COLUMN: Softball has potential to win more than a MAC title
No matter the sport, the general census is the Big Ten Conference is better than the Mid-American Conference when it comes to skill level and accomplishments in athletics.
However, there are certain situations where an athlete or a team in the MAC has a season where it could compete at a Power Five conference level.
CMU's junior guard Marcus Keene is a perfect example with NCAA Division I records he broke that are decades old.
Western Michigan football is another example. The Broncos were 12-1 last season and defeated two Big Ten schools.
You're probably wondering how this relates to the Central Michigan Softball team, which is a fair question to ask.
On Tuesday, CMU lost to No. 20 Michigan 2-0 and only recorded one hit. Senior pitcher Rachael Knapp held her team in the game, going the full seven innings and keeping the score within reach.
What doesn't show up in the stat sheet from yesterday are the plays CMU made in the field. There were sliding and diving catches made in the outfield, some diving plays on the infield that saved a hit and a team that looked composed and calm throughout the entire afternoon — especially Knapp.
After giving up a home run in the third inning, she kept her cool and got the next three batters in order.
In the last inning when the Wolverines were threatening to blow the game wide open by loading the bases with nobody out, Knapp didn't fold. Instead, she retired the next three batters again to give her team a chance.
Earlier in the season, CMU faced Ohio State and lost 10-0 and 5-1. The Chippewas looked outmatched and didn't seem to have the talent to keep up with the Buckeyes.
That wasn't the story against Michigan.
Despite not being able to beat a ranked team yet this season, the Chippewas have proved they can compete with Power Five schools — and they are only getting better.
CMU won nine games in a row and won 16 out of 17 games before losing to Bowling Green last weekend, which was shortened due to rain, and Michigan a couple of days ago.
This team is getting better every time it touches the field, regardless if it lost the last two games. You wouldn't expect them to beat a team like Michigan, but the Chippewas almost did.
What head coach Margo Jonker said after yesterday’s loss to Michigan couldn't have been more true.
“We will bounce back. It’s a game of failure. Life is like that,” Jonker said. “You win a game, you lose a game and life goes on. We will bounce back. I’m not at all worried about that.”
Jonker said that with confidence, and I would say the same thing.
When you can lose your first five games of the season and bounce back to win 16 of your next 17 contests, you are doing something right.
As long as Knapp can keep up her performance on the mound like she has all season long and her team can get enough runs to support her, this team can compete with anyone inside or outside of the MAC.
They haven't beat a team yet, but the Chippewas are inching closer and closer and they have a long time to win that race and maybe do more beyond winning the MAC.
CMU softball may be one of those exceptions that can play at a higher level.
I firmly believe that behind the right arm of Knapp, this team could see an NCAA Tournament berth.