June 12, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With the release of the final national polls of the 2014 season, the University of Michigan softball team's year is officially in the book. In both the USA Today/NFCA poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, Michigan took the 10th spot.
The Wolverines closed out the season with a 47-15, 18-5 Big Ten record. Team 37 continued the program's winning ways in 2014, capturing its seventh consecutive Big Ten championship and its 16th regional title.
Michigan extended several notable streaks in 2014:
20 consecutive seasons of 40-plus wins
20 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament (22 overall)
20 consecutive finishes in the top 20
7 straight Big Ten titles
U-M has won 17 of the last 20 B1G championships
Michigan has played in Super Regionals nine of the 10 years since the format was adopted in 2005
Sixth-longest winning streak in program history (20 games, March 7-April 16)
The indelible memory of the season came during the dramatic final inning of the Tempe Regional. U-M forced a second game against Arizona State by beating the Sun Devils, 4-3, earlier in the day. Then in game two, U-M trailed 4-3 in the top of the seventh. With one out, Sierra Lawrence and Taylor Hasselbach hit back-to-back home runs off All-American Dallas Escobedo to give Michigan a 5-4 lead. Then in the bottom of the inning with one on and two outs, Lyndsay Doyle robbed a home run over the centerfield wall for the final out of the game and sent Michigan on in the NCAA Tournament. The Maize and Blue advanced to its ninth Super Regional in 10 years of the format.
Sophomore Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) compiled one of the most productive offensive seasons in the history of Michigan softball. The slugger finished with five top-five national rankings:
1st: on-base percentage (.633)
1st: walks per game (1.08)
2nd: batting average (.491)
4th: slugging percentage (.897)
4th: runs per game (1.19)
Romero set three Michigan single-season records: batting average (.491), runs (74), and grand slams (four). She received an onslaught of postseason honors: USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year top-three finalist, one of four nominees for the Honda Sports Award in Softball, NFCA All-America first team selection, and the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Head coach Carol Hutchins continued to reach new heights in her coaching career. On April 6, U-M beat Ohio State 10-0 in game one of a doubleheader to make Hutchins the first coach with 500 Big Ten wins. Hutch finished the season with 1,372 career wins, trailing only Arizona's Mike Candrea (1,387) among active coaches.
Senior outfielders Lyndsay Doyle (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community) and Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif.), along with first baseman Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield), capped their careers as four-year starters. Each was a key component to Michigan's success in 2014.
Doyle and Sappingfield enjoyed their most productive offensive seasons, with each batting well above her career average coming into the season (Sappingfield batted .402, compared to a lifetime .337; Doyle batted .369 compared to a lifetime of .310). Blanchard provided protection behind Romero, batting 5-for-7 with 13 RBI following an intentional walk to the slugging sophomore, and knocked in 44 runs throughout the season.
The Michigan lineup received a jolt from senior Taylor Hasselbach (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston), who took over as the designated player 22 games into the season. With just 14 starts in her career coming into the season, Hasselbach went on to start 39 games as a senior, hitting nine home runs and driving in 41 runs, good enough for NFCA All-Great Lakes Region first team honors.
Away from the field of play, the program had plenty to celebrate with the opening of the brand-new Donald R. Shepherd Softball Center that houses the team locker room, coaches offices and much more. Built on the existing footprint of the Shepherd Building, the center now reaches three stories high, instead of one. Inside is a museum showcasing the many achievements of the softball program, including the 2005 national championship trophy, and enhanced training facilities like hydrotherapy for the student-athletes. There is more team meeting space throughout the center and a multi-purpose training room. A ceremony was held before the Michigan State game on April 11 with softball alums, donors and Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics Dave Brandon to dedicate the new center. Michigan won the game, 9-1.
Several new enhancements were made to Alumni Field within the Wilpon Complex before the start of play in 2014. AstroTurf was installed in the outfield to provide a more consistent playing surface. A state-of-the-art video board was installed beyond the leftfield wall.
Big Ten Honors
All-Big Ten first team: Lyndsay Doyle (unanimous), Sierra Romero (unanimous), Nicole Sappingfield
All-Big Ten second team: Megan Betsa, Taylor Hasselbach, Lauren Sweet, Haylie Wagner
All-Defensive team: Abby Ramirez (2B), Nicole Sappingfield (OF)
Big Ten Player of the Year: Sierra Romero
NFCA All-Great Lakes Region first team: Taylor Hasselbach, Sierra Romero, Nicole Sappingfield, Haylie Wagner
NFCA All-Great Lakes Region second team: Lyndsay Doyle, Sierra Lawrence
NFCA All-Great Lakes Region third team: Caitlin Blanchard
NFCA All-America first team: Sierra Romero
NFCA All-America second team: Haylie Wagner (at-large)
USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year top-three finalist: Sierra Romero
Honda Sports Award in softball nominee: Sierra Romero
NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year top-10 finalist: Megan Betsa
Senior CLASS Award All-America first team: Nicole Sappingfield
Academic All-Big Ten: Caitlin Blanchard, Sara Driesenga, Becca Garfinkel, Sierra Lawrence, Olivia Richvalsky, Nicole Sappingfield
Big Ten Distinguished Scholars: Becca Garfinkel
Academic All-District first team: Nicole Sappingfield
Academic All-America second team: Nicole Sappingfield
Contact: Michael Kasiborski