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March 30, 1999 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-30

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Baseball opens home season against*
Central Michigan with high hopes

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By Chris Grandstaff
Daily Sports Writer
The days are getting longer, students
are slacking off just a little more, bas-
ketball and hockey are over and Hash
Bash is on the horizon.
It's spring in Ann Arbor, and that
means it's time for baseball.
The Michigan baseball team opens its
1999 home season today against the
Chippewas of Central Michigan. This
year's squad has accumulated an 11-11
record so far, not bad considering that
they have done it without playing a
home game. The Wolverines have
played at the home parks of some of the
top teams in the country including No.
4 Pepperdine and No. 17 Texas A&M.
Michigan coach Geoff Zahn and
company are hoping to improve on last
year's disappointing, 21-27-1 record. In
his three years at the helm of the
Wolverines, Zahn has accumulated a
81-79-1 record. In 1997, he was named
Big Ten Coach of the Year while leading
the Wolverines to the Big Ten
Championship.
This season, Zahn believes his
Wolverines can repeat the success of the
1997 team.
"If I didn't think we had a chance to
win the Big Ten I shouldn't be coach-
ing," Zahn said. "A lot of our players
were on that team that won the Big Ten
two years ago. They know that they did-
n't play as well as they could have last
year, and this year they want to come
back and go for it."
But the road to the Big Ten
Championship won't be easy this sea-
son. Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio State
are ranked in Collegiate Baseball's

Preseason Top-40 Poll. The Golden
Gophers captured the highest ranking at
No. 29. The Fighting Illini rank No. 30
followed by the Buckeyes, who round
out the conference's showing at No. 38.
Minnesota returns 14 of 18 from a
team that won the Big Ten Tournament
title and advanced to the NCAA
Tournament last season.
The Golden Gophers, who finished
with a 45-15 overall record last year, fell
to Stanford and Alabama in the NCAA
Tournament.
Illinois (45-21 last season) was the
1998 conference regular-season cham-
pion and was just two outs shy of earn-
ing a trip to the College World Series.
After falling to Florida in the first round
7-6 in 11 innings, the Illini defeated
Wake Forest ,13-4; Baylor, 8-7 in 13;
and Monmouth, 12-2. In their second
matchup with Wake Forest, Illinois fell
to the Demon Deacons, 14-12, which
eliminated them from the NCAA
Championships.
Ohio State finished third in the Big
Ten last season and posted a final record
of 37-16.
Zahn, whose Wolverines finished tied
for sixth in the Big Ten last season, is
relying on six returning starters in the
field from last year's team to help make
a run for the conference championship,
and a national ranking.
The talented senior co-captain duo of
third baseman Mike Cervenak and sec-
ond baseman Bobby Scales will lead the
Wolverines this season.
Cervenak, nicknamed "Piggy" by his
teammates because of his tendency to
get a little dirty, was the recipient of last
year's Ray Fisher Award, which is given

annually to the most valuable Wolverine
player. Last season Cervenak led the
Wolverines in batting average (.385),
home runs (13), RBI's (50), hits (79),
runs (42), total bases (135), and doubles
(17), and played in all 49 of the
Wolverines games. Entering the season,
Cervenak ranked sixth all-time on
Michigan's career hit list with 206 (the
record is 267 by Ken Hayward, 1982-
85).
Scales is the the Wolverines' vocal
leader. Last season, the switch-hitting
Scales earned the Wolverine Award for
spirit and leadership.
Scales was not too shabby at the plate
either, finishing second to Cervenak in
batting average (.353), and second in
runs (38). Scales's balanced average
from both sides of the plate, .349 from
the left side and .362 right-handed,
poses a matchup problem for all oppos-
ing coaches.
"I can't say enough about Bobby and
Mike," Zahn said. "Mike leads by
example and Bobby leads by what he
says. The guys respect them both a lot.
They've been two outstanding captains
for us and the guys really look for them
to lead the team."
That's saying a lot, condsidering the
experience of this year's team.
In addition to Scales and Cervenak,
the Wolverines will start at least three
others seniors in the field in first base-
man Bryan Besco and outfielders Jason
Alcarez in rightfield and Brian Bush in
center.
Senior Mike Seestedt will battle for
the starting catcher position with sopho-
more David Parrish, and whichever one
isn't starting will probably assume the

designated hitter duties.
Sophomore Scott Tousa returns to
claim this season's starting position at
shortstop, and senior Dan Sanborn will
compete with junior Rob Bobeda for
leftfield action.
Even if the Wolverines are successful
at the plate this year, the key to the sea-
son will lie in their pitching. Michigan
lost 25 starts from last year's team with
the departure of Brian Berryman (4-5),
Brian Steinbach (3-7), and Mike
Hribernik (3-3), as well as closer Tyler
Steketee who led the Wolverines with 5
saves in 20 appearances last year.
If the Wolverines expect to be suc-
cessful in their drive for a Big Ten
Championship, they will not only have
to replace, but will need to improve
upon last year's staff.
And if the early season success of this
year's pitching staff is any indication of
how the rest of the season will go, the
Wolverines could be in for a good ride.
"The big question mark for us corn-
ing into the season was our pitching,"
Zahn said. "And so far this season I
think our pitching has been pretty
good."
Michigan has six hurlers with the
potential to be starters in seniors Luke
Bonner, J. J. Putz, and Ryan Kelley, as
well as juniors Bryce Ralston and
Bryan Cranson and sophomore Vince
Pistilli.
All the ingredients seem to be there
for a successful season.
The 1999 Wolverines have the poten-
tial to repeat their surprising success of
1997, but only if they assume the atti-
tude that led that team to a champi-
onship.

DANA LINNANE/Daily
The Michigan baseball team will need strong performances from its pitchers if it Is
going to compete for the Big Ten Championship this season.

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Berenson prepares his
team for the offseason

I'

...just remember to thank mom
for packing your suitcase.

668-8550
1103 S. University
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ANN ARBOR

STA TRAVEL
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7; M i-I- a W I I

OFFSEASON
Continued from Page 10
optional skates this week, then take
about a three-week break before
returning to work out with the team.
Most players in the offseason tend to
stay in Ann Arbor and attend classes
while improving their strength and
conditioning, but one thing they
won't be doing is skating during the
offseason.

"You do a lot of good things better
of the ice," Berenson said. "You need
to get off the ice because it's so tax-
ing. Mentally, it's good to have a solid
off-season."
Berenson said that he specifically
told the players who have played
extensively throughout the season to
take a break from the ice to prevent
actions that may be damaging to their
play next season.
"If you play in the summer you are
not as fresh, you're not as motivated
and excited to play," Berenson said. "I
think they just get in bad habits in the
summer, they go out and play against
mediocre players. And then they have
habits that you can't break."
The team will meet on Thursday to
vote for next season's captains. The
results will be announced at the
Deker's Club banquet for the team on
Sunday. Likely candidates include
future senior Sean Peach and future
junior Mike Van Ryn.

Ak(*

#9
MARGARET MYERS/Daily
Sophomore Scott Matzka and the Michigan hockey meet with coach Red
Berenson for the final time this season yesterday to discuss offseason workouts.
The Wolverines will have optional skates the rest of this week before taking the
next three weeks off to rest and take finals.

BeO

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