Coach Hutchins Q&A: U-M's Traverse City Tournament Sweep
Carol Hutchins

Oct. 1, 2013

The University of Michigan softball put together five wins over the weekend (Sept. 28-29) playing at the Traverse City Collegiate Tournament. It was the first chance for Team 37 to play together following a few weeks fall practice. sat down with head coach Carol Hutchins to get her thoughts on the team's performance, her impressions of Michigan's four freshmen, the impact of All-Big Ten first team performer Caitlin Blanchard's injury and where the team goes from here.

On her overall impressions of the squad in competition for the first time ... "I thought we played better than we'd been practicing, so I think we can kick it up in practice some. I was actually impressed with our competitive spirit. As I told the kids, the strength of our team this year is our versatility, we have a lot of kids that can play different positions and play them well. Deciding lineups will be competitive. Kids are going to compete to play and that is a strength -- we have to make it our strength."

On how to get practice expectations to meet game output ... "If you have to choose, you always choose the gamer. But it's been a difficult fall for us, kids have to travel to Huron (high school) every day, they are rushing to get to practice -- and it's taking a toll on them I think. I don't make too much of it yet, we're moving in a good direction."

On the benefits of having the team in one place for two straight days ... "It's our first opportunity to be a team 24/7. We really get to know each other. We had some really honest moments at the campfire and did some team building. The best teams have an innate trust in each other, that's one of the goals of the trip to develop that. This group genuinely cares about each other, you can see it when they are around each other and those are things that are all positives."

On how she used the team's versatility in the Traverse City tournament ... "Well we're playing totally without Caitlin Blanchard available (broken thumb), and last year she was our leading hitter. Kelsey Susalla, I've been so impressed with this fall, she worked really hard over the summer. I've had her at third base and first base and I think she's really come a long way, her goal is to be a day-to-day player. We're able to put (Lindsay) Montemarano at third base when Susalla isn't there, we had a chance to put Kelly Christner at first base a little bit. With Kelly, we have our three returning outfielders, and yet Kelly is a factor. She had a great weekend for us and we've got to find way to make it all work because she's going to help us."

On her impression of the pitching ... "Megan Betsa, having her available gives us a whole other dimension, she's going to allow us to keep our arms fresher. I was really please with all of the pitchers. Hayley Wagner came back (from the summer) and looks strong, she looks fitter and better. Sara (Driesenga) threw well, although she didn't throw a lot of innings. Betsa's presence is going to make those other two better. The young kids can play so they're going to make everyone else better, and Betsa is going to help us."

On how the pitching competition will shake out ... "The object is to not miss a beat and not have any drop off when you go from pitcher to pitcher to pitcher. I don't see us worrying about who the number one pitcher is, they are all going to help us win. As I told the kids, Team 37 is about team. Whenever you get your opportunity, help us win. If you're in a different role game-to-game, embrace your role. Some days you may be in the lineup, some days you may come off the bench. Embrace those roles and do your part to help us win."

On Caitlin Blanchard's broken thumb ... "Caitlin is doing fine, she's still in charge of the sarcasm society. We expect this to be just a blip. It's unfortunate that she's missing the fall but it forces us to put other people in different positions and live without her. During the season injuries happen. Obviously it leaves us thin at catcher."

On the benefits of having to adjust the lineup without Blanchard in it ... "There were times I'd look up and we had all of the freshmen in, and one time this weekend we had a lineup without any seniors in it. It feels like we're actually a younger team this year than we were last year because we have freshmen playing all over the place and a freshman on the mound. Often we had just (Lindsay) Doyle and Colie (Sappingfield) as the only seniors in the game, and that's our team. There is no asterisk that says 'Team 37 is young.' It's just Team 37 -- are we going to get it done or not?"

On the big takeaway heading into the final few weeks of fall practice ... "Offensively I want us to strike the ball better, we hit the ball in the air way too much. Whether that's having too big of swings or poor pitch selection, we have a lot in that area. Defensively we want to keep getting better. We go with (Sierra) Romero and Abby (Ramirez) strictly up the middle, and we can move Kelsey to second base if needed to give us some depth. They competed well in Traverse City -- and I think we're very solid, but we're not World Series-caliber yet."

The Wolverines will head to Eastern Michigan on Thursday (Oct. 3) to scrimmage the Eagles. The game begins at 4 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Traverse City Collegiate Tournament

Date Opponent Time
Saturday, Sept. 28 Central Michigan W, 9-0*
Western Michigan W, 6-0*
Oakland W, 5-2*
Sunday, Sept. 29 Western Michigan W, 5-1
Central Michigan W, 4-1
* Five-inning game

Contact: Michael Kasiborski (734) 763-4423

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