
helped to take Michigan to that next level. After
winning the Big Ten title for the third time in four
years, Michigan swept its way through the regional
and earned its first appearance in the WCWS.
Lang started at second base and knocked in 41
runs. Smith started 52 games for the Wolverines and
improved her batting average by 70 points from her
Although Holmes saw her duties decrease with
Kelly Kovach and freshman Sara Griffin shoulder-
ing the bulk of the load, Holmes managed to appear
in 16 games, going I11-1.
In their third year at Michigan, the juniors again
played an important role in leading the team to its
second-straight Big Ten title and repeat WCWS
appearance. But despite their successes, the
Wolverines once again failed to win any games at
the World Series.
This season held high expectations for the five
seniors and the rest of their Michigan teammates.
Despite failing to win a game at the previous
WCWS, Michigan entered the '97 campaign ranked
fifth in the nation. Lang was named the captain
while Smith closed her career as a four-year starter
at catcher. Holmes was expected to play an impor-
tant backup role to staff ace Griffin.
While Lang and Smith performed reliably
throughout their senior seasons, Holmes' status
changed dramatically following a season-ending
injury to Griffin.
As the No. I pitcher on the team, Holmes estab-
lished herself as one of the premier pitchers in the
nation. She won 36 games over the course of the
season on her way to being named the Big Ten
pitcher of the year.
With a win over Central Michigan during NCAA
regional round, Holmes broke the Michigan career
record for victories, and led the Wolverines into the
World Series for the third straight year.
Despite losing their first game in the series to
Iowa, the Wolverines finally won a game in the
WCWS by defeating South Carolina, 1-0.
"Someone on our staff said that we have gotten the
monkey off our back," Hutchins said. "But we have
been in the World Series the last three years, and I
think we are playing at the level that we expect to."
Although Michigan lost its next game to UCLA,
it had taken the next step - winning a game at the
World Series. This group of seniors led Michigan to
a school-record 56 wins and its first victory in the
championship round. The seniors not only con-
tributed with offense and defense, but also helped to
make the younger players important and influential
members of the team.
They can only hope that they have laid the
groundwork for the Wolverines to take that next step
- a national championship.
Attendance at WCWS, Olympic gold,
shows renewed interest in softball
By Sharat Raju
Daily Sports Editor
OKLAHOMA CITY - In 1982, the
Women's College World Series was held
for the first time.
Begun in Omaha, Neb., 14,433 tickets
were sold for the championship tourna-
ment hosted by Creighton.
This past week-
end men, women
and children filede
into Hall of Fame
Stadium for the
holiday weekend. F,:i ii:
than 9,000 people
might not seem like
improvement, it is
the most tickets sold in WCWS history,
and more than twice the number sold in
Columbus, Ga., last year.
"There's becoming more and more
parity in softball every year," Arizona
coach Mike Candrea said. "The days of
coming in here and blowing everyone
away are over.
"The state of softball throughout the
country is better off because of that."
The increased ticket sales may have
been a result of the recent increase in
popularity of the sport.
After the 1996 Olympic Games in
Atlanta - where the United States cap-
tured the gold medal - more Americans
are taking interest in amateur softball.
Former UCLA standout and 1996
Olympic hero Dot Richardson was in
attendance for a few of the games over
the weekend, and wherever she went, the
Lines not unlike those for the re-
release of the "Star Wars" movies were
formed around the shortstop whose
home run won the championship game
for the United States in Atlanta.
Another sign of the increased popular-
ity of the sport is ESPN2's telecast of the
title game between UCLA and Arizona.
Unfortunately for ratings, the
Wildcats won by the mercy rule in five
FAB FRosH: Michigan third baseman
Melissa Gentile put on an offensive clin-
ic during the WCWS.
The freshman blasted two home runs
for the series - one short of the series
record. For her efforts, she was named to
the all-tournament team.
Gentiles first round-tripper put the
Wolverines up 2-0 against Iowa. Her sec-
ond also gave the Wolverines an early I-
0 advantage over UCLA. Unfortunately
for Michigan, the Wolverines dropped
The O'Fallon, Mo. native was the only
Wolverine selected to the all-tournament
team. She went 3-for-7 in the series.
BIG PAC ATTACK: The Pacific-10 con-
ference has asserted its dominance ove
the years in the WCWS. This years
back-to-back national champion -
Arizona - has participated in the past
seven WCWS championship games.
UCLA has won the most champi-
onship contests - seven in 12 appear-
ances. UCLA won the title in 1995, but
had to vacate its championship due to
illegal scholarship practices.
This season, three of the four teams in
the semifinals were from the Pac-10
Arizona, UCLA and Washington.
Michigan senior Tracy Taylor beat this pickoff attempt at first base against South
Carolina, and the Wolverines beat the Gamecocks, 1-0, for their only WCWS win.
Title is next step for Hutch's team
H H 'las '"of seniors. opportunity to become the first women
But it's time that Michigan wins a team at Michigan to wina national titl
Continued from Page 12 national title. Now is the time, this is the The softball program is the only one t
Maybe it is. Sure, Michigan doesn't next program that needs to do so. The never have had a losing season.
have the warm-weather advantage like football team might be a few years away The next step is obvious - a nation
perennial contenders UCLA or Arizona. from another title. championship.
But Washington -last season's WCWS The basketball team might not be The solution might not be as obviou
runner-up and a semi-finalist this sea- around for the next few years. Hockey A new coach is definitely not the way 1
son - is only in its fourth year of exis- might be in contention for a title again, go - such a move would be akin to fit
tence. but most likely will experience some ing Bo Schembechler in the 1980
The Huskies handed No. 2 seed South rebuilding after the departure of its sto- Maybe the recent appearances at th
Carolina its first loss, sending the ried nine seniors. WCWS will bring widespread recogn
Camecocks into the losers' bracket Men's swimming will probably con- tion for the Wolverines.
before being shipped home by tinue its national dominance, and Maybe if Michigan star pitcher an
Michigan. women's gy mastics will probably con- top hitter Sara Griffin hadn't gone dow
The Wolverines have shown that they tinue to contend. with a season-ending arm injury, th
can overcome the elements and have Now, it should be softball's turn to 1997 campaign would have been the his
established themselves as clearly the best step to the front of the Michigan athletic toric one.
team east of the Mississippi River and scene. Softball can be the next big But for now, the Wolverines will hav
-north of the Mason-Dixon line. This is dynasty for Michigan. to say what they have been saying for th
thanks inno smaH part to this graduating TheIsofbalteans. alsohas: the-best: past 20 seasons: "Wait 'til next year"
Catcher Jennifer Smith, third baseman Melissa Gentile and shortstop Pam
Kosanke, although congratulating each other here, lost to Iowa, 3-2.
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