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Posted on Tue, May 22, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Michigan freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner coming up clutch, with help from her wise-cracking teammates

By Nick Baumgardner


Freshman Haylie Wagner pitched every inning of Michigan's three straight wins at the Louisville regional and hasn't suffered a loss since April 21. Up next is a best-of-three Super Regional at No. 3-ranked Alabama.

Chris Asadian |

Every good pitcher has a secret of the trade.

Maybe it's a special pitch, or a superstitious pregame meal. Some talk to themselves, while others attempt to block out everything surrounding them.

For Michigan softball freshman Haylie Wagner, when the stakes are raised, her secret weapon is a good laugh.

"If I get into a tough situation, (my teammates) just come out there and remind me to have fun and just be myself," said Wagner, who will take the pitching circle when Michigan takes on Alabama Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2) in the first game of a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"(They'll make) jokes with me, (and remind me to) have fun out there on the mound. (They're) keeping me relaxed."

On Saturday, with Michigan (42-15) clinging to a 1-0 lead over host Louisville in NCAA Regional action, Wagner ran into a tough spot with the game on the line in the seventh inning.


Super Regionals are best-of-three tournaments. The host is home team for Game 1, visitor is home team for Game 2, coin flip determines home team for Game 3. Times are EDT.

At Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Michigan (42-15) vs. Alabama (53-7), 8 p.m.
Michigan vs. Alabama, 4:30 p.m.
Michigan vs. Alabama, 7 p.m. (if necessary)

At Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State (49-8) vs. Louisiana.-Lafayette (52-4), 10 p.m.
Arizona State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 9 p.m.
Arizona State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 11:30 p.m. (if necessary)

At Tampa, Fla.
South Florida (48-11) vs. Hofstra (41-13), 7 p.m.
South Florida vs. Hofstra, 2:30 p.m.
South Florida vs. Hofstra, 5 p.m. (if necessary)

At Norman, Okla.
Arizona (38-17) vs. Oklahoma (48-8), 2 p.m.
Arizona vs. Oklahoma, noon
Arizona vs. Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m. (if necessary)

At Austin, Texas
Oregon (42-15) vs. Texas (46-11), 9 p.m.
Oregon vs. Texas, 5 p.m.
Oregon vs. Texas, 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)

At Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee (49-11) vs. Georgia (44-15), noon
Tennessee vs. Georgia, 1 p.m.
Tennessee vs. Georgia, 3:30 p.m. (if necessary)

At Columbia, Mo.
Missouri (46-12) vs. LSU (36-23), 7 p.m.
Missouri vs. LSU, 3:30 p.m.
Missouri vs. LSU, 6 p.m. (if necessary)

At Berkeley, Calif.
California (54-5) vs. Washington (39-17), 10 p.m.
California vs. Washington, 7 p.m.
California vs. Washington, 9:30 p.m. (if necessary)

After giving up a leadoff double and throwing a wild pitch, Wagner's teammates gathered for a meeting in the circle.

Coach Carol Hutchins made her way out and delivered what appeared to be a rather stern, straight-faced message.

From there, though, in what was clearly the most pressure-packed moment of her young career, Wagner and her infielders were seen with wide smiles on their faces, laughing as if nothing happened.

What was said in that huddle, exactly?

"We keep it in the circle," laughed senior first baseman Amanda Chidester, the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Louisville eventually tied the game on a sacrifice fly, but Wagner was money from there -- setting down the next four batters in a row before the Wolverines toppled the Cardinals with a walk-off in the bottom of the eighth.

Laughter may be the best medicine for Wagner, and, make no mistake, her left arm has absolutely been the best medicine for Michigan during this season's stretch run.

She tossed every inning of Michigan's three straight wins at the Louisville regional and hasn't suffered a loss since April 21.

On the season, the Orange, Calif. native -- who was named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year -- sits at 32-5 with a 1.46 earned run average. She has 153 strikeouts against 46 walks and opponents are hitting just .203 against her.

And when the lights have been brightest, Hutchins says her freshman hurler has shown the ability to "play up to her competition."

"We try to take the pressure off her. We're just encouraging her to do her part (and make sure she knows) she can't do all of it," Hutchins said. "We want to create a situation where she feels like she doesn't have to throw a shutout, it's awfully hard to throw a shutout.

"And, this week, it'll be very difficult."

Wagner will once again be tasked with pitching Michigan past another favored opponent this week, as the Wolverines will have to win the best-of-three Super Regional against No. 3 Alabama (53-7) to advance to the Women's College World Series.

She'll once again be in a true road environment, against one of the best teams in America on the biggest stage of her career.

But as long as she's able to keep her laughter under control before releasing a pitch, Wagner feels she'll be fine.

"I'm fine out there," she said. "My teammates have helped me out a lot."

When the going gets tough, the Wolverines get to joking.

Just don't ask for specifics, because that's confidential.

"That's for us to know," junior second baseman Ashley Lane said. "We keep it in the circle."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

You go girls!!!!! Can't wait to see the games. Roll the tide and head to the world series!!!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Nick, thanks for great article. She is all that and does it with graciousness .Always has a smile on her face, of course we also have a great freshman catcher too works very hard. The rest of the team what can I say. They are fabulous!!!!!!! They can do it again, go blue...


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

We also have a great sophamore catcher in Caitlin Blanchard that has been pinch hitting for us. She was injuried in the UCLA games but has come back stronger than ever and has been training and providing tips to Lauren Sweet our freashman catcher. That is what is making this team great. They are a team not a bunch of individuals. Remember the team the team the team!!!


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 5:19 a.m.

Men can't pull a national player from Orange, CA with Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine so close, good to see the women attract a top caliber player away from southern California.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

This young woman is a first year player, yet has the mental toughness of Jordan Taylor and Jennie Ritter as she showed in getting through a very tough weekend of games at L-ville. Her intensity, the obvious closeness of this team, and her muscular build all bode very well for softball not just this weekend but next few years. This team (and the sport) is fascinating to watch, and I can't wait until Thursday. Only wish I could get to the games, but alas, it'll be on TV. That picture is awesome. What powerful looking legs--that is probably her key to getting good pitches off.