Oct. 16, 2009
Fall Ball News & Notes
The Wolverine team posted an overall 6-0-1 fall exhibition record and went 4-0-1 in NCAA Division I games, which excludes a slate against Grand Rapids Community College and a home scrimmage vs. Eastern Michigan.
Michigan combined for a batting average of .364, boasting a .428 team on-base percentage and a .580 slugging percentage.
Senior Molly Bausher and sophomore Bree Evans headlined the Wolverines' offense, batting .611 (11-for-18) and .545 (6-for-11), respectively. Sophomore Amanda Chidester led the team with 10 RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
Freshman RHP Stephanie Speierman and junior RHP Jordan Taylor combined for a seven-inning no-hitter in the scrimmage against Eastern Michigan. Taylor and senior LHP Nikki Nemitz combined for a no-hitter in last season's meeting vs. EMU.
Speierman tallied eight strikeouts through four innings against the Eagles. In the fall finale vs. Michigan State, the rookie hurler got herself out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam with two strikeouts and an infield popup. She also tallied a base hit late in the contest.
Senior Kristin Larsen went 2-for-2 in Michigan's final game vs. MSU, including a three-run homer over the rightfield fence.
Senior Maggie Viefhaus recorded a sixth-inning triple to leftfield in the fall finale. Viefhaus leads active U-M players with four career triples.
According to head coach Carol Hutchins . . .
On the Wolverines' fall performance . . . "We saw a lot of great things this fall. We were able to do a lot of things, because we played free-for-all softball. That was good for us. It gave a lot of people opportunities to play in game situations. We do have some depth. At the same time, this fall was just filled with a lot of pit holes and injuries but we've dealt with them. The kids don't seem too fazed by it. They haven't before faced the kind of adversity they've faced this fall. "
On Michigan's veteran senior class . . . "We feel really good about the fact that our experience is our strength. We've got five kids who have been on the field for four years. We can't get caught up in the shoulds and coulds. We're going to need to work hard. I'm really pleased with our leadership. As captains, Maggie [Viefhaus] has been outstanding, and Angela [Findlay] continues to be a great leader. We aren't going to rely just on Maggie and Angela; all of those seniors are good leaders. I think they are all really committed, and they really believe that they can do great things. There's nobody more important to believe it than the team."
On the yearly improvements made by the senior class . . . "That's a natural progression if you work hard at it. Not all kids know how to come in and work at this level, because it's a work ethic that they never had -- no matter how hard they worked as high school or travel ball kids. That senior class really gets it. And if that group really believes that this team can achieve greatness, then they'll lead us to it. I learned that from our 2005 team. That team really drove the bus. The greatest teams we've ever had here were self-directed. We don't have to tell them to do much; we just help steer and support. That's what we're here for."
On the opening at shortstop . . . "The shortstop position is really up for grabs; that's one thing we really learned in the fall. We're not settled on it. The development of [freshman] Ashley Lane as she returns from injury is going to be key in what we do there. It's possible that Ashley could be at second base and [Stephanie] Kirkpatrick could move to shortstop. She's certainly capable of playing short. [Amanda] Chidester is also capable of playing shortstop, and she's a gamer and she's working on it. So, we have some options, and we're looking at them all."
On freshman pitcher Stephanie Speierman . . . "I thought Speierman showed some great promise. Until you get a kid on campus, you really don't know what they're capable of. I think she's capable of not only pitching at this level, but helping us be successful. So, we're pleased with that. She seems to be pretty unflappable and calm. You always hope that when pitchers put themselves in a jam, they can get themselves out of it. She certainly has some work to do, but that's what we do."
On Michigan's returning pitchers . . . "Jordan [Taylor] came back better, which is something we asked her to do. I think she's ready to go to that next level. Your first two years, you learn to play at this level. Your second two years, you just play. Jordan is certainly ready to go, and we're excited about it. We didn't pitch Nikki at all this fall. We need Nikki healthy, so we're being cautious with her -- probably a little more than we need to be. But there was no need to use her, and it gave us a great opportunity to use [Stephanie] Speierman."
On the Wolverines' freshman class . . . "We don't need to rely on our freshmen, but we need them to contribute. Our freshmen didn't get as much experience this fall as I would have liked. Getting kids an opportunity to show us what they have in a game setting is what the fall is about. But [Stephanie] Speierman and Amy Knapp got a chance, and they're both on a good course. The hardest thing for freshmen is learning how to deal with the intensity of this game at this level, the pace of the college game and the adversity of it. They went from being all-everything to being freshmen who are just trying to keep up with everybody. That's a tough mental adjustment. They tend to be their worst enemy, and they're hardest on themselves. We're getting them to the point where they don't judge themselves and just work hard every day. We just want kids that work hard. But I'm seeing the upperclassmen take them by the arm. That senior class is a hard-working group, and those are the kind of kids you want to teach everyone else how to do it."
On U-M's 17-3 win over Michigan State in the fall finale . . . "I would never wish for a 17-3 game; that doesn't give your team a good sense for where they're at. But I was pleased with a lot of our cuts at the ball. We looked more aggressive, we looked faster. We've been working on being fast. I was pleased with us -- our approach to the game and how we managed the game both from the mound and defensively. I saw some of the things we'd been working on in that series."
On what Michigan needs to improve before February . . . "We're going to continue to work on our bat speed and pitch selection. We want a free-swinging team that can hit with power. We need to try to unleash our power hitters a bit, and how we do that, I'm not entirely sure. We also need to shore up the shortstop position. They just need to improve their game. More than anything, they need to improve their confidence. They work really hard in the offseason -- with their conditioning and individual skill development. They work hard, so they need to take that and allow that to be what they take their confidence from."
On sophomore Bree Evans . . . "There's nobody that makes an offense go more than Bree. She is the ultimate and consummate table-setter. You do look at your kids when they come back, because you want to see that they're better. Bree was one of people on the team that I really felt came back better in all aspects. She was a little bit faster, she had more confidence, and she had that moxie that she lacked a little bit as a freshman. So, I've really got my fingers crossed that we'll get her back for this year. If we don't, we're going to need someone to step it up."
On Michigan's eagerness for a return to the Women's College World Series . . . "There are eight spots in the College World Series. There are eight chairs in this game of musical chairs. But there are a lot more than eight teams playing for it, and there are more than eight teams that are capable of getting there. I believe that every year. If we want to be one of them, we're going to have to separate ourselves.
"You can't just try to recreate last year. But I have got to believe that once you've been there, you really get it. You understand what it took to get that and the perseverance it took. I know it would make me hungrier than ever to get back. I'm hopeful that this group feels the same way. I just hope that they don't get caught up in their own hype -- the hype that they'll get in the preseason and the individual hype. You have to walk the walk. You can't get in your own way and let the hype get to you. There are only eight chairs, and you're not assured of one. We certainly believe their capable of it, but I've seen teams' own expectations hurt them. This group still has to go out and do it."
On keeping the Wolverine team motivated through the winter . . . "That's the hard part of the year -- practicing and trying to get better without anything to really gauge it against. You really gauge it against how you compete. We just keep talking about working hard. This is the time of the year when they improve. We try not to overdo it. We try to keep it short and sweet and try to throw some fun in there. But this is just the time to work hard. I have a lot of kids who are really motivated. They want to be All-Americans, they want to win starting spots or new positions. And this is when that happens -- between now and February. It's a long way until February, but it comes fast. We just try to keep them one-day focused."