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March 24, 1986 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-03-24

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Poge 8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 24, 1986

CHIG

B

SEB

L

1986

Batsmen shoot to uphold rich traditions

By ADAM OCHLIS
When some athletic programs rebuild, it takes a
couple of years and many long days at the ballpark
suffering loss after loss in order to recapture the glory
of the past. For this year's Michigan baseball team,
the word rebuild is not in its dictionary.
The Wolverines would rather look at it as a "resh-
aping" and after posting a 7-2 record down in
Florida, including the championship in the Rollins
Baseball Week Tournament, Michigan is well on its
way to keeping up the baseball tradition that has
been so outstanding over the years.
GONEFROMlast season's 55-10 team, perhaps the
best in Michigan coach Bud Middaugh's six-year
reign, are a host of superstars. Two-time All-
American Barry Larkin, who set a school record with
66 RBI's, and Mike Waters, the home run leader, both
passed up their senior season to sign pro contracts.
Seniors lost to graduation include career hitting
leader Ken Hayward, Big Ten batting champ Randy
Wolfe, and two-year starting baseman C.J. Beshke.
While the entire pitching staff returns, Michigan will
have to replace eight of ten regulars as only Casey
Close and Matt Siuda return. A hard order to fill?
Don't tell the Wolverines that.
"I think the team is really looking forward to win-X
ning the Big Ten Championship," said Close, who
also said it was dissapointing not to capture the
crown last year. "I think we're looking beyond thatP
as well. We really feel we have a good shot at makingr
it to Omaha (site of the College World Series)."
IF THE Wolverines do make it to Omaha in late May
it would be Michigan's eighth appearance since

1953. But Michigan baseball extends further back
than when hair was greased back and Elvis was the
King.
Since baseball's inception at Michigan in 1891, no
Wolverine coach (there have been 15 of them) has a
winning percentage below .579 (George Caldwell
went 11-8 in 1894). Since 1900, Michigan holds a
37-4 advantage over opponents in which the two
teams have played at least 10 games. And during the
'80s, when the players are supposedly bigger,
stronger and faster, and recruiting becomes more
difficult, the Wolverines have won better than 75
percent of their games and they have captured four
Big Ten championships and five consecutive regular

season titles in the Big Ten's East Division.
No one, however will take immediate credit for the
Wolverines success over the years. The players cite
great facilities and Coach Middaugh. Middaugh cites
the players and Michigan Athletic Director Don
Canham.
"THE KEYS are that we have great facilities in com-
parison to the other places around the. Midwest," said Close.
"Unless a kid is going to go south or west to play, you
cannot beat the program here, facilty-wise, it's plain and
simple. It's the best program in the country."

The senior outfielder is also quick to point out how
invaluable Middaugh is.
"He's got a lot to do with our success. He's been,
able to get a lot for our program, whether it be::
uniforms or more bats," he said. "We, by far, have
the most equipment of anyone in the country, and,
there is no team that is treated as well as we are." -4
"THE REASON we're successful in baseball during
my tenure is Don Canham," said Middaugh, who
spent 12 years in Oxford, Ohio coaching at Miami
University where he compiled a 356-173 record
before coming to Michigan in 1980. "Here's an
athletic director that allows me to do the things tha(,
are necessary in the program. We have beautiful,
facilities and they're always making improvements.
He's not just looking at a football and basketball*
program, he's looking at other programs as well.
"And the type of players we get, I wouldn't trade}
them for anybody. They're good kids and they've got:,
their priorities straightened out."
So, as today's doubleheader against Grand Valley
marks the real beginning of this baseball season, a,
different Michigan team will take the field in an at-
tempt to create their own history.
Replacing the number of players Michigan has
lost from last year, and the quality they possessed
may be hard for most teams, but for the Wolverines
it's no big deal. >
"I don't feel we'll ever have a losing record here'.
just because of the way (Middaugh) prepares hisA
teams each year. . . there's just no way I can foresee 'q
a losing record at the University of Michigan," said,
Close.

FIRST BASEMAN PLAYS FOR TEAM:
Morris holds batsmen together

r

By JON HARTMANN
Togetherness is a word Michigan's baseball team
uses often to describe the cohesion of its groups of
rookies and veterans.
Togetherness is rooming with three of your
teammates. Seniors Casey Close, Kurt Zimmer-
man, and Eric Sanders live together in Barry
Larkin's old house.
TOGETHERNESS is perhaps the word that most
effectively describes Hal Morris, the junior from
Munster, Ind. who will bat cleanup and start for the
Wolverines at first base.
While platooning with All-American Ken
Hayward last year, Morris ran up some impressive
statistics. In just 95 at-bats, he recorded 10 home
runs, the eighth best total in Michigan history, and
36 RBIs. His .421 season average is Michigan's four-
th best all-time. And Morris broke the Michigan
slugging percentage record with an .863 mark.
Despite these accomplishments, Morris is not
chasing personal goals. "If I play well, that's
great," he said. But what I would like would be to
see the team do well."
ONE AREA IN which Morris says the
Wolverines are doing well is coaching, par-
ticularly with their inexperienced infield. "I think
assistant coach (Danny) Hall and coach Middaugh
have done a real good job with us," he said. "We've
turned out double plays a lot better because they've

really worked on that."
When Morris came to Michigan, he was not a
flawless defensive player. "My freshman year, my
throwing was really erratic," he said. "But I think
I've improved a lot since I've been here and I think
it's due to my coaching."
Morris owns a lifetime .993 fielding percentage,
going errorless in 81 chances two years ago and
making just two errors in his 199 chances last
season. He can remember both mistakes.
"ON ONE OF them, the webbing broke in my
glove as I was catching the ball and it went through.
So I didn't like that.
"The other one was against the University of
Detroit. The guy hit a line drive and it just popped
out of my glove, which I didn't really mind. What
the coaches teach you is to make sure the ball goes
above your glove, to stay underneath the ball."
Head coach Bud Middaugh has been impressed
with Morris' ability to handle throws to first. "I
don't think there's any infielder that's afraid to let it
go, knowing that if a ball goes in the dirt, Hal's got a
good shot at picking it out," he said. "So they turn it
loose. It gives the infielders confidence knowing
he's over there."
MORRIS GAINED some confidence playing for
Harwich in the Cape Cod (Mass.) League last sum-
mer. "We played with wood out there, and I think it
was really beneficial, getting that experience," he
said.
Of course, he was not alone in the Cape Cod

League. Michigan outfielder Chris Gust and pit-
cher-outfielder Dan Disher were on a competing
club, and Casey Close played alongside him.
"It was the same situation (with Close) as we have
now," Morris said. "He hit third and I hit fourth, so
I kind of got used to doing that."
MIDDAUGH also enjoys the Close-Morris con-
bination. "That's helped Casey, the fact that he's had
Morris hitting behind him," he said. "Morris has
jumped right into the four-hole, and he's taking
tremendous responsibility there, and he's rea
done a good job."
Morris was not informed that he was a starter un-
til Michigan's Spring Trip opener on March 7. Buit
he has responded, finishing the trip with a .525
average, three homers, and 21 RBIs. All three totals
were second only to Close's.
Close and Morris are the nucleus of the
Wolverines offense, but they are also part of the
"unique togetherness thing" that Middaugh has
mentioned. "I think the team's getting really
close," said Morris. "We're pretty loose, and that's
the way we should play."4
Morris has some appreciation of the art 6f'
coaching, having taught at the Michigan baseball
camp. "I think you can really influence those kids,"
he said. "When you get a chance to coach, it helps
you appreciate what your coaches are trying to
teach you."
Sounds like a man who has his act together.

Daily Photo by DAN HABIB

Hal Morris, Michigan's cleanup hitting first baseman, tosses the ball
to the pitcher covering first for a putout. Morris had only two errors
last year in 199 chances for a.9 90 fielding percentage.

INFIELDERS:
Concrete at the corners,
By JEFF RUSH

OUTFIELDERS:
Seniors lead outfield

Great baseball teams usually have strong individual players up the
middle of the field. Such teams as the 1927 Yankees, the 1961 Yankees
and the 1984 Tigers all started experienced, talented players at cat-
cher, second base, shortstop and center field.
The good news about the 1986 Wolverines' infield is that first
baseman Hal Morris and third baseman Matt Siuda are both ex-
perienced and talented. The bad news is that while the infielders up
the middle may be talented, they aren't very experienced.
AT SECOND base, sophomore Steve Finken missed all of the 1985
season after breaking his leg. And Jim Durham is a freshman.
On the other side of the bag, Doug Kaiser and Billy St. Peter are both
freshman, and sophomore Jeff Kiel saw little action last season.
"You're literally putting a lot of new faces out there," said coach
Bud Middaugh. "As a result we try to get a lot of people ready to play
and we just let them go in there and play themselves in or out. We're
going to be flipping some people there for awhile."
NOBODY WILL be flipping first baseman Hal Morris. In addition to
his being a solid 6-3, the junior's bat and glove are among the best on
the team. He hit .421 last season to place third on the team in that
category, and slugged .863 to break the team record. But it's Morris'
glove that his teammates talk about.
With his size, not too many balls escape Morris' reach. And that
reach is nearly flawless, allowingonly two errors in two seasons.
"I have a lot of confidence in Hal," says fellow infielder Finken.
"Even if you do throw on in the dirt I have confidence that he'll pick it:
up plus he's got a wingspan that is pretty big. You can throw the ball
anywhere in the area and he'll probably get it."
The story on Siuda is much the same at third.
"He's just a great, great third baseman," said outfielder Casey
Close. "He's got great hands and he's proven himself defensively for
three years (two seasons and this year's practices)."
SIUDA HIT .321 last year, but struggled on this season's spring trip.
After 32 at-bats, Siuda is hitting only .219.
"He's going to have to show a little more punch at the plate," said
Middaugh.
An individual who did show punch at the plate during the spring trip
is freshman Billy St. Peter. The fifth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati
Reds batted .281 while playing in all nine games. Those nine games
may be his only collegiate experience, but he certainly isn't lacking
talent.
Sharing time at shortstop will be Jeff Kiel, who was the team's shor-

By JON HARTMANN
When you talk about the Michigan -outfield, you have to talk
seniority. Four candidates for a starting position are in the final year
of their Michigan careers, and all have impressive credentials.
Chris Gust, Michigan's leadoff hitter, was an injury-plagued pinch
runner for his first two years. But last season he clutch-hit his way to a
second-place finish (.474) in the Big Ten batting race. This spring, he
played his way into the lineup by hitting .438 and stealing four bases in
as many attempts. Gust will play left and center field.
THE PLAYER who will move Gust from center to left is Dan Disher,
"as fine a defensive player as you'll find in the country," according to
Michigan head coach Bud Middaugh. Disher led the team with 11
steals in 12 attempts last season while hitting .319 with 15 RBIs. But
Disher's pitching duties will prevent him from playing full-time out-
field.
Casey Close's offensive prowess is so well documented that it needs
no further comment. He has been hitting the cover off the ball all
spring. And, in addition to his hitting talents, he is the anchor of the
team, the most vocally supportive of Michigan's outfielders.
Completing the outfield's Big Four is Kurt Zimmerman, another
clutch hitter who had 13 two-hit games last season and received the
1984 Big Ten Tournament MVP for an eight-for-13 performance. Zim-
merman the number-two hitter in the Wolverine lineup, describes
himself as a team player.
"MY ROLE IS primarily to execute, to make the hit and run and to
advance the runner in scoring position," he said. Zimmerman will
play left, but move to designated hitter when Disher is in the outfield.
Not a senior, but still a man with experience is sophomore Eddie
Woolwine, who hit .339 and stole five bases in his first season at
Michigan. This spring, Woolwine DH'd and collected a team-best four
sacrifices. Woolwine may hit in the number five position.
KOURTNEY THOMPSON is another newcomer who could see some
playing time. Thompson comes straight from four years of baseball at
Detroit Northwestern, where he played in a Michigan-Illinois all-star
game with Michigan teammates Mike Gillette, Jim Abbott, Bill St.
Peter, and Sean LaFountaine. Middaugh figures Thompson could add
some impetus offensively."
Middaugh is attempting to rotate his rookie outfielders in with the
veterans. He describes it as a season-long process.
"The first few games," he said, "they may not stick out but they're
getting some playing time, so if someone goes down, we hope we have
someone ready to jump in. It's important to have that flexibility earlier
in the year.

Morris
... big wingspan

Gust
... leads off with gusto

&wig

I

_ti

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