May 15, 2006
Wolverines wash out
the competition for title
By Dan Feldman
Daily Sports Writer
EVANSTON - Unable to play on day one of
the Big Ten Tournament due to rain, the Michigan
softball players and coaches resorted to playing the
basketball game "knockout" on the practice court
at Welsh-Ryan Arena Thursday.
The games were competitive enough that coach
Carol Hutchins - a former Michigan State bas-
ketball player - injured herself and was upset that
she couldn't prove herself as the best player.
After the rain let up enough
for teams to take the field Fri-
day, Hutchins and her play- HW R
ers gave no indication of any
The Wolverines trounced their three opponents
by a combined score of 23-0 en route to their sec-
ond consecutiye conference tournament title.
"It's important to go into the postseason
playing well, playing relaxed and playing
good softball," Hutchins said. "It's really more
important than anything, and I think that's
why we won - because we're playing for each
other, and that's one thing we did outstanding all
The Wolverines' success was due in part to their
ability to keep the mood light, joke and dance
around before and even during their games.
"There is not one doubt about it," Hutchins said.
"When you're relaxed, your chance of being a
great softball player is quadrupled.... A lot of it is
confidence and a lot of it is trust."
In the championship game, Michigan (14-4 Big
Ten, 40-13 overall) beat regular-season champion
Northwestern 6-0. Northwestern was led by Big
Ten Coach of the Year Kate Drohan and five All-
Big Ten First Team players including Player of the
Year Garland Cooper, Pitcher of the Year Eileen
Canney and Freshman of the Year Tammy Wil-
liams. In the second-to-last weekend of the regu-
lar season, Michigan split a pair of games with the
Wildcats, which nearly assured Northwestern (16-
3, 42-12) the title.
"The motivation I had was that we lost the Big
Ten, and I wanted to go out there and win the Big
Ten tournament," senior Jennie Ritter said.
None of the Wolverines' six runs were earned
as Northwestern committed four errors, including
one by Canney who, despite her pitching prowess,
is known as a very poor defensive player.
"We always joke that the pitchers we have are
the best fielding pitchers in the Big Ten (and) in the
country," Ritter said.
Ritter explained that the pitchers take pride in
their ability to field their positions because it is so
common for pitchers to be unable to do so.
Michigan did not commit an error for the
entire tournament, and its strong defense in the
top of the seventh inning against Northwestern
helped clinch the tournament title. Freshman
Teddi Ewing grabbed a ground ball deep in the
hole at shortstop and fired a rocket to first base
Marx's bat was smoldering and Ritter (right) remained red hot during this weekend's conference tournament.
to nail Northwestern's Jamie Dotson for the first
out. Sophomore Samantha Findlay made another
good play for the second out, grabbing a ground
ball that was fairly wide of first base and run-
ning it over to the base herself.
"The play that Teddi made and the play that Sam
made, those are incredible plays," Ritter said. "I
fully believe in them and fully trust that they're
going to do that again."
Michigan, led by senior Becky Marx, started
the tournament with ease, mauling Michigan
State 13-0 in its first game and Indiana 4-0 in
Marx, who has had trouble with her swing
speed recently, switched to a lighter bat the day
before the first game. The results came quickly.
Marx hit safely in each of her first six at-bats of
She was named to the All-Tournament team
along with Findlay, seniors Tiffany Haas and
Rebekah Milian and juniors Tiffany Worthy
and Ritter - who was also named the tourna-
Michigan's quest for a second-straight national
title will begin in Ann Arbor when the Wolverines
face Youngstown State on Friday. The game will
be the first round of the NCAA tournament, where
the Wolverines sit as the No. 9 seed.
The other two teams in Michigan's regional are
Kent State and Oklahoma State.
0 WOMEN'S TRACK
Walter and Blue big winners
By Bridget O'Donnell
Daily Sports Writer
Coming into this weekend's track con-
ference championships, senior Rebecca
Walter had a lot to prove.
She felt she had the potential to perform
well this season after two consecutive inju-
"I wanted to show that I had the talent,"
With first-place finishes in both the
5,000- and 10,000-meter runs at the Big
Tens, Walter certainly proved she could
run with the best in the Big Ten.
"I couldn't be happier," she said of her
finishes. "I'd never won a track champion-
ship before this."
Walter's strong performance this week-
end was just one of many that contrib-
uted to Michigan's second-place finish at
the Big Tens. While they were unable to
recapture the Big Ten title from two years
ago, the Wolverines fought with eventual
conference champ Minnesota until the
very end. Michigan coach James Henry
was pleased with the overall result.
"We knew we were underdogs from the
beginning," Henry said. "Minnesota was
a very balanced team and had stronger
throwers. But I was as pleased as I could
be with a team that didn't win."
The finish wasn't Michigan's best
under Henry, who led the Wolverines to
three straight Big Ten outdoor track titles
between 2002 and 2004, as well as the
indoor title earlier this year. There was also
pressure for the team to perform well after
the women's cross country team captured
the conference title last season. But Henry
was hardly fazed by the team's second-
"You can't win them all," he said. "We
know we are a human team"
Five first-place event titles secured
Michigan's final spot in the top two, as the
Wolverines were especially dominant in
the distance events.
In addition to Walter's first-place finish,
sophomore Alyson Kohlmeier, and junior
Erin Webster finished 1-2-3 in the 5,000-
meter run, sweeping the race and gathering
some much-needed points in the process.
And in the 10,000-meter run, Michigan
captured four of the top six spots, gather-
ing 25 of its overall 134.66 points. Walter
once again led the way for Michigan, edg-
ing out the runner-up, senior Ana Gjesdal,
with a time of 33:45.47. Webster and Kohl-
meier also contributed, placing fifth and
Sophomore Nicole Edwards capped
off a string of strong performances by the
distance squad, capturing the 1,500-meter
title in 4:16.83.
Younger Wolverines also found suc-
cess. Freshman Geena Gall broke the meet
record for the 800-meter run, clocking in at
2:02.73, and fellow freshman Tiffany Ofili
captured the 100-meter hurdles title with a
time of 13.37, setting a personal record.
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