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February 19, 1998 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-02-19

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 19, 1998 - 13A

Spring

forward

Westerly winds beckon softball team

By Mark Francescutti
Daily Sports Writer
El Nino is soaking Ann Arbor lately
and the Michigan softball team doesn't
have spring break off. So isn't now a
great time to travel to San Diego for this
weekend's Campbell/Cartier Classic?
Think again.
San Diego's pavement also is expect-
ed to be spattered by raindrops when the
Wolverines begin their regular season
tomorrow Not only does their so-called
vacation look to be a washout, but they
also play seven straight games tomor-
row through Sunday morning.
Michigan finished fifth in the NCAA
College World Series last summer and
begins this season ranked 4th in the pre-
season USA Today/NFCA Coaches
Poll, two spots higher than their final
ranking last season.
After several fall preseason tourna-
ments and a long winter of practice,
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins is excit-
ed about the start of the season.
"We've been practicing indoors all
winter. Now we just need to go out and
play," Hutchins said.
Michigan will try to improve on its
record-breaking 1997 season which
included 56 victories starting tomorrow

against UCLA.
The Wolverines will be looking to
exact revenge against 17th-ranked
UCLA, the team that bounced them
from the World Series last season.
Michigan is 1-6 in seven outings against
the Bruins and hasn't beat UCLA since
1995.
Undefeated UCLA also has romped
past its opponents so far this season.
But the team Michigan might be most
concerned with is Louisiana State.
This weekend will be the first meet-
ing between the two schools, and
Louisiana State figures to be one of the
top teams in the NCAA this season.
"LSU's program has grown immense-
ly," Hutchins said. "They will be ranked
in the top 15 after this weekend."
San Diego State, the host of the
Campbell/Cartier Classic, wasn't such a
polite host last year, upsetting the
Wolverines 4-3. But Michigan does lead
the overall series 11-5.
Michigan's other opponents -
Stanford, Santa Clara, and Eastern
Michigan - will be looking to end their
losing streaks against the Wolverines.
Michigan has won all of its meetings
with Stanford and Santa Clara. The
Eagles have lost four straight to the

Wolverines and eight out of the past ten.
"Our goal is to get a gauge of where
we're at,' Hutchins said. "All the games
are against high-quality teams."
For those shocked by the fact that the
team plays seven games in one weekend
Hutchins has a quick, simple answer.
"This is the nature of softball;" she
said. '
According to Hutchins, the
Wolverines once again have one of the
most well-balanced lineups of any team
in the NCAA. The Wolverines have
solid performers at every position, 12
returning players and plenty of depth.
"I feel that that's the key to our
strength," Hutchins said. "In each class,
we have solid players."
PITCHING:
Replacing Big Ten pitcher of the year
Kelly Holmes won't be easy, but
Michigan plans to do just that with the
return of All-American Sara Griffin,
who missed the final eight weeks of last
season with a broken arm.
Sophomore Jamie Gillies and fresh-
man Marie Barda will join Griffin in the
pitching rotation. Gillies had a no-hitter
last season and Barda looks to be a force
this season and beyond after an impres-
sive 92-19 high school pitching record.

Breaking in a new freshman pitcher is
especially important, as the Wolverines
learned last season with Griffin's injury.
"We are going to give Maria one
inning at a time," Hutchins said. "Every
pitch counts."
INFIELD:
The Michigan infield has a strong
foundation with junior All-American -
and last season's top offensive player-
Traci Conrad at first base. Last season's
Big Ten freshman of the year, Melissa
Gentile, will most likely replace depart-
ing catcher Jen Smith behind the plate
sharing the duties with Jennifer
McKittrick and freshman Kim Buget
Sophomores Pam Kosanke and Karmen
Lappo are possibilities at third base,
leaving second base and shortstop wide
open between four players - sopho-
more Stacy Judd and freshmen Melissa
Taylor, Chrissy Garza and Rebecca
Tune.
OUTFIELD:
The number two-through-five hitters
last season - Cathy Davie, Lisa Kelley,
Tammy Mika and Kellyn Tate - will
share the responsibilities in the outfield.
Hutchins most likely will rotate the four
to optimize each player's ability.

FILE PHOTO
As she begins her final season at Michigan, pitcher Sara Griffin remains one of the
nation's top players. After missing the final two months of last year with a broken
arm, she is healthy again and will lead the Wolverines to San Diego this weekend.

baseball

Likely Michigan softball positions
OF Cathy Davie, Tammy Mika, Kellyn Tate, Lisa Kelley

to Open In
Texas
y Chris Duprey
aily Sports NV iter
Like federal marshals there a few
years ago, the Michigan baseball team
plans to come out firing when it travels
to Waco, Texas, for an opening weekend,
three-game series with No. 22 Baylor.
Coach Geoff Zahn enters his fourth
season at the helm with what may be his
best chance to take Michigan to the
NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines compiled a 36-22
#cord on the way to the Big Ten regular
season championship last year. This sea-
son, Michigan looks to win 40 games,
the so-called magic number needed to
earn a berth in the NCAAs.
"We need to focus on the mid-week
games the most," said outfielder Jason
Alcaraz. "We have a tendency to come
off of a big weekend and have a let-
down."
Baylor will have an advantage against
e Wolverines, having played nine
games already. After being swept in its
opening three-game series at Arizona,
Baylor has rebounded, winning its past
six.
Bayl or's Kip Wells is rated the No. 10
major league prospect in the country
according to Baseball America, and
Michigan will have the dubious pleasure
Hof facing him on one of the three days.
Wells' fastball is his go-to pitch, as it
*as last year when he struck out 79 bat-
ters in 79 1/3 innings. The Wolverines
aren't fazed by him, however after prac-
ieing on their own fireballer all winter,
- -J.J. Putz.
"He's good." said outfielder Jason
Alcaraz. "But after facing Putz all win-
ter, we're ready."
Baylor's bullpen can also hold the
;opposition. Jason Jennings, an all-Big
'2 selection, returns as the closer for the
4ears, after saving 10 games last season.
Two big bats, James Blair and Jeremy
Dodson, solidify Baylor's lineup. Blair
hit .376 last season with ten home runs.
Dodson is a tough out as well, posting a
.337 batting average with 15 home runs
in 97.
For the Wolverines, senior Derek
Besco and junior Bryan Besco will play
the majority of games at right field and
first base, respectively.
Derek, after hitting .391 in '97, is
~ooking to make his final season his
best. But last season will be difficult to
top, where he earned First Team all-Big
Ten honors.

38 Pam
Kosanke/.
Karmen
Lappo

Middle Infield
Melissa Taylor,
Chrissy Garza,
Rebecca Tune,
Stacey Judd
SP Sara Griffin
Jamie Gillies
Marie Barda

1B Traci
Conrad

C Melissa Gentile, Jennifer McKittrick, Kim Bugel
Likely Michigan baseball positions

CF Dan Sanborn/
Brian Bush

!.F Jason AEc araz/
Rob Bob~eda

RF Derek
Besco

WARREN Z INN/Daily
The Michigan baseball team returns the bulk of its pitching staff from last season, placing the Wolverines in an enviable position.
One season after winning the Big Ten championship, they are setting their sights on a larger goal - the NCAA tournament.

S$ Brian 2B Bobby
Kalczynski Sae
SP Brian Steinbach
Brian Cranson
J.J Puitz
38 Mike 18B Brian
Cervenak Besco
RP Tyler Stek'etee
Matt Herr
Robbie Reid
C Mick Kalahar
w wU r w w. w ~

His best hitting competition could
come from his twin brother Bryan, who
will play almost every day as well.
Bryan brings his .344 batting average
from 97, when he edged Derek in round
trippers, with 15.
Mick Kalahar will see most of the
action behind the plate. Kalahar, a
senior, hit only .234 in '97, but brings
back the defensive and pitch-calling
skills that earned him the starting job.
Bobby Scales will make the transition
to second base this season after occupy-
ing the designated hitter role in '97.
Fighting a nagging injury, Scales will
probably start this weekend.
If Scales can't go, freshman Scott
Tousa will step in.
Senior captain Brian Kalczynski,
after hitting .350 and earning first team

all-Big Ten honors last season, will start
at shortstop.
Mike Cervenak has a good hold on
the hot corner this season, after hitting
.342 in the '97 campaign.
Alcaraz and sophomore Rob Bobeda
will split time in left field, with Alcaraz
having a slight edge. Both hit for high
averages in '97.
"Rob had an outstanding freshman
year;' Harrison said. "He was one of our
best all-around players."
Center field will be a platoon of Dan
Sanborn and Brian Bush -- each hit
over .333 last season.
Either way, the Wolverines should be
solid in center.
Michigan returns all of its starting
pitchers. Brian Steinbach posted a 9-4
mark in last season in 13 starts. Bryan

Cranson, the lone left-hander, is coming
off of a solid 6-3 season. Also, Putz
returns better than ever, adding some
velocity to the fastball that helped him
to a 5-1 mark in '97.
Closer Tyler Steketee, who tied a
Michigan record by saving 10 ball-
games last year, is a late-innings fire-
man. Steketee fanned 42 hitters in 40
2/3 innings in '97, a key statistic for pre-
venting inherited baserunners from
crossing the plate.
Robbie Reid and Matt Herr will join
the team after they finish their respec-
tive seasons on the basketball and hock-
ey teams. Both should see action in mid-
dle relief or in the outfield.
"We'll see how long it takes for them
to get in baseball shape,' Harrison said.

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