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Don’t Call It A Rebuild: Previewing Michigan Softball in 2023

There’s no time for growing pains in Bonnie Tholl’s first season.

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 23 Playoff Regional - Michigan v Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you follow Michigan softball, you know there was a bit of a roster churn last offseason.

Three of the Wolverines’ top five batters in every major batting category have left the lineup. A staggering 334.2 innings worth of pitching production from three pitchers, including one of the best arms in college softball, won’t be returning to the mound.

Oh, and the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach in softball history — in no uncertain terms one of Michigan’s greatest ever coaches — retired, too.

For most programs, this is what you’d generously describe as a sheer back-breaking amount of turnover. At the very least, you’d describe whatever comes next as a rebuild. But Michigan softball isn’t most programs and Carol Hutchin’s handpicked successor is not like most coaches.

Under Bonnie Tholl, the Wolverines aren’t rebuilding — they’re reloading.

“Internally, we believe that, we feel that, and we live that every single day,” Tholl said Monday. “We’re never gonna lower the standards of Michigan softball. There are too many people who came before us that have built a rich history, and that’s our responsibility. It’s our responsibility as an entire program, as Team 46, to those who came before us.

“There’s not much air at the top of the mountain, that’s why so few people get there. But that’s always our journey, that’s always what we’re shooting for.”

State of the Big Ten

Last season saw Michigan fail to earn either a regular season or tournament Big Ten title for the first time since 2017, and just the second time in almost 15 years. This year is likely to present equal challenges, as Northwestern remains the team to beat in the conference coming off a Women’s College World Series appearance in 2022, while Nebraska looks to build off its Big Ten Tournament title and Illinois posits a potential sleeper pick for a run. Michigan still remains among the upper tier of the Big Ten, but the conference is only getting more competitive year after year.

Dates to Circle

February 17-19, St. Pete Clearwater Invitational, Clearwater, FL: Clearwater is the premier invitational of the season, and it’s not hard to see why. In three straight days of ranked action, the Wolverines play preseason No. 15 UCF and No. 20 Louisiana on Friday, No. 3 Oklahoma State and Mississippi State on Saturday, and cap things off with a game against No. 22 Duke on Sunday.

February 25-26, Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto, CA: While matchups against Boise State and Nevada are also on the docket, the headlines will be focused on the tail-end of the invitational — a pair of games against preseason No. 11 Stanford.

March 2-4, Judi Garman Classic, Fullerton, CA: Barring significant upsets in the pecking order of NCAA softball, the Garman Classic is looking like an encore of Clearwater. With games against preseason No. 15 UCF, No. 17 LSU and No. 2 UCLA, along with host Cal State Fullerton and Seattle, Michigan will have plenty of opportunities to see how it shapes up with the heavyweights.

March 18-19, John Cropp Classic, Lexington, KY: The early season invitational tour caps off with a visit to Lexington, where the premier matchup will be against the preseason No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats. The Wolverines play Kentucky on both days of the invitational, along with matchups against Longwood and DePaul.

March 31-April 2, @ Nebraska: Michigan’s chance to avenge its loss in the Big Ten Tournament comes early, though probably not on the preferred field. Nevertheless, if the Wolverines are truly planning on remaining contenders in the conference, it is crucial they get the ball rolling with a win in Lincoln.

April 28-30, vs. Northwestern: Assuming all goes as planned for Michigan, this series has the potential to be a decisive fixture for the Big Ten crown. Last season, the Wolverines came just a hair short of a series win at the Wildcats’ home field. Could the friendly confines of Alumni Field change the outcome?

The Week Ahead

Before any of the aforementioned fireworks pop off, Michigan starts the season with a one-game series at USF on Thursday, Feb. 9, followed by a weekend spent at The Spring Games invitational hosted in Leesburg, Florida. There, the Wolverines play Colgate, a doubleheader against Western Kentucky, and a matchup against Portland State.

First pitch times and streaming options are available at