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March 19, 1997 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-19

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 19, 1997 - 13
.$election committee not kind to Blue

By Mark Snyder
Daily Sports Writer
The challenge is to do it again.
All season long, the Michigan hockey
team's goal has been to win the national
championship - again.
But thanks to the NCAA selection
committee, that road became a bit rock-
.er Sunday when Michigan found out a
am it has
already seen
could be its
NCAA quarter-
final opponent.
The worst
possible sce-
nario for the
Wolverines was
realized when
Michigan drew
e winner of
the Minnesota-Michigan State first-
round game.
But from the Michigan side there
seems to be an answer for all possible
problems.
"We have to get ready for our game"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
"The game on Sunday has to be our best
game - no matter who we play."
Berenson was not the only one con-
med with focus.
"We're going to have to take it a game
at a time and see what happens," assis-
tant captain Blake Sloan said.
"No one ever said it would be easy,"
captain Brendan Morrison said.,"If you
want to get to the final four you have to
play the best teams in the country.'

While the attitude of indifference
toward their opponent pervades the
Michigan dressing room, the Wolverines
have reason to be concerned.
Both of Michigan's possible oppo-
nents will have a score to settle with the
Wolverines in the traditionally tight
NCAA quarterfinal round.
Michigan was responsible for
Minnesota's most recent heartbreaking
playoff defeat last year.
In the very same quarterfinal round
where the teams could meet Sunday,
Michigan rallied from a 2-1 second peri-
od deficit to record a 4-3 victory over
the Golden Gophers.
Just five months ago, Minnesota had
its initial opportunity for revenge at the
College Hockey Showcase when it faced
Michigan. But Morrison devastated the
Gophers once more, scoring a goal in
overtime to seal Michigan's 4-3 victory.
While Michigan has built the fire that
exists under Minnesota, it was lit last
weekend by North Dakota. The Fighting
Sioux, the No. 2 seed in the West
Regional, defeated the Golden Gophers
in overtime in the WCHA championship
game.
Michigan State's vendetta against
Michigan is a bit more recent. Last
Saturday, Michigan denied the Spartans
the CCHA playoff championship in a
hard-fought victory, 3-1.
And that's how Michigan State's sea-
son has gone: Average games against
other opponents, outstanding games
against Michigan.I
Two of Michigan's three defeats this

season came at the the hands of the
Spartans - hardly an ideal opponent for
Michigan's first game in the NCAA
tournament.
"Even though State has beaten us
twice this year, if we happen to face
them again, it would be a great chal-
lenge;' Morrison said. "No matter who
we play, it will be a great matchup."
That's not to discount the crowd factor
either. East Lansing, with its swarms of
green hockey fans, lies no more than an
hour from Van Andel Arena in Grand
Rapids. The proximity factor to a possi-
ble opponent neutralizes any possible
crowd advantage for the top-seeded
Wolverines.
Opposing crowds are nothing new for
Michigan, and Berenson states that the
noise, as he has said repeatedly about the
opponent, is a non-factor.
"We played in Wisconsin against
Wisconsin (in 1995), we played in
Michigan State against the crowd (in
1996);' Berenson said. "So (the crowd)
is not an issue - it's the situation."
Regardless of what Berenson says
about the outside influences, Michigan
must face one of two quality teams, and
even he admits that the defending
champs have the toughest road ahead.
"We're probably in the toughest
bracket in the country," he said.
Maybe Michigan earned that fate with
too many victories. An interest in com-
petition for the nation's No. I team on
the part of the NCAA is understandable,
but this is a situation where the selection
committee pulled off the unexpected

with both possible Michigan opponents.
Minnesota, which finished the season
ranked No. 4 overall in the national
polls, was relegated to the No. 4 seed in
the West Region. And Vermont, a team
that lost in the first weekend of the
ECAC tournament and didn't even make
the conference semifinals, received the
No. 3 seed in the East Regional.
"In theory, you would think the No. I
would be playing the 8 or 9," Berenson
said.
That is a scenario which will only
occur if the Spartans are victorious.
Both Minnesota and Michigan State
have large fan bases that travel to away
games - contradicting any theory that
attendance affected seedings.
"I don't know why Michigan and
Michigan State are even in the same
bracket;" Berenson said. "If they are
worried about crowds, they'd have us in
one game and them in another."
But Morrison's answer to the contro-
versial seedings reverts to the standard
Michigan response.
"Every year there's something othef
than what you think's going to happen,"
Morrison said. "You've got to beat
everyone to get to the final anyway so it
doesn't matter who we play."
In a season where Michigan has been
targeted in every game, the party line
remains the same; how Michigan plays
will determine how the game goes.
While the players have convinced
themselves that their destiny lies in their
own hands, either opponent will have
something to say about that.

JOSH BIGGS/Wliy
Brendan Morrison and the Wolverines may have to beat Minnesota for the second
year in a row In order to advance past the NCAA quarterfinals.

= =' Titans use fast start to crush Blue, 12-8
Wolverines' resurgent offense can't overcome awful early-inning pitching

By Richard Shin
Daily Sports Writer
Detroit Mercy had no mercy on the
Michigan baseball team, scoring seven
runs in the first two innings on its way to
a 12-8 victory at Fisher Stadium yester-
day.
The Titans (4-6) sent 15 batters to the
plate in the first two frames, staking a 7-
0 lead for right hander Joel Hillebrand.
Michigan, which fell to 9-7, rallied
late in the game, scoring six runs in the
final three innings but could not over-
come four errors and poor pitching,
dropping its third consecutive game.
Freshman Bryan Cranson, starting
only his second game, was shelled, giv-
ing up six runs in 1 1/3 innings of work.
Cranson was tagged with the loss, drop-
ping to I-I on the season.
While the Wolverines struggled on the
mound, they flourished at the plate, scor-
ing eight runs on 12 hits. Rightfielder
Derek Besco led the Wolverines offen-
sively, going 3-for-5 with a run scored.
Centerfielder Brian Bush added a
double and a single, scored two runs and
drove in another.
"I'm happy with our hitting,"
Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said. "We
did get some clutch hits today. You take
away those first two innings, and we win
the ballgame.
"It's pitching and defense. You make
four errors and give up 12 hits, and
you're not going to win too many ball-
games."
Michigan's offense struggled early,
managing only one hit in the first two

innings against Hillebrand, who scat-
tered seven hits across 6 2/3 innings,
striking out three and walking seven.
The Titans got off to a hot start, send-
ing eight batters to the plate in the sec-
ond inning, touch-
ing Cranson for
four runs before he
was lifted for Ryan
Kelley.
All told, Detroit
scored five runs in
the inning and
never looked back.
The Titans were led
by shortstop Jason
Derek Besco Gombos, who hit a
three-run double in
the second and added a solo homer in the
fourth.
In the end, the Wolverines were able to
make things interesting. After falling
behind 10-2 after six innings, Michigan
began its rally.
The Wolverines chased Hillebrand in
the seventh, scoring two runs on a wild
pitch and a two-out single by pinch hitter
Jeff Van Sickle to close the gap to 10-4.
Terry Hayden relieved Hillebrand and
ended the inning, fanning Michigan
catcher Mick Kalahar.
In the ninth, the Titans held a 12-5
lead, but Michigan took advantage of
three walks and two wild pitches by
Detroit's Joe Maceri to score three runs
and pull the Wolverines to within four.
Maceri settled down, however, and
retired Michigan shortstop Brian
Kalczynski on a grounder back to the

pitcher to end the game.
It was not the way Zahn had envi-
sioned the Wolverines' home opener, and
he expressed his expectations for the rest
of the season.
"We didn't play very well. We pretty
much stunk it up," Zahn said. "We're
going to have to play better if we expect
to win the number of ballgames we
expect to win."
Michigan has now dropped three
games in a row after winning nine
straight.
While the Wolverines' bats have been
hot, their pitching has been horrid -- as

a team, Michigan is batting .353 in 16
games, while the pitching staff sports a
lofty 7.12 ERA.
During their nine-game winning
streak over spring break, the Wolverines
were catching a lot of breaks - at least
according to Zahn. But in the past three
games, Zahn believes the tide has turned.
"Somebody's got to come along and
pick somebody up," Zahn said. "You
make an error and somebody has to
make a great play. It doesn't seem to be
happening now. It seems like every fly
ball that goes out there drops in.
"We just have to keep battling."

- U

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* ,.,JOE WESTRATE/ Daily
Michigan junior Mike Hribernik struck out three and walked one in the sixth inning
Aegterda. The Wolverines lost to Detroit, 12-8.

Zahn displeased with pitching in home opener

By Sharat Raju
Daily Sports Writer
Pitching wins ballgames - a time-
wo.rn baseball adage that might prove all
too true for the Michigan baseball team
this season.
:*In yesterday's game at Fisher Stadium
against Detroit Mercy, the Wolverines
managed to put eight runs on the score-
board. i
'You score eight runs, that should be
enough to win a ballgame" Michigan
coach Geoff Zahn said.
- It wasn't.
The Titans drove in 12 runs against the
Michigan pitching staff - seven in the
first two innings against freshman starter
&yan Cranson and sophomore Ryan
Miley. It was Cranson's second start for
Michigan this season.
Were the Wolverines just working out
the kinks?
"It's not 'kinks' if our pitchers aren't
going to pitch any better than that,;'Zahn
said.
The Wolverines are 9-7 - due in no.
small part to a team batting average of

.353. Hitting is not the problem.
A team ERA of 7.12 is the problem.
Only four pitchers have sub-5.00 ERAs,
and three of those Wolverines have com-
bined for just 7 1/3 innings.
"We've got very young pitchers,"Zahn
said.
In fact, the two top pitchers from last
season, Mark Temple and reliever John
Arvai, were lost to graduation. Temple
and Arvai were All-Big Ten first- and
second-team selections, respectively, a
year ago. Their departures means Zahn
loses 11 wins and seven saves from last
season's 24-30 squad.
The Wolverines do have some fresh,
young guns who might be up to the task
- a plethora of sophomores with lively
arms. J.J. Putz (three starts), Luke Bonner
(four) and Kelley (two) along with junior
Brian Steinbach (four) will, most likely
shoulder most of the starting load.
Junior Tyler Steketee has started one
game for Michigan this season, as well.
Perhaps yesterday's performance was
somewhat understandable, considering
near-arctic wind chills that have been

known to numb pitching arms.
Still, Michigan pitchers have given up
an average of more than eight runs an
outing - a significant number. In col-
lege baseball, where aluminum bats are
not only legal but omnipresent, it is a lit-

tle easier to score runs than in profes-
sional leagues.
"I think we'll be okay with our bats,"
Zahn said. "We'll just have to work on
our pitching and have patience for our
guys to mature."

i I Mi"

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