The Michigan Daily - SportsTuesday - September 7, 2004 - 17A
By Eric Ambinder
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen
figured his team was in trouble.
Rosen sat courtside at the Manhattan
College Invitational on Friday evening
scouting the Wolverines' upcoming oppo-
nents. Earlier in the afternoon, Michigan
beat the Hawks of Maryland-Eastern
Shore 3-0 and now Rosen was watching
Manhattan, the host team, battle American
University. As he watched, Rosen noticed
American's athleticism and knew that the
Eagles would be tough to cage.
"I thought when we watched (Ameri-
can) play on Friday, we were going to have
a tough time competing with them (on Sat-
urday) unless we got a lot better," Rosen
Rosen felt Michigan could improve
dramatically from Friday afternoon's win
over the Hawks in the first match of the
"As a team, I didn't think we played very
well (against Maryland-Eastern Shore),"
Rosen said. "I just thought we made a lot
of errors, gave up a lot of free points, just
not very sharp."
So how would the Wolverines react?
By breaking a 12-year-old record. Then,
defeating American in the title game, 3-1.
Before the championship-game against
the Eagles, Michigan set a school-record
.525 hitting percentage in its 3-0 victory
over Manhattan on Saturday afternoon.
Its previous high was a .524 effort against
Iowa in 1991.
Rosen altered his line-up for the Jas-
pers, giving the veterans more playing
time. Rosen said the change allowed senior
Jennifer Gandolph to be more productive
- she led the Wolverines with 12 kills and
committed just one attack error.
After the win against Manhattan, Rosen
felt like Michigan's "process" - how
the team executed and played during the
match - was much stronger against Man-
hattan than it had been against Maryland-
Eastern Shore. As the Wolverines huddled
before the title match, Rosen emphasized
to his team that the process is always more
important than statistics or outcomes.
Outcomes - like the 3-0 win against the
Hawks - can sometimes be deceiving if
the process is not working well.
And, once again, Rosen was right.
After dropping the first game to Ameri-
Scan, the Wolverines rebounded with
improved serving and defense in game
two despite the Eagles' extremely efficient
"(American) hit .378 in game two and
we still beat them," Rosen said. "When
Rookie pitcher goes yard in Astros win
HOUSTON (AP) - The crowd was on its feet,
beckoning the latest slugging surprise in the Houston
Astros' vaunted offense to re-emerge from the dug-
Already seated and oblivious to the cheers, Bran-
don Backe didn't stir from his daze until his team-
mates nudged him back outside.
"I was just excited thinking about the home run,"
said the 26-year-old pitcher, who was making only his
fourth career start. "I was going to go down and sit in
my little hole, but they told me to get out there."
Backe hit his first career homer, a two-run shot,
and allowed one run in seven innings to keep the
Astros in the thick of the NL wild-card chase with an
11-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday - their
season-high 10th straight victory.
Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent also
homered for Houston, on its longest win streak in five
years. The Astros have won 18 of 21 since Aug. 15,
the best record in the majors during that stretch.
The Astros closed within a game of NL wild-card
leaders Chicago and San Francisco. Houston, a sea-
son-high 11 games over .500 at 74-63, hasn't been
within striking range of the Cubs and Giants in more
than three months.
"They are not missing anything at the plate," Reds
manager Dave Miley said. "If you make a mistake,
they hit it and they hit it hard."
Backe (3-2) virtually shut down the Reds after giv-
ing up three hits and a run-scoring single to D'Angelo
Jimenez in the first. He gave up only four singles
from there, finishing with a career-high eight strike-
outs and a walk.
But it was Backe's performance at the plate that
was the biggest surprise.
Backe went 2-for-2 with a walk, including the two-
run shot in the fourth that gave Houston a 5-1 lead.
"It was my big dream to be a hitter in the major
leagues," said Backe, who was drafted by Tampa Bay
in 1998 as a second baseman. "I never thought I'd be
a pitcher. My hitting skills are still there. I practice
all the time behind closed doors."
The crowd of 40,581 gave Backe a standing ovation
as rounded the bases and didn't stop the cheers until
he came out from the dugout to doff his cap. It was
the first homer by an Astros pitcher since Ron Vil-
lone did it against the Reds on Aug. 15, 2003.
"I asked (manager Phil) Garner, 'Did we just win
the World Series or what?"' Berkman said. "I didn't
know what was going on."
Said catcher Brad Ausmus : "I just wanted to make
sure he didn't get too full of himself after that home
run. I've played for over 11 years and I've never had
a curtain call."
Houston's powerful offense did the rest.
The Astros, who've averaged nearly 10 runs a game
during its win streak, roughed up Reds starter Aaron
Harang for the second time in six days.
Harang (8-8) allowed seven runs on nine hits,
including four homers, in four innings for his fifth
loss in six decisions. Harang also gave up four hom-
ers in an 8-0 loss to Houston last week.
"I was listening to their TV announcers and they
said somebody is going to have to throw an absolute
gem of a game to stop them and get them out of their
rhythm," Harang said. "I agree. And I don't see that
Bagwell connected in the first to extend his season-
best hitting streak to 11 games, tying the game at 1-1.
Berkman and Kent led off the fourth with back-to-
back homers before Backe's two-out, two-run shot.
Bagwell added an RBI double in the fifth and Mike
Lamb followed with a run-scoring single. Houston
added four more runs in the sixth after Bagwell was
hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Kent walked and
Lamb hit a two-run single.
Cincinnati's Adam Dunn scored in the eighth on
a fielding error by Lamb. Juan Castro's three-run
homer in the ninth cut the Reds' deficit to 11-5. It was
his fourth homer of the season and it drove in Darren
Bragg and Ryan Freel, both of whom walked.
The Astros have won six straight against the Reds,
outscoring them 54-16 during that stretch.
Michigan won the Manhattan College invitational this weekend, defeating
Maryland-Eastern Shore 3-0, Manhattan 3-0, and American University 3-1.
you hit .378 in a game, you're pretty sure
you're going to win."
Tied at 1-1, Michigan played its best vol-
leyball of the young season in games three
and four, defeating the Eagles 30-22 and
30-27 to win the championship.
Senior Lisa Gamalski earned Tourna-
ment MVP honors. In the decisive match,
Gamalski recorded 54 assists and 14 digs
- the first double-double of Michigan's
"Lisa had a great tournament," Rosen
said. "This is her fifth year in the program
and she really is one of the best setters out
there. She really had to figure out how to
make this team go, andI really thought she
did a great job."
Gandolph earned All-Tournament
Team honors despite off-season shoulder
surgery, notching 40 kills in three games.
On the team bus back to the airport, a
day after the record-setting match took
place, Rosen was informed of the accom-
plishment and then told his team.
"Oh, that's kind of nice," Rosen said to
himself, prouder of the process than the
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