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April 13, 1995 - Image 12

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-04-13

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 13, 1995

Californians sizzling at Michigan
Griffin, Lang and Smith adjust to Midwest and spark Blue to 27-7 record

].

By Tim Smith
Daily Softball Writer
When somebody is a called a wimp,
images of a trembling, bespectacled
recluse may immediately pop into mind.
Images of a.400 hitting star pitcher
andshortstop for aDivision 1 power are
not what most people would'envision.
For Michigan freshman softball
player Sara Griffin, however, hitting
.400 and having an 11-4 record are not
good enough reasons to escape ridicule
from teammate Kelly Kovach.
"Sara was a big wimp in batting
practice because she said (her hands)
stung," Kovach says with a laugh when
recalling how Griffin described her
hands during a cold weather practice.
"We teased her and called her a wimp."
No one can blame Griffin, though,
for being a little unused to the cold
weatherthata Michigan April can pro-
duce. Griffin, from Simi Valley, was
born and raised under the warm rays of
California's sunshine.
The fact that California is a world
away from Michigan has not stopped
Griffin from becoming a Wolverine nor
has it halted her teammates, Jennifer
Smith and Jessica Lang, who hail from
Ridgecrest and SantaCruz respectively.
The threesome has come a long
way to wear the Maize and Blue, they
each have travelled different paths to
become one-third of Michigan's start-
ing lineup.
Coming from California, one would
expect the three to have different styles

then their predominantly Midwestern
teammates. Kovach says, however, that
is far from the truth.
"(Coach Hutchins) is really careful
about bringing girls way out here so far
away," Kovach says. "She knows the
type of girls that she can bring out to
Michigan that can fit in and adjust to
the weather and the tough academics.
With powerhouses UCLA and Ari-
zona in the Califor-
nia natives' back-v
yard, itwould seem
that Michigan
would not be the
first option on their
lists of schools.
But becoming
Wolverines pro-f;:
vided a chance to
escape thefamiliar-G
ity of the west coast.
"I really wanted to leave Califor-
nia for a change," Lang says. "I really
liked the school (Michigan), and I
liked the program and felt really com-
fortable when I came in."
Lang, now a sophomore, looked
more than comfortable as a freshman
last season. She played in 56 games
and finished with the team's fourth-
best batting average (.272) and had 22
RBI, second on the team.
This season, Lang has continued
her hot hitting with a.273 average and
is third in RBI with 23. She was named
the Big Ten Player of the Week last
week after going 8-for-15(.533) with

fourdoubles,12 RBI and six runs scored
in a four-game sweep of Indiana.
Smith is also a sophomore and is
starting her second season as the Wol-
verines' catcher. Although she played
good defense in her first season that
enabled her to be named U-M Rookie
of the Year, she struggled at the plate
with a .191 average.
"Last yearIused to worry about my
hitting and to begin this year I was in a
really bad slump," Smith says. "I was
worrying about it too much andI wanted
to be better then I was last year and I
think that just made it worse.
"But once we went to Florida (for
the Lady Seminole Classic in March),
my confidence has gone up a whole
lot."
Smith has improved her average
50 points, and with her excellent de-
fense and improved hitting, she has
entrenched herself as Michigan's
catcher for a few more years.
Smith did not expect to be a four-
year starter when she arrived in Ann
Arbor as a freshman. It looked like she
would learn the ropes fromj unior Mary
Clark for a couple of years. When an
injury forced Clark to quit, however,
the position fell right in Smith's lap.
"It's a tough to put a young catcher
behind the plate because there is a lot of
adjusting," Hutchins says. "She's a
good, solid catcher. Catching all those
games last year has made her that much
better this year."
While Smith and Lang have both

had successful careers as Wolverines
so far, the arrival of the freshman Grif-
fin has made the most profound impact.
Griffin has not just emerged on
the scene - she has exploded. She
has needed little time to adjust to the
college game, and outside of some
small problems with the cold weather,
has been unfazed.
Griffin leads the team with a .404
average, five home runs and 31 RBI.
She is also tied with Kovach for the
team lead in wins with 11 and is second
in the Big Ten with a 1.34 ERA.
"Sara is the typical California
pitcher," Kovach says. "She hits the
high balls and pitches the up balls."
There is nothing typical about some-
one with her skills, however. Her five
home runs ties her with Alicia Seegert
for Michigan's single-season record
and already puts her at No. 5 on the
career home run list.
"We expected her to be a candidate
for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but
you never know how good they're go-
ing to be as a freshman," Hutchins
says. "She's an excellent baserunner,
she's obviously an excellent pitcher
and she hits the ball. She does it all."
That includes beating the always
powerful UCLA squad, 5-4, in March.
"It was like winning the national
championship," Smith says of the upset
victory over the Bruins. "After being
from California and always hearing
about UCLA and Arizona, to come to
Michigan and beat UCLA was great."

0

MICHAEL FITZH
Thanks to the presence of three California natives on its roster, the
Michigan softball team has raced to a No. 9 national ranking.

0

Softball Top 25

Jordan helps Bulls bury Pistons

Here is the USA Today/National Softball

Coaches Association Coaches Top 25.

Record
1. UCLA 28-2
2. Arizona 39-4
3. Cal State-Fullerton 25-11
4. Fresno State 32-8
5. UNLV 30-9
6. SW Louisiana 35-6
7. Cal State-Sacramento 27-7
8. Cal State-Northridge 28-11
9. MICHIGAN 27-7
10. California 28-9
11. South Carolina 37-9
12. Missouri 40-5
13. Florida State 35-11

Pts.
475
456
417
416
384
346
322
338
322
305
286
287
253

LW
2
1
3
.4
6
9
5
8
5
10
11
12
13

14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.

Record
Hawaii 33-15
Nebraska 24-14
Illinois-Chicago 23-6
Nicholls State 24-11
Oklahoma State 23-14
Washington 29-18
Oklahoma 30-17
Notre Dame 23-9
Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo18-9
Princeton 26-6
Iowa 22-13-1
Kansas 14-12

Pts.
226
185
161
151
142
124
112
99
83
70
56
24

LW
14
15
16
19
17
18
22
21
20
23
NR
24

AUBURN HILLS (AP) - It
didn't take long for Joe Dumars to
remember how tough it is to guard
Michael Jordan.
"It wasn't a bittersweet moment,
because there was nothing sweet
about it," Dumars said after Jordan
scored 29 to lead the Chicago Bulls
over the Detroit Pistons 124-113
Wednesday night.
Jordan hit 12 of his 23 shots and
added nine rebounds and nine as-
sists as the Bulls improved to 9-3
since his return from retirement.
The Pistons cut Chicago's lead
to 99-94 with 8:20 to play, but the
Bulls iced the game with a 9-3 surge.
Jordan scored the final five points
of the spurt.
Jordan's performance showed how
much energy he brings to the game,
Pistons coach Don Chaney said.

"He's got a huge advantage, be-
cause he's played 11 games, and
everyone else has played over 70,"
Chaney said. "He's fresh, both
physically and mentally."
Detroit made another run, pull-
ing to 116-110 with 2:30 to go, but
Steve Kerr's 3-pointer extended the
Bulls' lead again.
Ron Harper and Will Perdue
added 16 each for Chicago, which
was without Scottie Pippen, who
had the flu.
Allan Houston led the Pistons
with 31 points, and Terry Mills,
who played his college ball at Michi-
gan, had 20.
Chicago led 62-57 at the half,
but Detroit came back to tie the
score at 70 behind seven points from
Mills.
But Chicago put together a six-

point run, and got 10 points in the
quarter from Perdue to lead 94-85
entering the fourth quarter.
Jordan missed all four of his out-
side shots in the first quarter as
Chicago took a 30-29 lead.
The Bulls started the second pe-
riod with a 12-2 run, including four
more from Harper, and led 42-31.
That lead quickly vanished,
though, as Houston hit two straight
3-pointers, and Dumars added a third
for a nine-point run in just 43 sec-
onds.
The game was tied at 50 with
four minutes left before halftime, *
but Chicago scored the next five
points, including a 3-pointer from
Jordan, and the Bulls were still ahead
by five at the half.
Houston scored 19 in the half,
including five 3-pointers.

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