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April 15, 2005 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-15

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April 15, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com

PeRmTSigan iailg




Better crunch time play a must

It just wasn't supposed to be this way.
Just two weeks ago, it looked like the Michi-
gan baseball team was headed for a breakout
season. On March 30, the Wolverines headed
to Ypsilanti and topped Eastern Michigan in a
wild 18-12 decision. The win raised the team's
record to a spectacular 16-3, and Michigan
appeared to be chugging full steam ahead into
its Big Ten opener in Minnesota.
But in the cavernous confines of the Metro-
dome, the Wolverines' season derailed in
dramatic fashion. Michigan dropped four con-
secutive games and immediately fell to the Big
Ten cellar. Facing an uphill battle to get back
into the thick of the Big Ten race, the sched-
ule seemed to favor the Wolverines. Perennial
conference bottom-dweller Iowa - who fin-
ished seventh or worse in the Big Ten during
five of the last six years - came to The Fish
for a four-game set.
But even against the 6-14 Hawkeyes, Michi-
gan couldn't find its bearings. Although they
held a lead in every game, the Wolverines
somehow squandered advantages of eight,
three and two runs to drop three games on
their home field.
After missing a golden opportunity to pick
up wins at home against lowly Iowa, Michi-


gan now faces perhaps its most difficult stretch
of the season. This weekend, the Wolverines
must travel to Champaign to take on a red-hot
Illinois team that is 7-1 in the Big Ten. Then,
Michigan will return home to face traditional
Big Ten power Ohio State.
But the Wolverines cannot dwell on the
difficulty of their upcoming schedule. With
a quarter of the conference season already in
the books, Michigan must turn the tide now.
Because the Wolverines own an abysmal 1-7
record in Big Ten - bad enough for sole pos-
session of last place - they have absolutely
no margin for error. Nothing short of two con-
secutive series victories is acceptable given the
team's precarious situation.
There is no doubt that Michigan has the tal-
ent to do it. The lineup is solid from top-to-bot-
tom - the team boasts a .310 batting average
through its first 28 games. Junior Chris Getz
is one of the best all-around players in the Big
Ten, senior Kyle Bohm provides pop from the
cleanup spot, and senior Matt Butler can spray
the ball all over the field.
Despite the team's conference slump,
the lineup has continued to hit fairly well.
But while the team has no problem scat-
tering a few singles here or there, the
Wolverines have recently been unable to
come up with the crucial hit. For example,
Michigan smacked 12 hits in its 7-6 loss to
Iowa on Sunday. But it left a whopping 12

runners on base and left runners in scor-
ing position in six of nine innings.
Earlier in the season, clutch hitting was
Michigan's fort6, with high-pressure, late-inning
knocks figuring prominently in a number of
nonconference victories. But the Wolverines
have lost their killer instinct at the worst possible
time. With the exception of a 13-3 blowout to the
Golden Gophers, Michigan has been one or two
key hits away from winning every Big Ten game.
In the Iowa series, the tying run came to the plate
in the last inning of each Michigan loss. But the
Wolverines' hitters could not deliver.
Michigan's hurlers have fared no better in
clutch situations. The Hawkeyes scored 16 of
their 27 runs in the last three innings of games
last weekend. And previously trustworthy
relievers such as senior Phil Tognetti, junior
Jeff Niemiec and redshirt junior Paul Ham-
mond have seen their ERAs skyrocket in Big
Ten play.
Coming into the season, the Wolverines
saw themselves as major contenders for a Big
Ten title, and it's hard to blame them. After
the Wolverines' victory over the Eagles, Col-
legiate Baseball ranked them No. 19 in the
nation, and they were the only Big Ten team
to receive a ranking. But somewhere along the
way, Michigan lost the ability to put away its
opponents. In order to start climbing the lad-
der out of the Big Ten cellar, the Wolverines
must show more grit come crunch time.

Senior Kyle Bohm has provided production from the cleanup spot this season, hitting .371 with three home runs.

New drill pays dividends for Blue

By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer

On what seemed like a typical day
last summer, Michigan softball coach
Carol Hutchins was in her kitchen
when someone on an early-morning
news program caught her eye.
Arizona and U.S. Olympic team
coach Mike Candrea was explaining
a new hitting drill that his Olympic
players used to see the ball better
and hit the ball more squarely with
their bats.
After viewing the television pro-
gram, Hutchins met with assistant
coach Jennifer Brundage to discuss
the merits of the drill and how it
could help the Michigan players in
the upcoming season. Since Brundage
played with some of the Olympians in

the 2000 Olympics, Hutchins sent her
to find out the details of the drill.
Brundage was not able to contact the
players immediately, since they were
playing in the Olympics. But she finally
found out what the drill entailed.
Hutchins then went to the company
that made the pitching machine to dis-
cover that the machine cost $9,000.
The company insisted that, in order to
enjoy the full benefits from the drill,
Hutchins needed the machine - it fired
tennis balls at a speed of 150 miles per
hour. Discouraged by the high price,
Hutchins decided to use a tennis ball
machine that "only" launches the balls
at 90 miles per hour.
"I said 'no' to the expensive
machine," Hutchins said. "(With the
tennis ball machine) we're just going
to it the best that we can, and, if the

ball only comes in at 90 miles per
hour, then we'll still get better."
The drill contains several com-
ponents. Delivered by a pitching
machine, different colored tennis
balls with varying numbers written on
them are hit by the players. When the
player hits the ball, she must identify
the location on the bat where the ball
hit, the color of the ball and the num-
ber written on it.
With the recognition that the play-
ers make as they swing, they are able
to improve their hand-eye coordina-
tion. Armed with a better sight of the
pitch and spin of the ball, the players
could get better bat-on-ball contact,
creating harder hitting.
"One thing that is my players' big-
gest complaint is that they just aren't
seeing the ball," Hutchins said. "As
Mike Candrea puts it, 'We work very
hard on hitting, and the tools of hitting
are the bat, the hands and theeyes.'"
While some of the players were
skeptical about it initially, the new
drill has paid dividends this season.
Senior Nicole Motycka came into
this season with career numbers of a
.274 batting average, seven home runs,
a .419 slugging percentage, 74 hits and
35 RBI. But - 43 games into this
year - Motycka has already bettered
many of those statistics. She currently
sports a .362 batting average, and has
nine home runs, a .614 slugging per-
centage, 46 hits and 30 RBI.
"I had heard good things (about the

drill)," Motycka said. "My problem
has always been seeing the ball. This
drill has obviously helped me, because
I feel more comfortable at the bat now
than I ever have."
Junior Tiffany Haas credits the
tennis ball drill in helping her abil-
ity to see and hit the ball. With the
three quarters of the season com-
plete, she has struck out just twice
this year - compared to 34 times
last season. Haas also boasts a .400
batting average and a .419 on base
percentage which are both career
"I believe it's working," Haas said.
"It seems to work real well because
the ball is smaller (than a softball).
If you can see that then you can see
a softball."
As a team, the Wolverines are
enjoying a banner year offensively.
They lead the Big Ten in slugging
percentage (.535), runs scored (258),
hits (372), RBIs (224), total bases
(624) and home runs (64). In the
home run category, Michigan not
only leads the Big Ten in home runs
but also holds the school record for
home runs in a season, eclipsing the
old mark of 46 in the series against
Iowa earlier this season.
"I think that it's helped," Hutchins
said. "I can guarantee you that we're
going to stay with it. Next fall, we'll
pick it back up and start over. We'll
probably study up on it during the sum-
mer to investigate it even further."

Tiffany Haas partially credits the tenn 'fOtchftgmachine for her success this season.

The Michigan State University College of law
journal of Gender Low
Entertainment & Sports Lawjournal
Title IX and Gender Equity in Sports
Hear about the 6th Circuit Court decision
in Communities for Equity vMHSAA
Examine the decision's effects on
hgh-school and college sports recruiting
Discuss the past and current state of
equity for women in sports
Saturday, April 16, 2005
8:30 am Registration and Check-in
9:15 am-3:30 pm Conference Sessions
Lunch Included
Michigan State University.
Law College Building
Bogue and Show ane
East Lansing, Michigan
a« + fn O W f0tClE6_fU


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