*April 5, 2005
s sports. michigandaily.com
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By Seth Gordon
Daily Sports Writer
With the return of its top two pitchers -
senior Nicole Motycka and junior Jennie Ritter
- the Michigan softball team looked poised to
make another run to the Women's College World
Series at the season's start.
So far, so good.
The Wolverines (3-1 Big Ten, 35-2 overall)
have already established a school-record 32-
game winning streak and have taken the No. 1
ranking in both national polls.
But what wasn't expected has been the emer-
gence of sophomore Laurilyn Wilson as the
team's No. 2 pitcher.
Unexpected because, last year, Wilson was
used sparingly, often facing weaker opponents
to give Motycka and Ritter some rest.
"In high school, I was the only pitcher on the
team," Wilson said. "No matter how bad I was
doing, my coaches couldn't take me out. Here
you have the coaches breathing down your neck,
and you know that if you make a mistake, they're
going to pull you. That was an adjustment."
Unexpected because Wilson has raced out to
a 14-1 record against top-notch competition -
including two perfect innings of relief in Michi-
gan's 6-2 victory over then-No. 1 Arizona at the
Kia Classic on March 20.
"I have consistency and confidence this year,"
Wilson said. "Last year, it was a whole new set-
ting. I didn't have the confidence that I had in
high school. Then, over the summer, I worked a
lot on my mechanics in pitching - using my legs
more. I'm throwing better all around on a more
The sophomore hurler's hard work has resulted
in another change - turning in her No. 17 jersey
for No. 1. Wilson approached Michigan coach
Carol Hutchins about the switch and was told she
needed to improve her conditioning before she
could wear No. 1.
"She's improved from last year," Hutchins said.
"She improved in the fall. She's improved from
game one to now, and she continues to get better.
She hasn't let anything snowball. She's done a tre-
mendous job of taking it one pitch at a time."
Wilson had another opportunity this past
Amidst the chaos
AST LANSING - Michigan
State senior Dean Conway busted
through his apartment door and
rushed to the bathroom sink to wipe the
tears from his eyes.
The Spartans' dream season was over
- K-Izz-O'ed by the Tar Heels in the
However, Conway, who had been
punching counter-tops and refrigerator
doors in frustration during the second
half of the game, wasn't sad.
He just wanted to wash away the
Thousands of students - myself
included - naively departed from
bars, apartments and our sanity on to
the streets of East Lansing after the
Spartans' Final Four loss early Sunday
morning. We all heard stories about
the riots in 1999, when State lost to
Duke in the Final Four.
I had expectations.
The presence of horse-mounted police
in full riot gear roaming the streets by
halftime seemed more alluring to drunk-
en fans than the prospect of Spartan
cheerleaders offering free lap dances.
Helicopters with spotlights ...
Those Darth Vader-like masks ...
Policemen that lined the rooftops of
nearby apartment buildings...
How could we resist that?
Fans chanted, "Go Green, Go White,"
rather peacefully until the East Lansing
Police Department ordered the few thou-
sand quasi-peaceful fans, with a mega-
phone, to disperse from the streets of
the Cedar Village apartment area - the
Then the camaraderie began.
Even Mama-Bear couldn't quite
teach such a lesson to Brother Bear
and Sister Bear.
The police should be proud. Students
united against them in kick-the-tear-gas
matches, gathered on roadsides to share
advice on where to go to escape the lat-
est wave of the Civil Disturbance Fog-
gers and even welcomed strangers into
their apartments for water to quench the
throat-stinging, eye-watering, face-burn-
ing effect of the gas.
In Cedar Village apartment hall-
ways, revolving waves of students
exchanged stories, holding shirts over
their noses. Then, for whatever reason,
they ventured back outside to create
"I came up to one of the officers
who just tear-gassed me, and I asked
him where to go (to get out of the
area)," one student told me while I
waited in line at a convenience store
to buy more beer as tear-gas canisters
boomed outside. "He wouldn't answer
me, so I threw up on him."
The students who tried to get home
had to fend for themselves.
A manager at the Grand River Avenue
McDonald's blocked the entryway to the
store as a plume of gas began to engulf
the assembled crowd near the door, caus-
ing them to scatter in all directions.
A friend of mine "found" himself near
a bonfire of telephone books and chairs.
He said exploding tear-gas canisters were
launched toward him from all directions.
Forced into an apartment building, he
cowered in a ground-floor hallway with
a Michigan State student who was cry-
ing from exposure to the tear gas, which
had been so thick that it began filling the
corridor. He said tenants heard them and
invited them inside for a glass of water
and wouldn't let them leave until the
I think partygoers learned a lesson
and gained some entertaining stories to
share with the grandkids, gift-wrapped in
And that's why I went to East Lansing
this past weekend. To bond. Around a
major sporting event. With my friends.
Just after Sean May dunked the Tar
Heels ahead by 13 with just over three
minutes remaining in the game, Matt, a
friend of a friend - who scored an 11 on
his latest finance test - began to blame
Michigan students in attendance for the
Sparty's second-half collapse. This had
been the first anti-Wolverine sentiment
of the day, but it was quickly followed by
apologies and hugs.
"But I think I'd rather have my season
end like this than end like Michigan's,"
Eric will never wear the $3.99 Michigan
StateT-shirt he bought in East Lansing on
Saturday. He'll give it to his sister for her
birthday. Eric Ambinder can be reached at
Sophomore Laurilyn Wilson has been a pleasant surprise for the softball team this year.
weekend to prove that she's ready to help carry
the load for the Wolverines. After losing the
first game of her college career, 5-2, to Iowa
on Friday - which also snapped Michigan's
school-record winning streak - Wilson came
back and threw a one-hit shutout against Illi-
nois on Sunday.
"(Last year), she wasn't in a go-to role,"
Hutchins said. "She didn't pitch by need; it was
pitching to try to get her better. This year, that
role has obviously changed."
Wilson's success has also allowed Motycka to
move to the designated hitter spot, where she has
been a big part of the Wolverines' record-setting
offense. In just 37 games, Motycka has contributed
eight of the team's school-record 55 home runs this
season, already passing the former mark of 49.
Motycka continues to work on her pitching,
just in case she is needed, which gives Hutchins
three premier pitchers she can rely on.
"That's the luxury that we've had, having
more than one quality pitcher," Hutchins said.
"It was well noted at the Kia Classic."
It was at the Kia Classic where Wilson stepped
into the national spotlight with a 3-0 record and
19 strikeouts in the tournament.
With Ritter as the clear No. 1 starter - she
is 16-0 this season and carried the Wolverines
through much of the playoffs last year - Wil-
son at No. 2 and Motycka in reserve, Michigan is
actually stronger than it first appeared and could
be back on the road to the World Series.
Recent skid doesn't tell real story
H. JOSE BOSCH
"The Big Ten is ours to win this year."
- Junior A.J. Scheidt
The Michigan baseball team began
the year with high expectations. And
for the first five weeks of the sea-
son, the Wolverines were living up
to those expectations.
They beat then-No. 8 Georgia and
then-No. 10 North Carolina in close
They strung together 10 straight
wins - six of which were on the
road - and dropped just three of
their first 19 games.
But after this weekend, Michigan
is now staring with a 0-4 record in
the Big Ten. Michigan is one of just
two Big Ten teams without a confer-
ence win - and the expectations it
had to begin the season have now
been lowered a bit. Many would con-
sider this a major setback and would
begin to push the panic button, but
what transpired in Minnesota isn't
worth panicking over. And the Wol-
verines know that the season is far
To explain how a team that start-
ed the year 16-3 and then lost four
straight to open the Big Ten season,
one can look at the bats.
Michigan experienced, as a team,
what every individual ball player
experiences over the course of a sea-
son - a hitting slump. Almost the
entire lineup went cold at the same
time. And when a team struggles at
the plate, the defense is put under an
enormous amount of pressure.
During the nonconference sched-
ule, the Wolverines enjoyed the
benefits of a high team batting
average (.327) and profited from
clutch hitting. Against Minnesota,
none of that was there. There were
no runs, no clutch hits, no problem
for the Golden Gophers, who took
advantage of Michigan's cold streak
despite their less-than-stellar offen-
Michigan was also faced with sit-
uations it wasn't used to.
In its 10-game winning streak, the
Wolverines won eight games by more
than three runs. This past weekend,
the first three games were decided
by three runs or fewer.
Junior pitcher Derek Feldkamp hit
just one batter all season - against
Minnesota, he drilled three batters
and left the game before the end of
the second inning.
Incidents like these are just a
few of the indications that the ball
was not bouncing Michigan's way.
Include the collision between junior
Brad Roblin and sophomore Eric
Rose and the ball that bounced over
junior Mike Schmidt's head in the
third game of the series, and Michi-
gan had a large mountain to climb.
The Wolverines still have a light
at the end of the tunnel. With the
exception of the last game of the
weekend, the pitching staff still
looked great against the back-
to-back-to-back defending Big
Ten champions. And Michigan's
defense only committed two errors
all weekend, quite an accomplish-
ment, according to Michigan coach
There are still 28 more games to
play in the Big Ten, and it appears
that it will be a competitive year
for all the teams in the Big Ten (see
Illinois sweeping traditional power-
house Ohio State).
For the Wolverines to get back on
track, they must forget about Min-
nesota and take each series one at a
time. The hitting must come back,
but the entire team does not need to
be hitting like Ted Williams to be
successful. Just a few players need
to step up and lead the team when
it hosts Central Michigan tomorrow
and Iowa over the weekend.
The defense has been playing.well
but must get rid of the few mistakes
that hurt it in a big way against the
And the pitchers must continue
to pitch the same way they have all
High expectations or not, the
Wolverines will be playing the rest
of the season with a chip on their
shoulders, and the rest of the Big
Ten should look out. The Big Ten
can still be theirs to win.
The riot gear and tear gas were in full force this weekend in East Lansing. Authorities
feared student reaction to Michigan State's exit from the Final Four Saturday night.
Circus of a tournament closes out with a pop
Every child remembers the three-ring circus. At every turn, every glance,
there is some kind of distraction going on to grab your attention. Clowns
might be making fools of themselves on one side, while some crazy nut
sticks his head in the mouth of a lion. And usually, the weaker the attraction
is in the center ring, the more likely there is some kind of side plot going on
in those outer rings.g
The three-ring circus known as the
Final Four has folded up the tents and
officially left town, at least until next
year. But the peanut shells and elephantA
remains still litter the grounds, and
the weekend's worth of action has left
everyone with plenty of memories from
all three rings.
The distractions came at all the right
times. During the week-long buildup to
the final battle for college basketball
supremacy, we had the chance to gush
over all the coaches that led their teams Dance Floor
to the promised land. with Josh Holman
After leading his third school to the
Final Four, would Louisville's Rick Pitino become the greatest coach ever
outer ring attraction in the entire circus and place bets among friends on
how much the Sparties up in East Lansing would riot. If you passed on
"drunken chicanery and disorderly conduct" to put your money on "burn-
ing couches and riot-gear level hostility," you probably made a pretty
penny. Good for you.
With the Roy Williams coaching domino effect and Bruce Weber's orange
coat, there were plenty of subplots and freak shows to wolf down as appetiz-
ers. But they just whet our appetite for the main show - the final stunt. This
was one of those rare years where the two best teams in college basketball
squared off in the title game.
The game oozed good basketball. Illinois was down by 13 at the half but
wiped it away like it was nothing by setting the Tournament record for 3-
point attempts in a game (38). And the Illini broke the record with more than
five minutes remaining in the game.
North Carolina's Sean May played the game like a post player who actu-
ally knew what he was doing. His 26 points and nine rebounds were exactly
what the Tar Heels needed to defeat a sound Illini squad.
It was two goods teams squaring off like two good basketball teams are
supposed to. For some reason, that was refreshing to see. (Insert Michigan
basketball joke here.)
Roy Williams finally won his title. His subplot became the main show
during the celebration.
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