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February 18, 1993 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-18

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Page 12-The Michigan Daily- Thursday, February 18,1993

Hitters swing into Florida
Consistent pitching key for Wolverines as season begins

by Brett Johnson
Daily Sports Writer
Freshly cut grass. Pine tar.
These are the smells that return
to the air tomorrow as spring train-
ing begins for major league baseball.
Saturday, these aromas will cap-
ture the attention of the Michigan
baseball team for the first time this
season. The Wolverines play a
day/night doubleheader against
Florida (4-1) in Gainesville to open
what promises to be a challenging
nine-game spring trip.
"Our anticipation is high right
now in terms of finding out what
kind of team we're going to have,"
Michigan coach Bill Freehan said.
The Wolverines are counting on a
deep pitching staff for success this
year. Eric Heintschel (5-8, 4.66
ERA) returns in his senior season to
lead Michigan's starters. Heintschel
led the team in wins last year and
was named Michigan's most valu-
able pitcher.

Sophomores Ron Hollis and Ray
Ricken will be the second and third
starters with Heath Murray and Chris
Newton looking for the fourth spot
in the rotation.
The bullpen is also solid as it re-

turns Michigan's all-time save leader
Todd Marion (24) to the closer's
role. Freehan expects that Matt
Humbles, Chris Newton, Matt
Ferullo, and freshman Mark Temple
will make an impact in the bullpen.
"The key to our team is our
pitching staff," Freehan said. "The
depth of our staff that has been
shown in some of our workouts ...
may be an asset to this baseball
Offensively, the Wolverines will
be counting on top returning hitters
Scott Winterlee (.351 batting aver-
age in 1992), Scott Timmerman
(.301) and Kevin Crociata (.288).
Winterlee will be making the move
from shortstop to starting catcher,
Timmerman was named first-team
All-Big Ten second baseman, and
Crociata will be counted on to play
third. Filling out the infield will be
either Toby Brzoznowski or Chad
Chapman at first base and Ryan
VanOeveren at shortstop.
The starting outfield and desig-
nated hitter slots are still up in the

air. Starting in center will be fresh-
man Brian Simmons, who hit .542
as a senior at Peters Township High
School in Pennsylvania.
Left field will also be manned by
a new face, either Southern Cal-
transfer Sean Coston or freshman
Scott Weaver. Senior Pat Maloney
or sophomore Rodney Goble will
start in right field.
The loss of injured clean-up hitter
Nate Holdren leaves the team with-
out a true power hitter until his re-
turn in May. His absence is some-
thing which worries Freehan.
"He's (Holdren) come along
well," Freehan said. "The knee re-
construction he had just takes a long
time - at least six months. Nate's a
true power, true fourth hitter and not
to have him really hurts. I think the
whole team will have to step up. I
don't know if we have anybody
that's capable of doing what he was
capable of."
The Wolverines challenge Florida
in the, first four contests of the
spring trip. The Gators were ranked
No. 21 in the USA Today preseason
coaches' poll and return some key
players from last season's 44-20
squad. The ace of the pitching staff
is righthander Marc Valdes (10-3,
Valdes was ranked as the seventh-
best college pitcher by Baseball
America (BBA) and was a preseason
second-team All-American. The of-
fense is led by junior outfielders
Brian Duva (.253, 4 home runs, 25
RBI) and Rick Britton (.306, 7, 39).
After the stop in Gainesville,
Fla., Michigan heads further south
to Coral Gables, Fla., where it faces
No. 2 Miami. The Hurricanes are
coming off an impressive 1992 sea-
son (55-10) but are having some
problems so far this year. The
'Canes are 2-4 with three of the
losses coming to No. 4 Texas and
one to No. 27 Illinois. Miami is in
a transition year as head coach Ron
Fraser, pitching ace Jeff Alkire and
Continued from page 10
This stunt, which could have led
to a turnover, occurred with only a
10-point lead. So what of the killer
Where was the ferocious Wol-
verine attack? Despite opening up a
number of large leads against the
lesser beasts of the Big Ten, they
have had much trouble finishing

star catcher Charles Johnson are all
Fraser's long time pitching coach
- Brad Kelley - has taken over the
Miami program and has a good
three-man pitching rotation to work
with in sophomore Kenny Hender-
son and juniors Silvio Censale and
Jose Prado. Both Henderson and
Censale are rated in BBA's list of
top pitching prospects. Hitting-wise,
the 'Canes lost five key bats from
their lineup. The loss of first-round
draft pick Johnson is a hole that may
be hard to fill.
The Wolverines close out their
spring trip by playing against
Missouri (0-0) and then compete in
the South Alabama Tournament.
Michigan, Missouri, South Alabama
(NA), and Auburn (4-3) will part-
icipate in the tournament. Missouri
is coming off a third-place Big Eight
finish last season and is led by
shortstop Chris Wyrick and first
baseman Rodney Weary.
Michigan opens the tournament
against Auburn and then faces either
Missouri or South Alabama. Au-
burn's top player is shortstop Bran-
don Moore while South Alabama,
the favorite to win the Sun Belt
Conference, is led by pitcher Mark
Thompson and the outstanding
double-play combination of second
baseman Pat Murphy and shortstop
Scott Southard. Both Murphy and
Southard were rated as players to
watch by Baseball America.
The Wolverines, however, are not
concerning themselves with the
other teams they will face. They are
looking for -strong pitching perfor-
mances and solid execution offen-
sively and defensively.
"We've got some arm strength
just like they do (the opponents),"
Freehan said. "We've just got to
play well and see what we can do.
We've got to pitch well and we've
got to execute well because we're
not going to have a lot of power to
fall back on."
them off. Just last Sunday, they let
No. 1 Indiana off the hook from a
nine-point, second-half deficit.
Knowing this, something needs
to be done. Everyone acknowledges
the Big Ten race is all but over, and
the title is of little use for mo-
tivation. However, the NCAA tour-
nament lurks right around the cor-
ner. If the Wolverines give an emo-
tional team the chance to come back
in the tournament, it may be the last
mistake they make.


Senior Scott Timmerman gets caught in a rundown last season against
Minnesota. The Wolverines open the 1993 season this weekend in Florida.
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by Rachel Bachman
Daly Sports Writer
While many students cram into
jam-packed Escorts tomorrow or
board elbow-to-elbow charters
bound for warm-weather destina-
tions, the Michigan softball team
will be doing ... the same thing.
Well, not exactly.
Trading waves for cacti and dusty
playing fields, the team will head to
Arizona, the site of two games and a
tournament during spring break, as
well as a preview battleground for
some of the nation's top teams.
Softball season will kick off
Sunday in Tempe, against
California-Poly-Pomona. The
Arizona State Diamond Devil
Softball Classic begins Feb. 24, and
lasts four days.
But the highlight of the weekend
will be the game Tuesday against
No. 2 Arizona.
"Arizona is a dynasty in the
making," Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said.
The No. Idfinisher in the Pac-10
conference, Arizona leads the all-
time series with Michigan, 5-1.
Arizona's two most recent triumphs
came at the end of last year, ending
the Wolverines' run in the NCAA
"There's no question that
Arizona is the toughest team we'll
play all year," Hutchins said.
The coaching staff sees the tour-
nament and the two other games as a
chance to evaluate the six new
freshmen on the team and to figure
out who the starters will be.

"We need to see who's the
'gamer' versus the 'practice play-
er'," Hutchins said.
After winning the Big Ten cham-
pionship last year, the Wolverines
are ranked 11th nationally and first
in the Big Ten, the team's highest
preseason rankings in its history.
"Last year is over; this is 1993.
Nobody cares that we won the Big
Ten last year," Hutchins said.
The coaching staff stressed that
good pitching and good defense will
be the keys to success this year.
"I want this year to be consis-
tent," Hutchins said. "That's how we
won the (conference title) last year.
Even though we lost three out of
four to Iowa, the league favorite, we
swept the teams that they didn't."
Returning standouts from the
1992 title team include sophomore
pitcher Kelly Kovach, last year's Big
Ten Freshman of the Year and
Pitcher of the Year.
"We need both her and (senior
pitcher) Kelly Forbis to have consis-
tently good performances every time
they have an outing," Hutchins said.
Leading a strong senior class is
outfielder Patti Benedict, who has
been in the top two in Big Ten hit-
ting for the past three years. The
Kunnen twins, catcher Karla and
outfielder Kari, stayed among the
top four in conference hitting last
With talent and experience on its
side, as coach Hutchins said, "this
team has the potential to be very


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