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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coldren leads offensive resurgence for CMU softball

Confidence is contagious.

So is hitting.

Still trying to erase the memory of last year’s 12-win season — just the second losing season in 31 years — the Central Michigan University softball team continued its torrid offensive pace, pounding out five home runs in a sweep of host University of Detroit Mercy on Wednesday.

With the wins — 9-0 in six innings and 8-0 in five — the Chippewas matched their win total from the entire 2009 season (12), and have now posted 10 wins in their last 11, including five in a row.

“I think we’re playing Chippewa softball, which means we're playing with heart, and we’re playing with pride and we’re having fun at the game. And when you play that way, good things happen,” said CMU coach Margo Jonker, whose team now has one fewer home runs (16) than it did all of last season. “It’s a product of, right now, they’re loose at the plate, and they’re letting the ball travel deep in the zone, and not being overanxious. We’ve got the potential for power, but we’ve gotta be loose and relaxed, in order to make it happen.”

Sophomore shortstop Molly Coldren — the winner of Michigan's Miss Softball Award in 2008 — got the Chippewas (12-7) loose early against the Titans (2-8), bashing her fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot for a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning of Wednesday’s opener. The Pontiac Notre Dame Prep grad had three all of last season.
The power didn’t stop there.

Christina Novak’s sixth-inning grand slam closed out the scoring in the first game, while Brittni Merchant’s second homer of the season — a two-run shot to dead center field — got it started in the first inning of the nightcap. Redshirt freshman catcher Brogan Darwin’s first career homer — a two-run shot to left-center — gave CMU a 4-0 lead, while Amanda Patrick’s three-run homer down the right-field line capped the day’s scoring binge for the top offense in the Mid-American Conference.

The stark contrast to last year’s .235 team batting average, and 2.8 runs-per-game production is marked (this year's team is batting .278 and averaging 5.4 runs per game), begging the question of whether last year was really that bad, or this year is that exceptional.

“I think it’s a combination,” said Coldren, who leads CMU with a .373 average, five home runs and 19 RBI after remodeling her hitting stroke in the offseason. “Of course, our hitting last year wasn’t as strong, but this year everyone just feeds off each other, and when one person hits well, the next person will hit well, and it just kind of keeps going. Last year is kind of just tucked into the back of our mind, that we don’t want that to happen again.”

Three CMU pitchers — Kara Dornbos, Sarah Patterson and Courtney King — combined to shut the Titans out on just three total hits in 11 innings of work. Patterson got her first career win in the nightcap.

The wins also put Jonker just nine shy of the 1,000 plateau. The Chippewas’ next outing is the home opener against Oakland University on March 31.

Keep any eye out for a full feature on Coldren's resurgence in the print edition of The Oakland Press.

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