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April 16, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Aril 16, 2004
sports.michigandaily. com

OReTSirh-gan Baij


- - -------- - -- ------

Illinois, 'Itch'
set to square
with 'M' Nine
By Megan Kolodgy
Daily Sports Writer
If coaching experience is any indication of a
team's quality, the Michigan baseball team (5-3 Big
Ten, 16-12 overall) will have to watch its back this
weekend when Illinois rolls into town for a battle of
The Fighting Illini (3-5, 10-17) are led by Richard
"Itch" Jones, who is one of the 20 all-time win-

Schmucker finds Blue
thanks to twist of fate

By Seth Gordon
Daily Sports Writer

ningest coaches in NCAA
Division I history, boasting
a .623 career win average
in 35 seasons.
Michigan coach Richard
Maloney, who goes by
Rich, has the utmost
respect for the coaching
"4t b i io -

flm~~ 1p.m.
R~y P~her Stadiurtk

Itch is just a great
coach," Maloney said. "Last year he sent a guy
when the ball slipped through the gap. We threw the
ball to second, and he kept sending the guy to third,
sent him home, and he got in. He's a really good
coach, and I respect him very much, as well as the
But the last couple of seasons Jones's squads have
not been as successful. The Fighting Illini have fall-
en short of making it to the Big Ten Tournament
during this time, but the coach has still managed to
turn out three All-Americans and the Big Ten Medal
of Honor winner, which is based on a combination
of academic and athletic achievements.
This year, Illinois boasts Big Ten co-Pitcher of the
Week Tim Gorski. Last weekend, the righthander
threw his first career shutout and a four-hitter in
seven innings en route to breaking Michigan State's
12-game winning streak.
This week, Maloney has tried to prepare the
Wolverines for Jones's sometimes-unorthodox
coaching style.
"They're going to run a lot," Maloney said.
"They're not textbook. Quite frankly, we've just got
to play our game, and by that I mean solid defense
in terms of strikes. We didn't do that (on Wednes-
day), and we got away with it. But we've got to get
back to doing that. If we do, it could be a pretty
good game."
Michigan is coming off a 14-13 win over Central
Michigan on Wednesday, in which it had four errors.
"I certainly think (the win) is a positive, although

Coming from tiny Cold Springs,
Minn. - population 3,000 - soph-
omore Amy Schmucker has found a
home at Michigan, and on the
women's golf team. But she never
would have come to Ann Arbor if
not for a twist of fate.
Coming out of high school,
Schmucker had signed a letter of
intent to play for the University of
Minnesota. But she was put in a diffi-
cult situation when budget cuts forced
the school to eliminate the program.
Left with no team to play for,
Schmucker turned to a friend - fellow
Minnesota native and current Michigan
captain Laura Olin. The two had met
while playing junior golf, and Olin
brought Schmucker's case to Michigan
coach Kathy Teichert.
"My parents told me about the
Minnesota team, and I thought, 'What
is Amy going to do?'" Olin said.
In the end, everything worked out.
Schmucker is now preparing to
make her 24th consecutive start for
the Wolverines as they travel to Pur-
due for the Lady Boilermaker Invi-
tational this weekend.
But in the beginning, Schmucker
faced a difficult transition from
small town to college campus.
"I was incredibly home sick when
I first came here," Schmucker said.
"But what's really nice about being
an athlete is that, when I came, I had
I1 automatic friends on the team.
What I love about this team is that we
take really good care of our fresh-
men. The first month I came to
school, someone called me every sin-
gle night to see if I didn't have a ton
of school work to do, to see if I want-
ed to go out, so that I wasn't just sit-
ting in my room, missing home."
Olin has become one of
Schmucker's best friends. They
spend summers playing golf back
in Minnesota, and Schmucker even
has her own room in the Olin fami-

ly home.
After Olin's brother graduated
from college and moved out, short
visits often extended to week-long
stays, with Schmucker taking up
residence in the vacated room.
"Amy is definitely my closest
friend on the team," Olin said. "I
always look to her for advice. That's
why it's great that we can play tour-
naments in the summer. I can look
at her and she'll say, 'You're just
taking it back too far.' In the middle
of the summer, its huge."
Now that she has adjusted, Schmuck-
er has fallen in love with Michigan. For
someone who once thought she would
never leave her home state, she says
fate has played a great role in how her
life has unfolded.
"Everything happens for a rea-
son," Schmucker said. "So I guess
that really worked in my (favor)."
"I think it was definitely a bless-
ing in disguise," Olin said of the
circumstances that brought her
friend to Michigan.
On the bubble for the NCAA Tour-
nament, the Wolverines have just two
tournaments left to earn a berth -
the Lady Boilermaker Invitational
this weekend and the upcoming Big
Ten Tournament April 23 through 25.
This weekend at Purdue,
Schmucker and the Wolverines will
face a field of Big Ten teams,
including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan
State, Northwestern, Purdue and
Wisconsin. Minnesota, which was
reinstated after a one-year break,
will also compete.
After two weeks of practice,
Schmucker is confident that Michi-
gan can give a strong performance
this weekend.
"Ideally, I would like to see us
finish in the top three," Schmucker
said. "I don't think there is a team
in that tournament that we can't
beat on any given day. Everyone has
been working really hard, so I think
that this should be a really good
tournament for us."

Michigan coach Rich Maloney Is set to face Illinois and coach Richard "Itch" Jones this weekend at The Fish.

we found out where some of our deficiencies are in
the field," Maloney said.
But the Wolverines will also have plenty to bring
to the table. The other Big Ten co-Pitcher of the
Week is none other than Michigan sophomore Derek
Michigan will also have to deal with the tribula-
tions of the end of the school year. Illinois has a
couple of weeks before school's out for the summer.
"I think there's no doubt about it; the stress of
exams and things like that is huge for these student-
athletes," Maloney said. "Our guys have done a
good job working really hard on both facets, and I'm

really proud of them for that. But definitely, your
mind has to be in two places, and rightfully so."
Although the Wolverines will have quite a bit to
deal with this weekend, Maloney is confident that
this weekend's games against Illinois will be some-
thing to see.
"It's a big series for both clubs," Maloney said.
"Illinois is going to want to get back into the
hunt, and we want to be a contender, so it's going
to be important that we find a way to win the

series. They've
to have to play
a challenge."

got a great ball club. We're going
really well to win. It's going to be

* Blue targeted due to high standard

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer

As one of the top teams in the Big
Ten, Michigan has a huge target on its
back, week in and week out. Everyone
strives to beat the Wolverines, as they are
the ones who set the standard for play.
This weekend, Michigan's softball
team will head to Champaign and Iowa
City to face Illinois and Iowa, respec-
tively. The Wolverines play the Fighting
Illini on Friday and Saturday, and the
Hawkeyes in a doubleheader on Sunday.
Iowa is tied with Michigan for first, and
Illinois is one game back.
Going into the weekend that could
make or break its run for a Big Ten title,
Michigan is focusing on its own play.
According to coach Carol Hutchins, the
Wolverines prepare the same way,
regardless of whether they play the best
or worst team in the conference.
"We don't look at any of our oppo-
nents (differently)," Hutchins said. "We
only care about Michigan. Every oppo-
nent counts the same, every win and
every loss counts the same."
Illinois is fairly new to the Big Ten
softball scene. The program first faced
Michigan just three years ago. With
three consecutive top-six conference
finishes, the Fighting Illini are a force to
be reckoned with. This season alone,
Illinois has defeated multiple teams in
the top 25, including Louisiana State
and Texas A&M twice. Illinois has also
won seven of its last 10 games and, like
the Wolverines did two weeks ago, the
Fighting Illini swept both Indiana and
Purdue on the road last weekend.
Senior third baseman Erin Jones has
01 MY GOD!!

been a big contributor in the Fighting
Illini's success in conference play. She
went 7-for-13 during last weekend's
road trip, raising her Big Ten batting
average to a team-leading .385.
Iowa, on the other hand, has long been
Michigan's nemesis. Only a handful of
teams can boast a winning record against
the Wolverines lately, but the Hawkeyes
are one of the best. Michigan owns a 37-
50-1 all-time record against Iowa.
This year's contests will be no easier
than those over the last 20 years, as the
Hawkeyes return 2003 Big Ten Pitcher
of the Year Lisa Birocci, who is cur-
rently 15-8 with a 0.92 ERA. Birocci
was named Big Ten Pitcher of the
Week last week, going 5-0 with a per-

fect zero earned-run average and 32
strikeouts. Yesterday, she led the
Hawkeyes to a 4-0 win over Iowa State.
With yesterday's victory, Iowa coach
Gayle Blevins has won 999 games and
is on the verge of becoming only the
third coach in Division I history to
reach the 1,000-win plateau. Should
the Hawkeyes falter against Coe Col-
lege this evening, they will be going for
the milestone on Sunday.
Regardless of the distractions that
milestones, hostile crowds or records
may pose, Michigan will focus on itself.
"What we do a really good job at is
not getting too up for anybody,"
Hutchins said. "We try to stay focused
on us."

'uA 4,&M


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WHERE: The University of Michigan Diag
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 2004 at 7:00 p.m.
Make your voice heard- a march and rally to
protest sexualized violence. Rally will include
speakers, creative expressionists, and a keynote
naltaS by o ervinr artivist Sara Ylen.

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