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February 20, 1997 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-02-20

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The Michigan Daily Thursday, February 20, 1997 - 9A

..

While most of the Michigan athletic teams are mired in the Midwest,
two teams are enjoying the ...

While Michigan
pitcher Matt Herr
has yet to trade
in his hockey
skates for base-
ball spikes, the
rest of his team-
mates will be fac-
ing Alabama on
the Crimson
Tide's home field.
MARGARET MYERS/Daily

spring
Zahn starts baseball season
with young pitching staff

By Tracy Sandier
Daily Sports Writer
Perhaps more than any other athlete in any other
sport, a baseball player relies on his experience. One
year can be the difference between a pitcher who
shows flashes of brilliance and one who wins 20
games, or a batter who hits .200 as a rookie and fol-
lows with a .295 average the next season.
As the Michigan baseball team prepares to open
its season on the road against Alabama Friday night,
it is relying on this philosophy.
"We're returning a lot of starters, and a lot of the
freshman last year got to see some playing time"
second baseman and team captain Kirk Beermann
said. "They should be ready. It only really takes one
year at the college level to be able to step in as a
sophomore."
The Wolverines will be counting on their young
pitching staff to start them off with some wins. Like
the timeless adage says, good pitching beats good
hitting.
Unfortunately, the Crimson Tide apparently have
both. They are currently 5-0, after demolishing
Marshall, 8-2, 17-4 and 16-0. They followed the
sweep with two wins over Louisiana Tech.
Nonetheless, it will be up to Michigan pitchers
Brian Steinbach, Luke Bonner and Ryan Kelley to
shut Alabama down this weekend.
"We have some good young arms," Michigan
baseball coach Geoff Zahn said. "We went with four
freshman last year, and they're sophomores now. You
hope that they've matured some, and they've seen
some battle action.
"We're still a very young team, but that's going to
be the heart of our pitching staff. Our mainstay on
the pitching staff is going to be Brian Steinbach."
Steinbach will start the weekend series, with
Bonner and Kelley pitching on Saturday and
Sunday, respectively. This weekend's closer will be
sophomore J.J. Putz.
Also strong for Michigan will be its hitters, main-
ly outfielders Jason Alcaraz and Derek Besco.

"(Alcaraz) can hit with anybody in the country"
third team All-Big Ten third baseman Mike
Cervenak said. "He's one of the best. Derek Besco
looks really good this year, too, so he should be dri-
ving in runs. We look strong all the way through the
lineup with our hitters.'
On a team loaded with young players, Zahn will
be counting on Beermann, Michigan's most experi-
enced member, to provide leadership.
"(Beermann) is kind of the anchor of the team,'
Zahn said. "He's our only regular senior, and he's
been a very steady player for us."
Although he knows that he may be the team's
foundation, Beermann does not think that he will
have to worry about motivation.
"I don't think this year I'll have to do a whole lot,
because everybody's pretty much team oriented," he
said. "Everybody's focused and has one goal anid
that's winning. I don't think I'll have to do too much,
maybe just calm down a few of the newer guys."'
Alabama has an advantage over the Wolverines, in
terms of warm-weather conditioning. Due to the
cold, Michigan has been forced inside for the major-
ity of its practices. Plus, the Crimson Tide have
played five games already, whereas the Wolverines
have played none.
"Getting the arm in shape isn't the problem;'
Zahn said. "It's the game experience. It's trying to
read the ball coming of the bat, if you're an out-
fielder or an infielder. That takes a little bit of time.
"When guys have been outside, reading the ball
off the bat live and all those things - they've been
doing it for a month, and we haven't been doing it."
In respect to the season as a whole, Michigan has
high expectations, but it knows that nothing will
come easily.
"Certainly, nobody scares us," Zahn said. "We
know we're young. We know that we've got to
improve. That's part of our philosophy that we're
going to improve from the first day through the last
day, and we'll take our chances on how far we can
go."

California dreaming for Blue softball

By B.J. Luria
Daily Sports Writer
After a successful season that fell short of its
goal, the Michigan softball team returns to the
field tomorrow to begin its 1997 campaign.
A Big Ten championship and a NCAA
regional title did nothing to help Michigan
achieve its goal of winning a game at the
Cpllege World Series, but this weekend the
quest begins anew. The team will take the field
n San Diego tomorrow at the Campbell/Cartier
Classic.
The No. 5 Wolverines will begin their quest to
duplicate their 1996 record-breaking season
when they play seven games in three days.
" The Classic, hosted by San Diego State, will
feature three other ranked teams, including No.
14 Long Beach State, No. 15 Cal State-
Northridge and No. 22 Hawaii. Michigan will
face all three teams, as well as Sacramento
State, San Diego State, Stanford and Arkansas
*during the weekend.
"It's our first time outside and it will give us a
chance to get into the flow of the game,"
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. "We'll get
a chance to see what our strengths and weak-

nesses are."
Last season, the Wolverines displayed few
weaknesses on their way to winning a
Michigan-record 51 games and winning the Big
Ten for the fourth time in five years. The
Wolverines placed seventh in the Women's
College World Series.
If Michigan hopes to repeat its success of last
year, it will need contributions from many of
last year's stars, as well as from a few newcom-
ers.
Sara Griffin, the two-time defending Big Ten
Player of the Year, leads a strong pitching staff.
The junior led the Wolverines last year with 35
wins from the pitching circle and was a major
contributor at the plate as well. Senior Kelly
Holmes and freshman Jamie Gillies round out
the starting rotation.
Hutchins has confidence in her pitching staff,
as well as the rest of the team.
"We are very deep on the mound and behind
the plate'" Hutchins said. "We also have a lot of
versatility and we have good hitting and good
speed."
Other contributors from last year's Big Ten
championship team include Big Ten Freshman

of the Year Traci Conrad, a first baseman, and
senior outfielder Kellyn Tate. Tate earned third-
team All American honors last season and will
anchor a crowded outfield. Seven players will
vie for playing time at the three positions for the
Wolverines.
Michigan's veterans are not alone in their
quest for another Big Ten Championship. A tal-
ented group of freshmen will have the opportu-
nity to play right away.
In addition to Gillies, Melissa Gentile and
Pam Kosanke will be given the chance to start
from the beginning of the season. Kosanke
and Gentile will make up the left side of the
infield, playing shortstop and third base,
respectively.
"The left side of the infield is brand new with
freshmen who will take a lot of bumps and
bruises over the next few weeks," Hutchins said.
"They're going to play, so we hope they can con-
tribute."
This weekend will be a learning experience
for the Wolverines, veterans and the rookies
alike. Michigan will begin to find out who the
leaders are on this team and what they will have
to do to win.

Michigan first
baseman Traci
Conrad, seen
here moments
after clinching
last season's
regional champi-
onship, and the
Wolverines kick
off another cam-
paign Friday in
San Diego.
FILE PHOTO/Daily

No. 4 Michigan to face stiff competition at Magical Classic

*By Nita Srivastava
Daily Sports Writer
They're going to Disney World!
Well, almost.
The No. 4 Michigan women's gym-
nastics team is going to Orlando, Fla.
tomorrow to compete in the Magical
.Classic against 8th-ranked UCLA,
No. 11 Florida and No. 18 Kentucky.
=The competition will take place at
Orlando's Orange County Convention
*Center, hosted by Brown's
Gymnastics.
According to statistics, rankings
and overall performance this season,
Michigan holds the advantage in this
competition. The Wolverines have

held the edge in the past few meets as
they were on their home turf, but look
forward to the challenge of a meet
away from home.
"We try to build on the pressure,"
Michigan freshman Sarah-Elizabeth
Langford said. "The meet will be a
challenge, but as long as we maintain
our consistency, we will do well."
The Magical Classic will be the
fourth meeting in three years between
the Wolverines and the Bruins.
Michigan still holds the advantage, as
the Wolverines have won the last two
meetings.
Under Michigan coach Bev Plocki,
the Wolverines are 1-3 against the

Gators, and have not lost in three
meets against Kentucky.
With consistent top performances
by sophomores Nikki Peters, Beth
Amelkovich and freshman Sarah
Cain, the Wolverines are looking for a
repeat of a few more perfect 10s in
the Magical Classic.
Peters tied Beth Wymer's Michigan
record for consecutive 10s on an
apparatus in the Oregon State compe-
tition on Feb. 14, as she scored her
fourth straight 10 on the uneven bars.
She is currently ranked No. 1 in the
country in that event.
"Nikki has really raised her level of
commitment to the program over the

last few weeks," Plocki said. "She
continues to compete at a high level,
and I expect her to score a few more
perfect 10s this year."
Amelkovich will also provide a
great deal of support for the
Wolverines in the competition this
weekend, as she has consistently man-
aged placement positions in the all-
around competition.
Cain looks to continue her streak of
all-around titles in the Magical
Classic, as she has already received
five out of seven.
"Sarah is a competitive athlete who
looks to excel each time she per-
forms," Plocki said. "I don't expect

Sarah to be perfect everytime out, but
she has shown the ability to perform
at a consistent level."
Consistency will be the key in the
competition this weekend. The
Wolverines cannot allow for any
breaks or distractions-they must
remain mentally focused to win.
"If our mental attitudes are there,
we can beat our personal goals, and
from there everything else will fall
into place," Langford said.

The Wolverines have been upgrad-
ing their skills in practice and com-
pleting different tumbling passes in
order to promote a higher level of
competition.
"We want our routines to be solid,"
said Michigan sophomore Kathy
Burke. "We're going to keep our
minds set, and not be concerned with
winning or losing. The idea is to peak
at the end of the season, and that's
what we are doing."

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