As a new decade and a new millennium dawned, Michigan women’s softball looked to continue their tradition of success. The 2000 team got started with wins over Stanford and California State, then had a rare tie game against UCLA. They also defeated Texas and Arizona State in March, and ended the non-conference part of the schedule with a 20-1 stomping of Kent State. Their Big Ten mark of 13-4 was good for second place in the conference regular season, and they won the Big Ten tournament. In NCAA regional action, Michigan beat Stanford and Illinois-Chicago, but lost twice to DePaul to end the 2000 campaign.
The 2001 Wolverines had a somewhat rough early season, but bounced back to win the Big Ten regular season with a 17-3 record. They traveled to Tuscaloosa for NCAA regional play, defeating the host Alabama team to advance to the Women’s World Series. There, they lost two painfully close contests to Oklahoma and California-Berkeley. Still, it was another great season as Michigan finished 43-15-1, with a tie on their record for the second straight season.
Michigan got off to a great start in 2002, including a payback win over the Oklahoma Sooners. They repeated as Big Ten regular season champions with a 15-3 league record and reclaimed the Big Ten tournament title. In the NCAA regional at Ann Arbor, Michigan won four of four games including two over conference rival Ohio State. Once again, they were unable to win in the Women’s World Series, as Arizona State and Nebraska took one run wins over the Wolverines. Their final overall record for 2002 was an outstanding 50-11.
2003 was a bit of an off-year for the Michigan program, but only by the very lofty standards they had set. Their final overall record of 44-16 was still very good, as was their Big Ten mark of 13-5 which placed them second in the conference. They once again hosted an NCAA regional, where they won three games but could not get past California who defeated Michigan twice.
And so the Wolverines entered 2004 looking to regain their championship form. They accomplished this in grand fashion, winning 17 of 20 Big Ten games to take back the regular season title. They got knocked off by instate rival Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, but came back strong in the NCAA regional where they took down Canisius and Notre Dame, then won two of three against Oregon State to advance to the College World Series. Michigan gave it their all on the biggest stage, only to come up short by one run against both Louisiana State and Stanford.
Michigan softball ran their perfect string of winning seasons to 27 in 2004. They had yet to win the sport’s ultimate prize, a national championship. But as they say, there is always next season, when anything can and does happen. Find out what did happen for Michigan softball in the next installment of this history lesson.