The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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was all about this day, this moment, and this team. She also assured that Michigan softball hasn't gotten be- yond the point of celebrating Big Ten titles. "Absolutely … not," she offered. "Every championship is special. I told my kids, it's not about five, and it's not about 15. This is about 2012. This is about Team 35. This is theirs. It's not about the past and the future." Team 35 hasn't featured a vintage, dominating brand of Big Ten cham- pions. Relying on freshman pitching and an at times inconsistent offense, the Wolverines went into the final weekend of the regular season with some work to do for a title. Purdue rolled into Ann Arbor with a shot at the championship, and Iowa still held out hopes of sneaking in. Michigan slammed the door shut, though, nailing down a 2-1 win in a Friday night opener against the Boilermakers, then pouring on the offense in a Saturday sweep, 8-5 and 8-0, the first of which clinched the championship. "It feels good," admitted senior slugger Amanda Chidester, who has known nothing but Big Ten titles in her four years. "This year was a little bit of a challenge. One thing that re- ally stuck out to us was, Hutch al- ways said, 'You guys act like you already have the Big Ten champion- ship and you don't want anyone to take it away from you. You need to start fighting for it. You need to go get it.' "That really sunk in with a lot of Knapp — into a Boilermakers defen- sive meltdown. Purdue tossed four errors into the inning, seemingly tak- ing itself completely out of the game. The Boilermakers rallied for five runs, including two in the seventh against Wagner, who came on in relief in the fifth. The title clincher proved a microcosm of the season, with ultimate success not coming easily. "We were very tentative in the first game," Hutchins said. "We were kind of holding our breath. We forced some errors on their part, they forced some errors on our part. That was not a pretty game. Then we seemingly relaxed and hit the ball much better. "I told them that no matter what happened in that game or the next game, 'Your parents are still going to love you. I'm still going to love you. Just go out there and play. Take the pressure off.' They create a lot of their own. They just need to remem- ber why they play." The Wolverines wasted no time us. She was right. We needed to start fighting for it instead of just sitting back and waiting for it to come to us. Today was a great day." The night before, freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner kept the Boilermak- ers in check, scattering six hits and striking out five in the crucial series opener. Wagner helped herself, get- ting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score a first-inning run. Purdue tied the game in the fifth on an RBI double, but U-M broke the deadlock in the bottom half of the inning, with pinch hitter Caitlin Blanchard delivering a sacrifice fly to score the eventual winning run. Wagner did the rest, closing out the Boilermakers for her 28th win of the season. Fellow freshman pitcher Sara Dri- esenga (9-10) got the call in the cham- pionship-clinching game, which goes into the trophy case, if not an art gallery. The Boilermakers and Wol- verines combined for nine errors — five on Purdue's part — in the 8-5 struggle. Michigan cashed in seven runs in the third inning, providing more than enough to win, even when the going got ugly late. The Wolverines weaved four hits — including a two- run double by junior shortstop Amy right field, Wagner arrived at the plate with the bases loaded. She un- loaded a shot to right, the rising liner barely clearing the fence but clearing the bases for a grand slam and a 4-0 lead. "I didn't think it was going out," in the nightcap, taking out the Boil- ermakers in an 8-0 whitewash that went only four and a half innings. Once again, Wagner (29-5) gave her own cause a major boost the first time the Wolverines came to the plate. With a stiff breeze blowing out to Wagner admitted. "I thought maybe it would hit the wall. It was definitely a great feeling when it went out." Knapp immediately followed with a solo blast into the right field bleach- ers, making it 5-0. Three innings later, Chidester hammered one up into the breeze, her three-run homer provid- ing the eventual margin of victory. There wasn't any drama to the reg- ular-season ender, the Boilermakers offering up little resistance. All that remained involved the Wolverines celebrating with parents, fans and a Big Ten championship trophy on Senior Day. "Things didn't go our way a lot this year," Hutchins said. "We really had to reinvent ourselves and reboot many times. When all was said and done, the seniors did a fantastic job." JUNE/JULY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 65

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