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Michigan fans making presence known in Oklahoma City

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Oklahoma City — Susan Fisher was in a local deli Friday, and when asked to give a name for the order, she asked if they would call the name out loud.

Satisfied with the answer, she gave them a name.

“Go Blue!” was shouted for her order pickup.

Fisher, wearing blue shorts featuring the Block M logo, laughed as she related the story. But to those who know her, this is not out of the ordinary. She is part of a large group of Michigan softball fans, some who played and coached for coach Carol Hutchins, who have traveled to support the Wolverines in their 12th College World Series appearance.

Michigan, ranked No. 2, was scheduled to play its first game Friday against LSU after Thursday’s night session was rained out.

And they’ll see special banners made for the World Series, like “Hail Hutch,” and blue T-shirts with maize lettering. The shirt front identifies them as Michigan softball fans, supporting Team 39 (the 39th team in history), and the back reads: #Go Blue #Hail Hutch Women’s College World Series 2016.

“We try to go as much as we can,” Fisher said. “We’ve been Hutch fans since — Hutch started at the university the same year I started, 1983 — so we’ve been friends forever. I’m more of a cheerleader than knowing all about the technical parts of the game.”

They even have a former Michigan State softball player, Julie Hall, in the group. Hall figures she can get away with being a Michigan fan during softball season because her partner, Maria Heck, played softball for the Wolverines. And lest anyone forget, Hutchins is a Michigan State graduate.

“She was a Spartan first,” Hall said, smiling, wearing a Michigan shirt but also making clear she will wear green and white once the season ends. “Hutch being a Michigan State alum, she’s a legend of the game and she represents all that’s right with college athletics and does things the right way.

“She just holds a high standard for the game and the kids she brings in, and you have to respect that. Even as a Spartan alum you have to respect that.”

Then there’s Lisa Mello, a former college softball player in Connecticut and a volunteer coach for Hutchins in the late 1990s, joining the staff the same time as current pitching coach Jennifer Brundage.

Mello still has her softball season tickets even though she lives in Florida.

How much street cred does one get being associated with Hutchins? Once she moved to Florida and people heard she had worked for Hutchins, she was flooded with offers to coach softball even though she hadn’t coached in 20 years.

“Hutch has been a mentor,” Mello said. “She’s good people. She’s something else.”

Many Michigan fans have made the trip to Oklahoma City. This is a fan base that sold out last weekend’s Super Regional at Alumni Field in 10 minutes.

Kathi Jerome got a special gift in her Christmas stocking from her husband, Dave, a longtime youth softball coach in Novi.

“There were the tickets for the softball World Series in Oklahoma and I said, ‘I think Santa got this in the wrong stocking. I think they’re supposed to be in your stocking,’ ” she said laughing. “And he said, ‘No, no. They’re for you.’ ”

Dave, a Michigan softball season ticket holder, looked sheepish.

Of course he did.

He went with the classic, I-want-this-for-Christmas-but-will-wrap-it-up-for-you-so-it-looks-like-you-have-another-gift move.

“I’ve always wanted to come here,” he said.

And here he is cheering on the Wolverines. Thanks to Santa, of course. @chengelis