10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 10, 2003
By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Writer
In the epic battle of Michigan base-
ball versus Michigan weather, the
NCAA Regional comes to Crisler
what do the
gets the best
Wiffle ball homerun derby, of course.
Inclement weather and snow on the
field at the Fish cancelled yesterday's
game against Detroit Mercy and pushed
practice inside Oosterbaan Field House,
the perfect setting for a round of home-
run derby after a workout.
"Every once in a while you need to
loosen things up around here," Michi-
gan coach Rich Maloney said. "We
felt like our team has been working
"I just wanted to bring back the fact
that it's a privilege to play the game and
bring back the days of how much fun it
was when you played wiffile ball."
Any type of game for Michigan is
advantageous at this point in time. The
Wolverines were only able to play two
games out of their scheduled four-game
series against Minnesota last weekend.
While the Wolverines dropped both of
those games, 9-3 and 8-7, they felt the
weekend record might have shown a
different story had they gotten the
chance to play those extra two games.
"We had them the second game,"
Junior Brandon Roberts and his teammates host Concordia this afternoon at the Fish.
fifth-year senior Mike Sokol said. "We
made a few crucial mistakes and basi-
cally we beat ourselves. I think we'll be
Sokol has been hitting more than just
wiffle balls during this young confer-
ence season. He leads the Big Ten in
hitting with a .526 average through six
"It's been going pretty well," Sokol
said. "I've felt pretty good and am see-
ing the ball well. You just try and stay
The entire team will get its chance to
stay on the hitting track Sokol has
found today. Local NAIA school Con-
cordia (9-25) was added to the schedule
after yesterday's game could not be
The game should also give the young
pitching staff some quality action.
Sophomore Matt Collins (1-1) is sched-
uled to start, and Maloney also expects
freshman Jeff Niemiec to pick up some
much needed innings. Niemiec has only
appeared once this year, carrying a
54.00 ERA after going just 0.1 inning
against Eastern Michigan.
Today's game should give the pitch-
ing staff a chance to knock down its
respective ERA, while the hitters see if
they can learn anything from their wif-
fle ball swing.
"It's a different swing," Sokol said.
"You have to kind of flick at the ball.
You can't swing too hard or you'll never
While the wiffle may have baffled a
few of the Wolverines, Maloney has
had his share of wiffle practice with
kids of his own.
"As soon as my kids are out of
school, I'm going to start showing these
guys how to hit," Maloney said.
By Albert Kim
Daily Sports Writer
There is no looking back for the No. 10 Michigan
women's gymnastics team as it hosts the NCAA North-
east Regional Saturday at Crisler Arena.
Last year at regionals, the Wolverines admittedly did
not have their best meet of the season, and
were given a gift by Iowa, which choked on """"""""""""""
the floor on the last rotation. But MichiganAT
isn't focusing on that performance, as it
looks to make a run to the NCAA Champi- Mcial
"I don't think this team has any thought
whatsoever about what happened last year," C<, s ><
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.>
Junior Calli Ryals echoed Plocki's sentiments.
"The team's pretty young - a lot of the
girls that went through it last year aren't even on the
team anymore," Ryals said.
The Wolverines are coming off their best meet of the
year. Michigan won its fifth-straight Big Ten champi-
onship two weekends ago in Champaign, posting a sea-
son high score of 197.450. The Wolverines were strong
on every rotation, especially bars and floor exercise.
In doing so, they built some confidence that has car-
"I think we're still feeding off Big Tens," Ryals said.
The Wolverines had a much-deserved break last
weekend, and they took full advantage.
"I think right now, having the weekend off was what
we needed to try to rest our bodies," Plocki said. "At
this point, it's as important as any amount of training."
Continued from Page 9A
come up big for Michigan to advance.
MICHIGAN DEFENSE VS. MINNESOTA OFFENSE: The for-
ward tandem of the freshman Vanek and junior Troy
Riddle is the as good as any Michigan will face this
year, and the Wolverines have faced some good ones.
Vanek tops the nation in goals among freshmen and
ranks second in points. The Gophers scored 16 goals in
two regional games, but they had the advantage of play-
ing in their home 100-foot-wide ice rink.
In Buffalo, the Gopher offense will have to contend
on an 85-foot-wide rink with a Michigan defense that
never ceases to amaze. The Wolverines will likely go
just five deep tonight, but Mike Roemensky and Andy
Burnes have made quality plays all season long, and
Brandon Rogers and Nick Martens have improved as
well. But the five-man unit is going to have all it han-
dle dealing with Vanek and Co.
GOALTENDING: This is the one area where Michigan
has the clear advantage. Freshman Al Montoya came
into a tough spot starting at Yost as the youngest player
in college hockey, but has just gotten better as the sea-
son has gone along. If Montoya had not made some
incredible saves against Maine, Michigan would be
watching this weekend on TV.
The Gophers filled their vacant crease with two
sophomores, Travis Weber and Johnson. Both have
been adequate, but neither can steal a game away,
something that is sometimes needed on a stage this
The Wolverines will need a similar showing this
weekend to move on in the postseason. The top two
teams in each of the six regions will go to Lincoln, Neb.
to compete at Nationals. No. 3 Arizona State, No. 15
Iowa State and dark horse Penn State will make life dif-
ficult for Michigan, while Pittsburgh and New Hamp-
shire round out the field. Michigan will have little room
"From here on out, we're not going to be
MY~ able to afford to count any breaks," Plocki
>tsNCAA"We need to bring our 'A' game," assis-
R n tant coach Scott Sherman said.
sp X The Wolverines put together their best
Ae beam performance of the year in practice
yesterday, which is encouraging since they
will be ending on beam at Regionals. And
being at Crisler Arena may be a little less
desirable than Cliff Keen Arena, but there should be
more fans to cheer the team on.
"Cliff Keen's a lot more cozy," Ryals said. "(But)
Crisler's definitely better than going to Arizona State."
The Wolverines will be going for their 11th straight
NCAA Championship berth and 12th overall; as well as
their sixth regional championship. And being in front of
the large home crowd should bring out the best in a
team that seems to perform better the bigger the arena.
"We've got a number of kids on our team that really
pick it up a notch when they're in front of a crowd,"
"Our job is to go out there and hit, and if we hit, I
think we have a good chance of going on to Nationals,"
SPECIAL TEAMS: Just as in Michigan's regional final,
the Wolverines' second-ranked penalty kill will be
going up against a top-notch powerplay. Colorado Col-
lege embarrassed Michigan for two goals early on, but
then the Wolverine penalty kill performed as well as it
has all season. Minnesota could put on a similar clinic
if Michigan is not ready, but finding ways to stop such
a vaunted attack is where the Michigan coaching staff
Neither the Michigan powerplay or the Minnesota
penalty kill are anything to boast about, and it is yet to
be seen if either unit will be much of a factor.
INTANGIBLES: Red Berenson and Minnesota coach
Don Lucia are two of the best coaches in the game, so
both teams will be ready for one another. On paper,
Minnesota has more talent than Michigan, but so did
Colorado College. Michigan also played at HSBC
Arena to start the season.
In addition, the Gophers are trying to become the
first team to repeat in 31 years, and the Wolverines
have lost two straight national semifinals. So one could
say Michigan is due.
This game looks to be another classic in which nei-
ther team will want to give up much, so the game
should come down to defense and goaltending.
Minnesota might have an edge defensively, but look
for Montoya to come up with the big saves necessary to
excel in playoff hockey and set up a showdown against
the best defense in the nation in Cornell on Saturday
PREDICTION: MICHIGAN 3, MINNESOTA 2 (OT)
Continued from Page 9A
Danny Richmond, who played against Vanek last year in the
U.S. Hockey League. "If you watch him skate on tape, it
doesn't look like he's moving that fast. But he's so strong
and powerful ... he's the real deal."
Michigan and Minnesota last met on Dec. 1 of this season
in Minneapolis - a game the Wolverines won 3-1. Goalie
Al Montoya was the star, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he
The Gophers also eliminated the Wolverines from last
year's tournament with a 3-2 win in the national semifinals.
"Personally, I love to play Michigan," Lucia said. "They
play the game the way I think it should be played; they
recruit offensive players that are highly skilled, and they
allow those players to go out and play. Red (Berenson) has
said it before, they go out to win games and so do we."
Richmond is also familiar with another of Minnesota's
freshmen. Defenseman Chris Harrington, who played last
season with the Omaha Lancers, eliminated Richmond's
team from the postseason.
"I'd like to give him that taste in his mouth," Richmond
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