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State Street Archives: A look back at Michigan Softball greats

In the first of a series about non-rev greats, we look at Michigan’s first softball All-American, a hitter who rewrote the record books, and a National Champion.

NCAA Photos Archive Getty Images

Ron Kramer. Cazzie Russell. Anthony Carter. Glen Rice.

The names of the Michigan Wolverines all-time greats in football and men’s basketball are very familiar to me. On fall Saturdays, I spent the drive home from Ann Arbor poring over my program, reading the lists of All-Americans and articles about the Wolverines of yore.

But even as someone who cares deeply about Michigan’s other sports, I cannot name the best field hockey player in the school’s history, nor its best gymnast. While I can make pretty good guesses on how many national championships each sport has won and which Big Ten tier they belong to historically, my knowledge of individual players is ultimately lacking. I’m sure there are many others that care about non-revenue teams at Michigan and go to their games, but may not be able to name many players from before they stepped on campus themselves.

This series is intended to rectify that. For each sport, I’ll be going through the archives and highlighting three names that are worth knowing if you care about that particular sport’s history. I want to be clear that this is not an attempt at establishing a definitive top three, just three people whose names stood out to me in the record book for one reason or another.

There are no specific criteria, and I am sure to miss deserving people. If you are particularly passionate about one, let me know in the comments and at the end of the series I’ll try to do a round-up of my biggest misses.

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Michigan softball sells out Alumni Field at least as often as men’s basketball sells out Crisler Center. The softball team is a perennial Big Ten power, and routinely places athletes on All-America lists. I figured it was the perfect place to start expanding my knowledge. While most sports won’t require this rule, for softball I decided that if I remembered them they were ineligible. If you’re wondering where Sierra Romero or Jennie Ritter are, that’s where.

Alicia Seegert, 1984-87

Alicia Seegert joined the Michigan Wolverines as part of the last class that was recruited by someone other than Carol Hutchins. Bob DeCarolis spent his final season as head coach during Seegert’s freshman year, before moving into athletic administration and promoting Hutch from her job as an assistant coach. Seegert was part of a highly touted recruiting class. DeCarolis told the Michigan Daily that “She has tremendous power and deceptive speed,” and that with the five-person class they signed for the 1984 season, “depth would not be a problem.”

Seegert wasted little time making her mark on the Wolverines. Seegert entered her first Big Ten season batting a team-leading .419 batting average, and opened the season with hits in 20 of the first 22 games. The Wolverines would go 12-12 in the Big Ten season, but Seegert would be named all-Big Ten, the first player in school history to be named to an All-B1G first team. Her in-conference .418 average and 19 RBIs both led the Big Ten. Seegert re-wrote the Wolverine record books as a freshman — her .396 average, 76 hits, 4 homers, and 36 RBI were all school records at the time.

Seegert was named to the all-B1G second team as a sophomore, the only time in her four years where she was not named to the first team. Her national breakout year came as a junior. While her statistics weren’t quite as lofty as her freshman year, Seegert was named to the 1986 NFCA All-America First Team, the first Wolverine to achieve that feat. Despite Seeger’s efforts the 1986 squad limped to a .500 Big Ten record. Second-year head coach Carol Hutchins commented on how much Seegert carried the team, saying “if she didn’t do it, then nobody did.”

In her final season, Seegert maintained form, leading Michigan in batting average for the third time in her career at .351. She was named to the All-Big Ten first team, and one year after becoming Michigan’s first All-American, she was also its second, joining Vicki Morrow on the second team. Michigan’s 17-7 Big Ten record was the best mark in the school’s history, and they finished in second place. The Wolverines would go on to win the Softball National Invitational Championship, an NIT-type tournament that I’m not sure happened in its postseason form ever again.

Seegert would earn multiple honors after her playing career ended, including being named to the Big Ten’s All-Decade team, and a 2005 induction into Michigan Athletics’ Hall of Honor. She recently retired from her duties as head softball coach at Saline High School.

Traci Conrad, 1996-99

Traci Conrad’s name still litters the Big Ten record books. Twenty years after she stopped playing and she still holds the Big Ten record for games started and hits, while appearing in the top ten in career runs and batting average. Her career saw Michigan win three Big Ten Championships and three more Big Ten Tournaments. Seegert helped build the machine, and Conrad kept it rolling.

Conrad made her mark early, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 1995 and being named to the All-B1G second team. Conrad played first base while the Wolverines made it to the Women’s College World Series. According to the Michigan Daily’s Mark Snyder, she had chosen Michigan because she wanted to play in the CWS, and there she was in her first year. Michigan was eliminated early, but Conrad was named all-tournament after batting six-for-nine with two RBI in the regional and adding a four-for-eight performance at the World Series.

Conrad’s sophomore year was her breakout year, the first of her three consecutive all-B1G first team selections. Conrad jumped out of the gate, putting in a four-RBI game against Long Beach State in just the second game of the season. Conrad would turn in a .387 average that season, and help the Wolverines earn their first ever win in a Women’s College World Series game. Conrad scored the only run in a 1-0 win over South Carolina. Michigan would be eliminated by UCLA in the quarterfinals. Conrad earned her first of two consecutive first team All-America selections.

During the summer preceding her junior year, Conrad played for the USA at the Pan-American Games qualifiers, but I could not easily find further records of her exploits there. Her junior season matched her sophomore effort, with her batting average topping out at a career-high .410, still good for tenth in Michigan history. Once again, Michigan won one game at the College World series, though Conrad went four-for-four while Michigan was eliminated by Oklahoma State.

It was Conrad’s senior season that etched her permanent place in the Big Ten record books. On April 10th, 1999, in the second game of a double-header with Minnesota, Traci Conrad singled to center for her 314th hit, breaking the Big Ten career hits record. She remained team-focused after, telling the Michigan Daily, “It feels good definitely but it’s not something I can focus on right now.” Conrad would finish the season having amassed 345 career hits, which remains the Big Ten record.

Conrad’s freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons are all next to each other in the record books at Michigan, tied with each other for sixth all-time in single-season hits, at exactly 86 each. In her final game as a Wolverine, she went into a regional game against Notre Dame with exactly that many, 86 hits. The Wolverines lost and suffered an early exit from the NCAA Tournament, and Conrad went just one-for-four. However, that one hit gave her 87 on the season, finally adding one to her career high.

Conrad was a second-team All-American and the third pick in the Women’s Pro Softball League, playing for the Akron Racers. She later took a job as an Assistant Coach at Notre Dame, and now coaches on the travel circuit.

Tiffany Haas, 2003-06

Early in her time at Michigan, Tiffany Haas’ most significant mention in the Michigan Daily isn’t exactly for her on-field exploits. In an article where she discusses her walk-up song, “Eye of the Tiger,” she responds to concerns that some batters actually get sick of their walk-up songs, saying “I downloaded the song about three years ago on Kazaa… and I’m still not tired of it.” It’s her third mention in the paper, the first two being fairly rote notices of her early at-bats.

Those early at-bats, as it happens, were pretty good. As a freshman Haas led the team with 40 runs, and would lead that category three out of her four years at Michigan. Michigan was eliminated by Cal in the Ann Arbor regional, but Haas made the All-Regional team. During the tournament she went 9-for-18 from the leadoff spot, including rattling off four straight two-for-three games.

Haas once again led her team in runs as a sophomore, increasing her count to 50. This time the Wolverines made it to the College World Series, and Haas was named to her first of three consecutive All-Big Ten first teams, and was a third team All-American.

But it’s Haas’ junior year that has the story you know. In 2005, the Wolverines swept the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and returned to the College World Series. Haas’ 91 hits over the course of the season set the pace for the Wolverines, and set a single-season record that still stands today. In the second game at the CWS, a Haas RBI in the top of the 7th pushed the score to 4-0, giving the Wolverines a little cushion so Jennie Ritter could get their record to 2-0, and three games later they were in the final. After a Game 1 loss to UCLA, the score was tied 2-2 in the fifth inning of Game 2. Haas tried to sacrifice bunt but ended up reaching on a throwing error, and crossed the plate two batters later when Jessica Merchant hit a base-clearing double to put the Wolverines up 4-2. A 5-2 win tied the series at 1-1 and set up a winner-take-all game the next night.

The Wolverines were down 1-0 in the sixth inning when Haas stepped to the plate to lead off the inning. Hass did exactly what a leadoff hitter is supposed to, and reached on a single down the right field line. Her teammates did the rest, batting her home, tying the score at 1-1, and setting up extra innings. In the 11th, Haas reached on a fielding error for the second consecutive night, and when Samantha Findley put one in the seats to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game, Haas was one of the three runners that provided the winning margin.

Haas would be named a first team All-American, and on a World Series champion team that contained such greats as Ritter and Findley, at that year’s team banquet, Haas was named Michigan’s Most Outstanding Player.

Haas once again led her team in runs and hits as a senior. Just as impressively, she ended her career on a 60-game error-free streak at second base. The Wolverines repeated as Big Ten Tournament Champions, and Haas’ last outing in the playoffs ended with a Game 3 Super Regional loss to Tennessee.

Next week we’ll be taking a look at three unsung baseball greats. I won’t write about Jim Abbott or Barry Larkin, but if you’ve got any other suggestions of players you have fond memories of feel free to leave them in the comments.