Thursday, May 30, 2013

WCWS Team Profiles: Michigan Wolverines

How they got here: The Wolverines finished with a 44-9 regular-season record; lost in the Big Ten tournament semifinals; breezed through their hosted regional 3-0; beat Louisiana-Lafayette 2-1 in the Supers, winning a hard-fought 2-1 battle in game 3 after ULL forced the win-or-go-home matchup.

Starting Nine: Michigan's lineup consists of a mix of power hitters and those who hit for average.

Lyndsay Doyle, CF (Six of her fifty-six hits on the season were for extra bases; patient hitter-worked thirty-four walks; sets the table well and gets on base for Romero, Blanchard, and Lane. solid defensively-only made one error all season long.)
Nicole Sappingfield, RF (Only extra-base hits were three triples; also worked twenty-one walks; a perfect 7-7 in stolen base attempts; speedy, solid table setter for the power of the lineup.)
Sierra Romero, SS (I will most heartily, unequivocally state that Romero is the best power-hitting freshman this season, and probably one of the best this decade; broke the Wolverine single-season HR record as a frosh; worked forty-seven walks; besides the great power numbers, also registered a .383 batting average; great hitter but a liability defensively.)
Caitlin Blanchard, 1B (Hitting cleanup, but not the best power hitter by far; did club four home runs, but was also the team's leading hitter and was third on the team in total bases; definitely somebody you'd want coming to the plate with runners on base.)
Ashley Lane, 2B (Tied for the most at-bats on the team; second only to Romero in most of the offensive power categories; third on the team in batting average and slugging percentage.)
Lauren Sweet, C (Little farther down in the lineup, but still a to-be-reckoned-with hitter; clubbed ten home runs and knocked in thirty-four runs; had a slugging percentage of almost .550; only five and over 380 put-outs behind the plate; offensive strikeouts are a problem.)
Sara Driesenga, P (More on Driesenga below; good hitter, but fell off her offensive game this season; still capable of producing the 'big hit' or coming in clutch; not an easy out, by any means.)
Sierra Lawrence, LF (Another freshman star for the Wolverines; fourth on the team in home runs with seven; stole ten bases in twelve tries; a classic bottom-of-the-order 'leadoff' hitter, designed to get more runners on in front of the power hitters in later innings.)
Amy Knapp, 3B (Good, consistent hitter; not really a power threat nor a speedy base stealer-covers the middle ground between the two; respectable batting average and slugging percentage are two bright spots in her stat line.)

What I see: Michigan is one of those programs that has a long history, but hasn't done a lot in the past few years. Sure, they've had some great seasons, great players, but the last time they even made the World Series was 2009, and they didn't do much with that opportunity. This year, they've got pretty much all the pieces - excellent power hitting, great pitching, DEPTH in the circle (always key), and consistent hitters. Carol Hutchins is hungry - her first and only title came in 2005, and she's ready to win another one. This could be the Wolverines' year.

X-FactorSara Driesenga. Driesenga established herself as the Michigan staff ace this season, and the vast majority of her pitching statistics saw a positive increase (or decrease, as appropriate) because of it . Perhaps most impressive was that in an extra 120 innings, her ERA went DOWN by 0.78 and her opponents' batting average against also went down a full thirty points! As she enjoyed a great year in the circle, Driesenga's production at the plate went down severely. As her pitching statistics all improved down the line, her offensive stats went down. She went from the team's second-best hitter to tenth on the list of everyday players this season. Her arm will definitely be a big part of Michigan's success, if they are to have any in this World Series, but a little pickup with her hitting would definitely be welcome, as well.

Who's up first: The Wolverines face the Oklahoma Sooners Thursday night. The two teams did not play each other during the regular season.

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