TRAVERSE CITY — There are still about four months until the college softball season begins, but at this point it’s safe to assume not much has changed for the University of Michigan.
The Wolverines, coming off a 51-13 season that included a trip to the College World Series, were the dominant team of the four that competed in this weekend’s Traverse City West Collegiate Softball Tournament, winning the 19th annual four-team event after only allowing three runs in five games.
Michigan went 3-0 in round-robin play on Saturday, posting wins over Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Oakland, then won a pair of games on Sunday, beating Western Michigan in the first game and CMU 4-0 in the championship contest.
“(Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins) had commented that their young players are really doing a nice job and she’s really pleased with how they’re doing coming into the program,” said TC West head coach Kathy Breece, who organizes and runs the tournament.
Michigan has become one of the elite programs in the country and it looked every bit the part in cruising through the four teams, which included a Central Michigan team that is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in its own right and went 2-2-1. Oakland, which was making its debut at the tournament, was third and also went 2-2-1. Western Michigan was fourth, going winless in its five games.
“There were some good, diving plays and catches — defense was good,” said Breece. “There was a share of home runs, so that’s always nice. It was nice to have Oakland as a new team that came up and they were really excited to play. Both U-M and Central made it to the postseason so they (Oakland) were really excited to see how they stacked up against those teams.”
Breece said teams use the tournament to get a look at how its younger players adapt to their first taste of college softball as well as a team bonding experience.
“It’s kind of a two-fold weekend,” said Breece. “It’s both softball and it’s just togetherness, bonding and teamwork activities.”
The tournament also provides a showcase of high level college softball to area players and fans alike. Breece counted over 300 spectators on Saturday and another 250 on Sunday.
“It just promotes the game,” she said.
Michigan, WMU and CMU have been regulars at the tournament over the years. Breece said Oakland indicated it would like to come back next year, but the schedule of teams won’t be finalized until the spring.