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March 29, 2004 - Image 14

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 29, 2004

'M' home opener glorious despite small crowd
By Megan Kolodgy
Daily Sports Writer

What do splintered blue benches, a rickety
press box and songs such as Bruce Springsteen's
"Glory Days" have in common?
They're all part of the rich his-
tory of Michigan baseball.
Although it occurred a day late -
due to inclement weather, this $
past weekend ushered in another
season at The Fish.
The 81-year-old stadium has
likely seen better days, but its dilapidation adds
to its old-fashioned charm. The small crowd by
no means overflowed the stadium's 4,000-person
capacity, but Michigan head coach Rich Maloney
insists that ringing in the new year by tackling
intrastate rivals Oakland and Detroit, and boost-
ing his team's confidence with four wins and
cheers from a supportive audience is what Open-
ing Day is all about.
"It's always fun to be at Fisher stadium and
play in front of our family and friends," Maloney
said.
Despite the rain:out of game one, Maloney was
pleased with the fact that Mother Nature gave the
Wolverines two overcast days to complete all four
of their scheduled games this past weekend.
"We were able to play four nine-inning games,
and that was real important to us," Maloney said.
"We wanted a lot of our pitchers to get some
work, so that was nice. We pretty much accom-
plished what we needed to accomplish in these
four games."
BRAUER POWER: Redshirt junior Jim Brauer was
having a rough season until Saturday afternoon's
game against Detroit. Prior to that contest, the
pitcher had an ERA of 11.02, and no wins under
his belt.
But last weekend, Brauer may have seen the
light at the end of the tunnel. He struck out a
career-best 13 batters en route to his critical first

JORDAN SI CKLOFF/Daily
Jim Brauer struck out 13 batters during Saturday's contest with Detroit. The total marked a career high for the
Wolverine righty, who is now 1-2 on the season.

win of the season, and his eighth in his time as a
Wolverine.
Maloney was pleased with the progress Brauer
made in the Michigan Classic.
"(Brauer) struggled at the beginning of the sea-
son," Maloney said. "And for him to come out and
do what he did they other day - it's what people
have been expecting of him. We just hadn't seen it."
The coach hopes that Brauer will be able to

continue this positive trend into conference play.
"Hopefully, he can repeat it and get on a roll
here," Maloney said. "Because he's got quality
stuff - he's got number-one stuff, he just needs
the confidence."
The pitcher's 13 strikeouts in seven innings are
the most for Michigan since 2002, when Bobby
Korecky had 13 in a complete-game shutout at
Texas-San Antonio.

a

Hammond returns to mound at the Fish

By Ryan Sosin
Daily Sports Writer
Redshirt sophomore Paul Ham-
mond's return to the pitcher's mound
at the Fish was reward for two years
of hard work in rehab following
Tommy John surgery. Yesterday, he
made his fifth appearance on the sea-
son, his first at
home since his
comeback began.
In April 2002,
Hammond was
looking to be one
of a handful of
talented new arms
in the Wolverines'
arsenal. Interim
coach Chris Har-
rison had named Hammond
him the team's closer and the fresh-
man was rolling along. When he came
in to pitch against Illinois on April 13,
2002, something felt wrong in his
elbow. His fastball still had its usual
velocity, so Hammond stayed in and
kept pitching. Then Illinois' Dusty
Bensko stepped into the box with a 3-
1 count.
"I, threw a fastball. It was a strike,
but I couldn't feel it," Hammond said.
"I couldn't feel my arm"
He told Harrison that he needed to

be taken out. It would be two years
from when Hammond left the mound
at Illinois until he would find himself
in a game again. Hammond spent
most of the following two seasons as
the Michigan baseball team's biggest
cheerleader while rehabbing his elbow.
He was at practice everyday, and in
uniform when the team played at The
Fish -just not out on the field.
"I don't know what I would do if I
wasn't able to be around all the guys,"
Hammond said. "That's probably 90
percent of the great thing about being
on the team: your teammates."
Yesterday marked his return to the
mound at The Fish, a place where he
had pitched a mere three times.
Bubba Sparxxx's "Deliverance," the
song that Hammond chose to be
played every time he enters a game,
stopped blasting out of The Fish
loudspeaker. After throwing his
warm-up pitches, he came set to
deliver his first official pitch in Ann
Arbor in two years. But before he
began his wind up, he stepped off the
rubber to take a moment to shake the
butterflies.
"I came set and felt my back leg shak-
ing" Hammond said. "I had to step off."
That's when sophomore third base-
man A.J. Scheidt chimed in to help
calm Hammond down. But Scheidt

didn't offer the usual "just playing
catch" or "we are behind you" piece
of advice.
"We all had this big turmoil over
what our mound/plate songs were
going to be," Hammond said. "So
when mine came on, (A.J.) goes
'great choice, great decision."'
That did the trick. Hammond re-
toed the rubber and began to show the
home crowd what he could do. Using
his hard curveball, Hammond froze
the first two Detroit batters and sent
them back to the dugout for excessive
window shopping.
When his day was done, and fresh-
man Dan Lentz came in to replace
him, Hammond had finished with a
pair of scoreless innings, having
yielded only one baserunner.
"I was very pleased with Paul's per-
formance this weekend," Michigan
coach Rich Maloney said. "He's
showing signs. His consistency still
needs to improve, but the last few
times he's gone out have been better."
Pitching for Michigan again was an
opportunity that Hammond didn't
know if he would get again. As his
rehab was entering full swing and his
sophomore year was starting, Ham-
mond was faced with a new coach,
one who had never seen him pitch
before.

"I was so nervous," Hammond said.
"(Maloney and I) didn't get a chance to
talk that whole summer. When we came
back (to school, Maloney) told me
'Hey, I know you're good, we are going
to work your butt off ... and then come
back next fall and be ready to play."'
Yesterday's showing is slowly
becoming the norm for Hammond.
After struggling in his first three
appearances this year, he has begun to
start throwing strikes more consistent-
ly. Last weekend, he set a career high
in strikeouts with five.
"He's finding his rhythm and get-
ting better and better each time
out," Michigan pitching coach John
Lowery said. "If he's going to be a
guy we are going to count on, he's
going to have to throw those pitches
for strikes."
Whether he returns to the closer
role he seemed destined for as a
freshman or becomes a long reliever
is still in question. But what's not in
question to Hammond is that the
baseball diamond is where he wants
to be.
"I always thought that baseball
wasn't everything to me, which it still
isn't, but it's a lot," Hammond said.
"To have that away from me for a year
alone was miserable. I don't ever want
to go through that again."

M' NINE
Continued from Page 113
was hard to keep it up," Maloney said.
"It's a concern, but I still consider
fielding to be a strength of the team."
While the defense was not particu-
larly stellar, the offense was solid again
against the Grizzlies, as it was all
weekend. Right fielder Matt Butler
capped off a great weekend by going
2-for-4 with two RBI's. Butler's week-
end included a line-drive grand slam
homerun down the right field line, a
crowd pleaser during Michigan's 17-2
win over Detroit on Saturday.
First basemen Kyle Bohm also
contributed, going 3-for-3 with two
doubles and one RBI. Both of
Bohm's doubles were line drive
shots that came a few feet from
clearing the fences.
"(This weekend) I just saw the ball
really well, and I was able to relax and
get some good hacks in," Bohm said.
While Bohm and Butler provided
some power, small-ball tactics pro-
duced many of the Wolverines' runs.

"Small ball has been a part of our
philosophy all year long, since we
don't have a whole lot of power," Mal-
oney said. "We want to take advantage
of the speed we recruited."
While Penn closed the series with
sound pitching, the whole weekend
showcased good pitching by the
Wolverines. Redshirt junior Jim
Brauer struck out a career-best 13 in
the victory over Detroit on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, sophomore pitcher
Derek Feldkamp tossed seven shutout
innings in the Wolverines' 6-2 victory
over Oakland.
"It was nice to see that we
pitched much better this weekend in
preparation for the Big Ten season,"
Maloney said.
With the home opener behind
them, the Wolverines must now con-
centrate on the Big Ten, opener
against Minnesota at The Fish next
weekend. The Gophers are the pre-
season favorite to win the Big Ten
so the Wolverines must show consis-
tent pitching like they did this past
weekend.

al

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