Page 4 -The Michigan Daily- Sports Monday- April 1, 1991
P R E V I E W
by Ryan Herrington
Daily S ports Writer
Traditionally, the Big Ten
softball title has come down to a
close race between two or three
contenders. The 1991 conference race
appears to be no different.
In its 10th season of conference
play, which began last Friday, the
Big Ten fields seven varsity teams.
Two-time defending champion Iowa
ig the consensus preseason favorite
to claim its third consecutive
"Iowa's definitely the team to
beat," Indiana coach Diane Stephen-
son said. "They look to be in mid-
season form (already)."
The Hawkeyes (18-2) are ranked
eighth in the country. Coach Gayle
Blevins' squad has already won two
spring tournaments - the South
Florida Classic and the National
Invitational Softball Tournament
- as the Big Ten season approaches.
199 M kinaHE n Anhllii
by Jason Bank
Daily Sports Writer
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Michigan softball coach Carol
Hutchins remains candid when dis-
cussing her team's ability and its
potential for the season.
"We are worthy of a top 20 rank-
ing," she said boldly. "Whether we
get it or not is just a matter of poli-
The Wolverines have backed up
Hutchins' proclamation so far this
season. They are 4-3 against top 20
teams, including a 1-0 victory over
then-fifth-ranked Oklahoma State.
As the Big Ten season begins,
Michigan seeks its first Big Ten
Championship. The team has fin-
ished in second place four of the last
six years under Hutchins, who re-
cently notched her 200th Wolverine
victory in the season opener.
Last season, Michigan stumbled
to a fourth-place Big Ten mark after
being ranked ninth in the country in
the preseason. Hutchins is confident
her team will improve in 1991.
"Last year, we were streaky and
inconsistent," she said. "Maybe our
team has more heart this year."
According to Hutchins, the key
to a successful season is focusing on
the present and playing a consistent
"We need to stay intense for
seven full innings," she said. "We
tend to not show up in the first and
seventh innings. We needed a triple
play in the seventh to beat New
Mexico (while leading 3-0)."
Hutchins does have one predic-
tion for the Big Ten season. "Who's
'M' softball off to fast start
Pitching is Iowa's major
strength. The Hawkeyes are lead by
last year's Big Ten Player of the
Year, Terri McFarland. The junior
from Sacramento, Calif., has posted
an 8-0 record with a 0.12 ERA this
season. In addition, Iowa's No. 2
pitcher is rookie Karen Jackson, who
has compiled a 8-1 record with a
Before anyone concedes the title,
six other teams will challenge the
Hawkeyes. However, the only way
the others feel they can compete
with Iowa is to play consistently
throughout the season.
"The key concept of the Big Ten
is that there is not just one opponent
each team must beat, but just one
opponent at a time," Michigan coach
Carol Hutchins said. "We must
come to play every game and stay
See CONFERENCE, Page 7
the team to beat in the Big Ten? The
next team we're playing."
PITCHERS: Last year, the
Wolverines finished fifth in the Big
Ten in team pitching. But this sea-
son, with three solid starters, the
hurlers are the strongest part of the
See TEAM, Page 7
by David Kraft
Daily Sports Writer
If a non-conference schedule is an
indication of how successful a
team's season will be, then the
Michigan women's softball squad
has a lot to look forward to for the
remainder of its 1991 campaign.
After two lengthy road trips to
New Mexico and California, the
Wolverines entered the Big Ten sea-
son last Friday at Indiana with an
With the intention of assessing
early-season talent on both trips,
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
used several different lineups and
liked what she saw.
"We used everyone early,"
Hutchins said. "We wanted to see
what each player could do, and let
them get some experience. I feel we
have 15 players that we can put into
the lineup and win a lot.of games
Making the Wolverines' per-
formances even more impressive
were the level of competition they
In its first trip to New Mexico,
Michigan began the 13 game-swing
by posting a 6-2 record in the New
Mexico Invitational at Albuquer-*
que. Included in the six victories
were three against host New
Mexico and New Mexico State in
which the Wolverines yielded only
five runs while pounding out 16.
Before concluding the trip,
Michigan continued its success
against the Aggies by sweeping the
host team in a doubleheader, 10.-1,
In the final stage of the trip,
See SOFTBALL, Page 6
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Blue catchers sacrifice glamour to direct team
Position Year B-T
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by Ken Davidoff
Daily Sports Writer
Toward the end of his brilliant
career, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench
could often be found singing,
"Mamas, don't let your babies grow
up to be catchers."
Those mothers who do not heed
Mr. Bench's words of wisdom often
find their children to be the least
appreciated and noticed players on
the field. However, for the knowl-
edgeable baseball or softball fan,
the position of catcher holds a great
deal of importance. And for those
who don the "tools of ignorance,"
the experience is unlike any other.
Julie Cooper was innocently
playing second base one day in a ju-
nior high school game when her
team's catcher went down with a
broken thumb. In need of a new re-
ceiver, the coach picked Cooper. Ten
years after having the positipn
thrust upon her, Cooper now
handles the bulk of the catching for
the Michigan softball squad. After
earning second-team All-Big Ten
honors last year, Cooper, according
to Michigan head coach Carol
Hutchins, is "among the best in the
league and the country."
The senior education major, who
also plays outfield, realizes the
wear and tear catching puts on her
"I feel it's the most grueling po-
sition," Cooper said. "You have to
come in early and put in extra time
to catch the pitchers. While you're
doing this you have to put on all the
gear and squat up and down. I think
the random fan doesn't know what
the position entails."
As the Wolverine co-captain,
Cooper handles an even larger
amount of on-the-field responsibil-
"You can see everything out
me there," she recalls. "I didn't
think I'd like it at first. As I played
it more in high school and then col-
lege, I realized a little bit more
about how to call a game and the
Kunnen, who also leads the
Wolverines in runs scored and runs
batted in, acknowledges that catch-
ers rarely get the notice they de-
"Pitchers get all the glory, but
there's someone behind the plate;
too," Kunnen said. "It's something
to get used to; I've never had a prob-
lem with it."
In addition to being field general
and supplying support at the plate,
the catcher must also play guidance
counselor to the other half of her
battery. Julie Clarkson, the first-
year pitcher, has benefitted im-
mensely from the knowledge and
experience of her receivers.
"The catcher is very important in
helping the pitcher get through the
game," Clarkson said. "If there's a
bad situation, she'll come out to the
mound and calm my nerves.
"A lot of attention centers on
the pitchers, in softball especially,
but the catcher should be getting
half of that credit."
Although the role of catcher
might be the most demanding posi-
tion, it may also be the most com-
manding. Just ask no less an author-
ity than Michigan baseball coach
Bill Freehan, who caught for the
Detroit Tigers for fifteen years.
"Sure, at first they question your
sanity when you play catcher," he
said. "But nothing starts on that
field until you put down the finger
(to call the pitch)."
Perhaps there are worse things
for mamas to do than let their
children blossom into catchers.
Senior co-captain and catcher Julie Cooper prepares to lead the
Wolverines toward a strong finish in the Big Ten. After 18 games, she
leads the team with six steals while posting a .315 batting average.
there. You're always yelling and
screaming where the play is. My
freshman year, it was tough (to as-
sume a leader position) because ev-
eryone was older than I was. The
last few years, it's gotten easier and
I've been more comfortable."
Much like Cooper, Karla Kunnen
did not become a catcher by her own
"It was my first year of high
school, and my coach wanted to play
26 years of experience
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