When someone comes along that changes the face of a sport at a university, it is an amazing feat. Schools are known for their great coaches. You cannot mention Alabama without thinking of Bear Bryant. You cannot mention Michigan State without thinking of Tom Izzo.
In the softball world, Arizona and Mike Candrea are synonymous. For the University of Michigan, they have several legendary coaches, including Bo Schembechler and Red Berenson.
There is one coach that a lot of people take for granted or have not heard of. Carol Hutchins has been the head softball coach since 1985.
I have had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Coach Hutch several times, as she is affectionately referred to as. Not only is she humble, but she lives for the game of softball.
My dad and I mentioned a game we saw to her. She immediately mentioned the date, plays that stood out to her, and the final score. Mind you, this game was back in the mid-1990’s.
That is the kind of coach that Hutch is. She took a program from a prestigious university and turned it into a mini-powerhouse of college softball. No, this is not UCLA with 11 National Championships or Arizona with eight.
This is Michigan, with the first National Championship east of the Mississippi. All of the girls on the roster are not from California or Arizona, where they play softball practically year-round. Granted, a few are, but most are from the Midwest or even Michigan.
How far will Michigan softball go this year?
Michigan is not a typical “powerhouse” for creating college softball players. When the first game of the season comes around, there may still be snow on the ground. My first game on junior varsity in high school was snowed out.
The University of Michigan does not play a home game until April most seasons. Most seasons only consist of 15 regular season home games, not including Regionals and Super Regionals.
Contrast that to an Arizona or Arizona State, who play 30-40 home games, not including Regionals and Super Regionals.
Why mention the weather? Ask any college athlete how much nicer and more relaxing it is to play home games than away games. Not only can they attend every class, they can also sleep in their own beds and walk to the field.
Michigan says their road games help them bond. They probably do. When you are “stuck” with twenty girls on the road every weekend in February, March, and some of April, you definitely get to know each other.
That is another thing about Coach Hutch. She does not focus on being on the road away from home. She just gets her team to focus on the game itself. This is why she is so successful. Live in the moment.
Coach Hutch just reached a big milestone in college softball. She got her 1,200th victory as a head coach when Michigan beat Ball State in a recent tournament in Florida.
Only five other coaches have reached this milestone. They include Mike Candrea of Arizona, Gayle Blevins of Iowa, Jan Hutchinson of Bloomsburg, Yvette Girouard of LSU and Margie Wright of Fresno State. That is some pretty good company.
During her years at Michigan, Hutch has taken her teams to nine Women’s College World Series, won 13 Big Ten titles, gone to 18 Regionals and has one National Championship.
The only teams to go to more WCWS than Michigan from 1985 until now are UCLA, Arizona, Washington, California-Berkeley, and Fresno State. All of those schools are on the west coast and four are in the Pacific-10, the powerhouse of college softball.
What Coach Hutch has done with Michigan softball is impressive. You may not like softball or not like Michigan, but you have to give her props. Her teams average almost 45 wins per season and almost always host a Regional tournament.
Congratulations to Hutch for her 1,200th victory. Here’s to another 1,200.