The Michigan softball team opens up play in the Women’s College World Series on Thursday, taking on sixth-seeded Alabama in the opening contest for each team. However, the Wolverines will be taking part in the WCWS with the knowledge that 10 years have passed since it last won a national title, in 2005.
Not that it will add any pressure to the mix, but it likely serves as a model and point of pride to return back to Ann Arbor for a group that was probably too young to remember the Wolverines hoisting the national title that year.
Michigan isn’t a stranger to the WCWS though, making its 11th overall appearance in the final stage of the national championship tournament. The current group of Wolverines also have experience in Oklahoma City, last appearing in the WCWS in the 2013 season.
The pressure is likely to be less because it’s also a very different tournament this time around.
Back in 2005, Michigan was the top seed and breezed its way to the championship game before losing the first in a best-of-three series in the final. Eventually the Wolverines won the title with two straight wins.
This time around, Michigan had to claw its way back from a 3-0 deficit in the super regional final against Georgia — something that it didn’t face very often in a season full of blowouts.
“During the season when we had so many run rules and blowouts and you’re concerned when it gets to this time of the year, how are we going to play when the game’s get tight?,” Hutchins said, via MLive.com. “I’m very pleased with what we did with that, we just stayed in our movement, we were really one-pitch focused.
“Playing in tight games, that’s called the postseason.”
Michigan also will go in to this tournament not as the No. 1-overall seed as it did in 2005, but as the third seed. Additionally, only Tennessee and UCLA were in the 2005 and are in the 2015 tournament too.
However, there are similarities — as Michigan goes in to the WCWS as one of the hottest teams in the tournament. Michigan is currently sitting on a 25-game win streak, which began on April 4. During that time, the Wolverines are outscoring their opposition 225-36. Michigan also dominated on its way to the No. 1-overall seed in 2005, but not quite that crazy on the offensive side of things.
As for the matchup with Alabama, it will be intriguing as the two teams met already this season. Michigan took both contests back in February, winning 8-2 and 4-1. With this matchup taking place on the biggest stage in softball, its likely that neither side is going to have time to think of those wins or losses, but rather the individual matchups and lessons learned from them.
The two teams will meet at 7pm ET Thursday, with the game airing on ESPN2.
Can Michigan go on and repeat its performance a decade after winning a national title? Time will tell, but this team seems to have the wind at their sails.