Coaching Staff Named Tops in Great Lakes Region
Carol Hutchins

June 26, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 2013 University of Michigan softball coaching staff has been named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Great Lakes Region Coaching Staff of the Year as announced today (Wednesday, June 26) by the NFCA.

The award honors Hall of Fame coach Carol Hutchins, associate head coach Bonnie Tholl, assistant coach Jennifer Brundage and volunteer assistant coach Nikki Nemitz along with director of softball operations Erin McLaughlin. It is the 12th time that a Hutchins-led staff has received a NFCA coaching citation (1992, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013) and the ninth time that the triumvirate of Hutchins, Tholl and Brundage has been recognized. That trio was named the NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year following U-M's 2005 national championship.

"My assistant coaches work hard day-in and day-out to help our players succeed. They are selfless in their approach to living up to the Michigan standard. Bonnie, Jen and Nikki make this program what it is," Hutchins said. "They are all invested in and trust in our process. This recognition is a testament to their love for Michigan. We had a tremendous group of student-athletes this season, and our seniors were terrific leaders."

The staff led Michigan to its 10th Women's College World Series appearance, the seventh most among Division 1 softball programs. The Wolverines finished the 2013 season with a 51-13 record and won their sixth consecutive Big Ten championship, a feat no other team has ever matched. The Big Ten crown was Michigan's 16th in program history, all coming under Hutchins. The 2013 squad tied U-M's third-longest win streak when it reeled off 22 straight wins between March 15 and April 23. The Maize and Blue finished the season ranked No. 6 in the country following its WCWS appearance.

Seven U-M players took home All-Big Ten Conference honors this season, with six on the first team, including first baseman Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield), pitcher Sara Driesenga (Hudsonville, Mich./Hudsonville), outfielder Sierra Lawrence (Norcross, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian), second baseman Ashley Lane (Escondido, Calif./Escondido), catcher Lauren Sweet (Corona, Calif./Santiago) and shortstop Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta), while pitcher Haylie Wagner (Orange, Calif./El Modeno) took a spot on the second team. Romero was honored as the Big Ten Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, becoming just the second player to win both awards (Sara Griffin, U-M 1995).

Romero and Lane were also voted onto NFCA All-America teams, with Romero on the second team and Lane on the third team.

Hutchins just completed her 29th season at the helm of the Wolverines and has compiled a career record of 1,325-443-4. She won her 1,300th career game on March 29, becoming just the third coach in NCAA softball history to surpass that mark. Hutchins was voted the Big Ten Coach of the Year by her peers for the third season in a row and 14th overall.

Tholl and Brundage have been Hutchins' primary assistants for the past 15 years, with Tholl recently completing her 20th season with the Wolverines. She was an All-Big Ten first team performer all four years during her Michigan playing career (1988-1991), the first player to do so. Brundage has served as the staff pitching coach since coming aboard in 1999 following a standout career at UCLA. She went on to win a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics with Team USA.

Nemitz just completed her second season as the volunteer assistant. She returned to her alma mater in 2012 following an All-America career. She currently pitches professionally for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league.

Contact: Michael Kasiborski (734) 763-4423

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