Softball set for meeting with Michigan, opens MAC play against Ohio

Senior pitcher Hanna Warren pitches the ball during the Chippewas game against Northern Illinois University on April 22 at Margo Jonker Stadium.

With nine days between games for the Central Michigan softball team, head coach Margo Jonker wants to see the team’s consistency improve on the diamond.

“There were some high points (in Florida) like with bunting, some great throws to the plate, solid defense and we had some good performances in the circle but not all the time,” Jonker said. “I told the team we need to have two of the three big elements — hitting, pitching or defense — we need to find a way to have that more often.”

The Chippewas (9-11) will have their first shot at finding that flow against No. 17 Michigan (22-6) at 4 p.m. on March 21 in Ann Arbor. CMU will then travel to Athens, Ohio where they will take on the Bobcats (11-12) for a three-game weekend series starting at 4 p.m. on March 23.

CMU is currently riding a two-game winning streak after going 5-7 overall in Clearwater, FL in part of the USF Under Armour Showcase and Invitational and Citrus 2 Tournament.

Redshirt junior outfielder Sara Hansen said the team became closer over the trip and is still working on the little things to complete a game.

“You’re bonding with your roommates all week and you get to learn more about some of the people you didn’t know anything about,” Hansen said. “We need to learn how to close out games and get some wins, but overall that’s what these trips are for.”

CMU is tied for third in the MAC in hitting and is fourth in pitching. The Chippewas are hitting .294 as a team and hold a 3.05 team ERA.

Junior outfielder Allison Curtis said she knows this team is capable of winning more games.

“Last season we won a MAC (West Division) Championship and we returned a lot of people,” Curtis said. “Right now it is all about getting back in that state of mind and we have some good competition coming up that will test us. We have to be ready.”

Jonker said the team is working on making improvements each day.

“I’ll try to meet with every player until our next game and see what their thoughts are and we can go from there,” she said.

Scouting UM and Ohio

The Wolverines have been hot as of late, winning their last 16 games. UM has wins over three teams (Florida State, Baylor, Louisiana Lafayette) ranked in the Top 25 this season.

Carol Hutchins is in her 34th season as the Wolverines head coach and remains the winningest coach in NCAA softball history. During her tenure, Hutchins has guided U-M to 19 Big Ten titles and one NCAA Championship.

Last weekend, U-M went 4-0 to win the Miami (Ohio) Invitational. The Wolverines outscored their opponents 35-0.

The Bobcats come in playing the same tune as CMU, riding a two-game winning streak of their own. They finished 2-2 in the JMU Invitational. 

As a team, Ohio has posted a .250 batting average (seventh in the MAC) and a 3.76 (fifth) ERA. The Bobcats lead the league in strikeouts with 170.

Senior pitcher Danielle Stiene is second in the conference in strikeouts with 99 and eighth with a 2.68 ERA.

Recent history

Last season the Chippewas lost 2-0 against U-M in the lone meeting of the season. Senior pitcher Rachael Knapp was charged with the loss despite throwing a complete game.

CMU has not met with Ohio since 2014 when they swept the two-game series in Athens.