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Posted on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Michigan softball team focuses on itself as it heads into heart of Big Ten play

By Michael Florek


Michigan freshman lefty Haylie Wagner leads the Wolverines with a 17-4 record, a 1.42 earned-run average and 70 strikeouts.

Angela J. Cesere |

It’s Michigan vs. Ohio State. The Maize and Blue vs. the Scarlet and Gray. The rivalry. And it isn't the Michigan softball team's focus.

As the Wolverines head to Columbus for a three-game series with the Buckeyes this weekend, it’s not so much about the opponent as it is about the wins.

“I don’t put red-letter marks on games because every win counts the same, and every loss counts the same,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We’re not playing their jerseys; we’re playing some good individuals.”

After its customary lengthy trips south at the beginning of the season, Michigan returned to Ann Arbor for its first home games of the season two weeks ago. The five-game stand included a three-game series with Penn State for its Big Ten opener. But as soon as the Wolverines (24-10) arrived, they shipped out to Indiana.

After 34 games, the Wolverines have developed an inward focus.

“I don’t even know if they’re ranked,” first baseman Amanda Chidester said of Ohio State. “Are they?' "

The Buckeyes are not ranked. They are 5-1 in the conference, tied for second with the Wolverines. Both are one game behind Purdue.

Leading the Buckeyes on offense is Alicia Herron, who currently leads the Big Ten in home runs and RBIs. She’s still relatively unknown to the Michigan players.

“To be honest with you, I don’t even know who (she) was,” second baseman Ashley Lane said.

Lane is tied for second in the conference in home runs, one behind Herron. Hutchins, however, is well aware.


The Michigan softball team's weekend games with Ohio State aren't "red-letter" games, coach Carol Hutchins said. "Every win is the same, and every loss is the same," she said.

Angela J. Cesere |

“She can hit the ball to the opposite field as well as anybody I’ve seen,” said Hutchins, who is in her 28th year as head coach.

The Wolverines likely will counter with their duo of freshman pitchers: Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga. Driesenga was named Michigan’s Miss Softball last season as a senior at Hudsonville High School.

The two have split time almost evenly this season and have pitched all but 18 innings for a staff that has posted a 1.86 ERA.

While Michigan might intentionally walk Herron, it won’t be because of the youth on the mound.

“There’s nothing on that scoreboard that says that the pitcher is a freshman,” Hutchins said. “I don’t care what year we are in school; we’re going to have to pitch well.”

By now, the two teams are experienced with pitching to some of the nation’s best hitters. That’s the advantage of playing nine ranked teams so early in the season. What the freshmen haven’t quite experienced is a hostile Ohio State crowd. According to Hutchins, they’re “nasty.”

“It definitely gets you’re adrenaline going a little bit more, which will be exciting” Driesenga said. “It will just depend how we react to that.”

A battle near the top of the conference, freshmen playing key roles and some of the best players in the conference. It seems like a classic Michigan/Ohio State matchup, whether the Wolverines know it or not.

Michael Florek covers sports for Contact him at