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March 31, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-31

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Thursday
March 31, 2005
sports. michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

RETidSigan Bail

9A

'M' Nine
slugs out
win In Ypsi
By Matt Singer
Daily Sports Writer
YPSILANTI - In a game that featured never-end-
ing twists and turns, it wasn't surprising that the game-
deciding play was a bizarre one.
With the score tied at 12 in the top of the eighth
inng, Matt Butler, one of
Michigan's best clutch hit- MICHIGAN 18
ters, stepped to the plate. With
the bases loaded and two outs,
it appeared to be the perfect opportunity for the
senior captain to once again deliver a big hit for the
Wolverines.
But Butler could only manage a weak chopper off
Eastern Michigan pitcher Tim Gray. The ball bounced
its way to Eagles second baseman Brett Witczak, who
appeared to have the play under control. But somehow,
the ball got past Witczak and trickled into centerfield.
Two runs came in on the play, and Michigan took the
lead for good.
"I kind of tied myself up there," Butler said. "It wasn't
a great swing - I'm glad it got through. It was going to
be a pretty close play at first. Thankfully, it went into
play, and, thankfully, we got some runs."
Michigan's 18-12 victory was its 10th in a row, while
Eastern Michigan (1-2 MAC, 6-15 overall) has now
dropped nine of its last 12 games. Despite the teams' drasti-
cally different records, the Wolverines (16-3) had to scratch
and claw to come up with the win at Oestrike Stadium.
"We didn't play well - it's obvious," Michigan coach
Rich Maloney said. "We walked too many guys, hit too
many guys, made too many errors. But our hitters had a
solid day today, and they just bailed us out. It was one of
those games where we battled our way through and just
found a way to win."
Witczak's crucial misplay in the eighth was just one
glaring error in a mistake-filled ballgame. The teams
combined for seven errors, five hit batsmen, three wild
pitches, two passed balls and a balk.
"There's no sugarcoating it - we were a bit of a cir-
cus today," Butler said.
The game was sloppy right from the get-go. In the
first inning, with runners at the corners and junior A.J.
Scheidt at the plate, junior Chris Getz took off from first.
Eagles catcher Brad Hrovat made a wild throw, and But-
ler scored from third for the game's first run.
Keeping with the theme of the afternoon, Michigan
sophomore Andrew Hess provided an erratic two-and-
one-third innings in his first start of the season. Hess
walked four batters, hit two, threw a wild pitch and com-
mitted a balk. Ironically, he only gave up one hit - Isiah

For Maize Rage, it's
more than a game

TONY DING/Daily

Senior catcher Jeff Kinkel went 4-for-4 in Michigan's 18-12 victory over Eastern Michigan yesterday.

Gainforth's three-run round-tripper that gave Eastern
Michigan a 5-3 lead and chased Hess from the game.
"(Hess) was real shaky," Maloney said. "He's got
great stuff, but he's got to keep working."
Redshirt junior reliever Ali Husain fared no better,
surrendering four runs in just one inning of work. By
the end of the fourth inning, the Eagles had amassed a
9-4 lead, and the Wolverines' situation looked bleak. But
Michigan's bats were just waiting to explode.
Over the next two innings, 18 Wolverine batters
stepped to the plate. During that span, they smacked
eight hits, drew two walks, crossed home plate eight
times and retook the lead, 12-9.
Despite the Michigan onslaught, the underdog
Eagles would not surrender. Eastern Michigan
opened the bottom of the sixth with two straight
singles off senior reliever Phil Tognetti. Redshirt
freshman reliever Clayton Richard relieved Tognetti
but gave up singles to the first three batters he faced,
allowing Eastern Michigan to knot the game at 12.
Richard was charged with one earned run - the first
of his Michigan career.
But in the end, Michigan managed to come away
with the victory. Butler's awkward chopper in the eighth
put the Wolverines ahead, and junior Mike Schmidt's
ninth-inning moonshot off the scoreboard in left-cen-

terfield provided key insurance runs.
And after giving up 12 runs in the first six innings,
Michigan's pitching staff settled down in the final
three. Junior Jeff Niemiec earned the win with two
scoreless innings of relief work, and redshirt freshman
Brad Seddon shut the door in the ninth to complete the
four-hour contest.
While its pitching and fielding were shaky at best,
Michigan had no trouble in the batter's box. The Wol-
verines pounded 21 hits and hit .467 on the afternoon,
including a 4-for-4 performance by redshirt junior
catcher Jeff Kunkel. He wasn't alone - seven Michigan
players smacked at least two hits.
"We came out and swung the bats today," Butler
said. "The middle of the order did the job, and that's
a great positive."
With another notch on its belt, Michigan can now
focus on this weekend's Big Ten opener at Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers have played inconsistent ball
throughout their nonconference season but are a peren-
nial conference powerhouse. In order to assert their posi-
tion at the top of the Big Ten, the Wolverines know they
must play crisper ball at the Metrodome.
"I know the guys were looking forward to the Min-
nesota series," Maloney said. "There's no doubt about
that. But at least we found a way to win.""

JOSH HOLMAN
Part Icon, Whole Man
ake a look around at the teams
that make up this year's Final
Four: Illinois, Michigan State,
Louisville and North Carolina.
Now look at the armies that back them
in the heat of battle: the Orange Krush,
the Izzone, the L-Raisers and a rowdy
group of students that make the "Dean
Dome" one of the toughest places to play
in college basketball.
The common thread that ties all these
sections together is the successful era
they rose out of. The Orange Krush
and the Izzone have been the most
notable student bodies in Big Ten bas-
ketball since Illinois and Michigan State
became the most notable teams, while
student sections at North Carolina and
Louisville have each ridden the popular
waves of a coach - one who has already
retired (Dean Smith) and one who just
arrived (Rick Pitino).
And it is this fact that makes Mich-
igan's Maize Rage stand out from all
the others. While some organizations
needed success to grow, the Maize Rage
grew from the ashes of the Ellerbe era,
perhaps the darkest chapter in Michigan
basketball history.
Maize Rage lore - or word of mouth
- pinpoints the beginning of the Maize
Rage on Jeff Holzhausen, better known as
Superfan I. With the help of Tom Brooks,
Michigan's director of sports marketing,
one passionate fan helped start the organi-
zation during the 2000-01 season.
Now, with little help from a subpar bas-
ketball team, the group has grown to 1,600
or so ticket holders this past season. It is
now directed by the newly anointed Super-
fan VI, LSA junior Griffin Hickman, and
a "core" of roughly 40 students that handle
the administrative responsibilities.
"People have seen what we have been
able to do in the past, even with the lack
of success on the season," Hickman said.
"It's not that much of a commitment. It's
enough that you're involved in something
and you really feel like you're helping
the basketball team."
The growth of the Maize Rage on
campus has-been as much of a success
story over the past four years as any
varsity team's tale. The first few years of
meetings amounted to not much more
than a dozen guys (and maybe a girl)
sitting around talking hoops - just like
any old house with a bunch of guys (plus
that one girl) might do.
"Freshmen kind of came, and you
might throw in a comment every now

and then, but you really didn't feel like
you were there for a reason," Maize Rage
president Dave Stuart Jr. said.
Yes, that's right. The Maize Rage has
a president. The core members elected
the Education junior to shoulder the
responsibility of an administrative head,
something that was becoming increas-
ingly difficult for the Superfan in the
growing organization.
"You could say (I have the easier
job)," Hickman said. "But I think I'm
going to keep my foot in the door and
keep my hand in the mix of the adminis-
trative stuff."
Give the guy a break He's Superfan,
not Superman.
The Maize Rage hasn't just branched
out in hierarchy, either. In fact, some of
the biggest steps that the Maize Rage has
taken have been away from the court.
A year ago, the Rage put out a call to
local high schools, offering its services.
Homer High School responded, and
soon the Maize Rage was spreading
its influence across the state. It spoke
to student leaders and assisted at a pep
rally at Homer High School, teaching the
students how to stay behind their team
while keeping the cheers clean.
"The game they played that night after
our pep rally, they went on a 20-0 run to
start the game," Stuart said.
The positive feedback sparked Pioneer
High School in Ann Arbor, and it is cur-
rently working with the Maize Rage to
improve its student section.
Now, with a positive reputation out-
side the University, the Maize Rage is
hoping to turn its sights back on its own
territory. A new outreach committee
has been formed to improve the Maize
Rage's visibility on campus.
"There are a lot of people who still
don't know what the Maize Rage is,"
Hickman. "They'll call us the Maize
Craze or just a bunch of people in yellow
shirts. We really want to make the Maize
Rage something that is out there."
With the man power available, Stuart
and Hickman hope that the Maize Rage
is in a position to become a constant
fixture on campus. Whether it comes
through volunteering in University activ-'
ities or showing up at sporting events as
random as water polo, the Maize Rage
hopes it can make its presence felt.
And that includes priority No. 1 of
course - the Michigan basketball team.'
"I really think a lot of people are look-
ing forward to next year," Hickman said.
"Maybe not the year, but it will be better
than 04-05."
If that kind of optimism has gotten the '
Maize Rage this far, I'm ready to believe.
Josh Holman wonders what Michigan's
record over the past four years would
have been without the Maize Rage. He
can be reached at holmanj@umich.edu.

Return to field a mied bag for Blue duo

By Pete Sneider
Daily Sports Writer
YPSILANTI - Sophomore Eric
Rose and junior A.J. Scheidt each
started their first game of the season in
the field yesterday, as the Wolverines
defeated Eastern Michigan 18-12 at
Oestrike Stadium.
One looked to be in mint condition,
while the other showed a little rust.
Rose started 49 games in centerfield
last season and led all freshmen with a.317
batting average. But a stress fracture to the
right side of his L5 - the largest part of
the vertebrae - kept him on the bench for
the first 18 games of this season.
"It was exciting (to get back on the
field)," Rose said. "I've been waiting, I've
been rehabbing - just waiting to get back
and play because we have an exceptional

team this year."
It didn't take long for Rose to show that
he was fully recovered. Leaving his feet
and in full extension, Rose made a diving
catch in left-centerfield to rob Eastern's
Ryan Arnett of a base hit to end the sec-
ond inning.
"I take pride in my defense and getting
the chance to help out the pitcher like that,"
Rose said. "It's one of the most important
things to me."
The outstanding grab also provided
some comfort for Michigan coach Rich
Maloney.
"He's our guy, and they finally deemed
him healthy," said Maloney. "And seeing
that catch he made in center, he's our
centerfielder."
Scheidt also made his season debut in
the field yesterday. But Scheidt struggled
to find his groove at the hot corner, com-

mitting two errors and misplaying a cou-
ple of routine ground balls.
"Obviously, it was a little rough,"
Scheidt said. "I really appreciate the
opportunity to get back out there because
we've got a lot of depth. I know my arm
is ready to go. It's just about getting my
glove back to shape."
Scheidt started all 60 games at third
base in 2004, but he began this season as
the designated hitter due to an arm injury.
Up until that point, freshman Derek Van-
Buskirk and junior Alex Martin had been
sharing time at third base.
Fortunately, for Scheidt the shoulder
injury has not affected his bat hitting.
Scheidt is batting .355 with 15 RBI on the
year.
Yesterday's game allowed Maloney
to explore some defensive options before
heading into this weekend's Big Ten

opener against Minnesota. Maloney also
switched up the middle of the infield,
with sophomore Leif Mahler at second
base and junior Chris Getz at shortstop.
"(That switch) was just keeping our
options open," Scheidt said. "Because you
never know when someone is going to go
down, so you want to have a little bit of
experience in all those areas."

Merchant's homer kickstarts 'M'

By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer
BOWLING GREEN - The crowd gave an ohhhhh and an
ahhhhhhh as they watched the ball soar through the air during
the first inning.
Facing a 2-1 count, Jessica Merchant had turned on a pitch
from Bowling Green junior Liz Vrabel and cranked it over the
left-centerfield fence.
"(Vrabel) went outside with the first
two and the umpire called a strike that BOWLI
was little off the outside of the plate."
Merchant said. "So I moved up on the plate a little and just
looked for the outside corner."
With a 1-0 lead after the senior's 11th homerun of the season,
the No. 1 Michigan softball team never looked back, defeating
Bowling Green 6-0.
Although the Wolverines jumped out on top early, Bowling
Green (10-17) continued to stay close while Michigan (32-1)
struggled to get into a flow offensively. Through the first six
innings, the Wolverines mustered only three runs.
But in the seventh inning, the bats finally began to warm
up as freshman Samantha Findlay hammered a homerun
over the leftfield fence, and junior Tiffany Haas hit a homer
to left-centerfield.
"I thought our at bats got better as the game went on, and that
was a key for us," Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. "It still
goes back to (the fact that) you need to play defense until you
can get your offense going."
The Wolverines did a solid job in the field with only two
errors on the day. During the first inning, Haas had to go deep

TONY DING/Daily
Senior Jessica Merchant hit a game-winning homer in the first.
tossed it to Merchant, who was covering second. Then, on the
turn to first, Merchant was able to whip the ball to Findlay, who
made a nice stretch to stop any kind of Falcon momentum.
Hutchins told her pitchers before the game that they were
going into the game as if it were a relief situation and they also
needed to work on their pitches. Michigan saw three pitchers
t-hrn nyyi ('fn11IIine # ne-htter_

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