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April 19, 2005 - Image 11

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-19

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Tuesday
April 19, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTFS

Mahler
returns to
shortstop
By H. Jose Bosch
Daily Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - Against Iowa two weekends ago,
sophomore Leif Mahler left the first game of the series
last weekend against Iowa and never returned. A hip
flexor injury sidelined Michigan's starting shortstop and
forced Michigan coach Rich Maloney to shuffle the line-
up a bit, moving junior Chris Getz from second to short
and placing freshman Doug Pickens
at second. Despite Pickens's solid per-
formance at second base - no errors
in 17 chances - Mahler was healthy
enough to take back his starting posi-
tion at short for this past weekend's
series against Illinois.
"He's a good shortstop," Maloney
said simply.
In his return to the starting lineup, Mahler had a great
day at the plate and notched three hits, including a solo
home run that gave the Wolverines a two-run lead,. But
the sophomore had one glaring mistake in the third.
Mahler reached first base on a single and loaded the
bases for Pickens with two outs. After the very first pitch
of the at-bat, Illinois catcher Chris Robinson fired the
ball to first base and caught Mahler sleeping. The pickoff
ended the inning and killed a potential two-out rally for
Michigan.
"When we got picked off at first, that little error like
that, you just don't know," Maloney said. "Maybe we'd get
a hit, and break that thing open."
But Mahler played well the rest of the weekend. The
shortstop didn't record a single error and made a nice
play in the second inning of Sunday's game to save a run.
With two outs and a man on third, Illini second baseman
J.R. Kyes hit a ground ball to the hole between short and
third base. Mahler raced to the ball, back-handed it on one
knee, got up and fired the ball to senior Kyle Bohm at first
to get Kyes out by a step.
With the way he has been playing in the field, it is
apparent that Mahler's hip is no longer bothering him.
"It's feeling much better," Mahler said. "It's almost
(100 percent), but it's healing, so I'll be fine."
Mahler's return to the lineup put Pickens into leftfield,
a position he played often in the fall but only twice during
the season. The freshman was tested early but passed with
flying colors.
Illinois designated hitter Mike Rohde already had a
single to lead off the second inning of Friday's game but

TONY DING/Daily

Michigan shortstop Leif Mahler has a .933 fielding percentage this season.

tried to stretch it to a double. Pickens picked up the ball
from the leftfield corner and gunned down Rohde, who
was out by more than a couple steps.
"He's played left all fall," Maloney said. "He's good at
either left or right."
No WHITMORE!: Illinois pitcher Matt Whitmore's line
for the season was not impressive (2-1, 6.10 ERA, 31 IP,
45 Hits, 13 K, 9 BB). But during Saturday's second game,
Whitmore looked more like a dominant ace than the third
pitcher in the rotation. The junior gave up just one run on
four hits and struck out five batters, going the distance for
the Illini in a 4-1 win.
"How do you figure that?" Maloney said after contem-
plating the less-than-stellar performance by the offense.
"We were trying to be aggressive on fastball strikes -
that's how we've hit the last two games. In this particular
case, I think we swung at some fastballs that weren't as
good pitches to hit."
In the first two games of the series, the Wolverines
scored nine runs off 21 hits against two of the best pitch-
ers in the Big Ten. Illinois junior Brian Blomquist was 6-1

Can softball become Natio

ScoTr BELL
ON SOFTBALL
One national championship over the last
four years at a university with a reputation
like Michigan is pretty unacceptable. The
outgoing seniors who will be graduating
in the next few weeks have had just one
opportunity to celebrate a Maize and Blue
national title win by a team that donned
the Maize and Blue. And when the 2001
field hockey team won its national title
four years ago, it's a pretty safe assumption
that not many freshmen were running up
and down the streets in celebration. But
all hope is not lost for a national title in
Ann Arbor before next fall. The best-kept
secret on campus is officially out of the bag
- the softball team is good.
Good? Michigan has lots of good
teams. Why are they any different than
anyone else?
Maybe good isn't the word to describe
this year's team. A good team doesn't have
the ability to take over a game at any time.
Teams that boast All-Americans both as
pitchers and hitters are usually thought
of as more than just "good." One of those
"good" players is senior shortstop Jessica

Merchant. Merchant epitomizes what this
team is all about. She plays for the No. 1
team in the nation, and, just last week, was
named the National Player of the Week.
But was anyone really surprised? All she's
done this year is hit 16 home runs and flirt
with a .400 batting average. Good? Try
great.
But what happens if Merchant is hav-
ing an off game?
Although that's pretty rare, the Wolver-
ines don't have to fret. Just last weekend,
Merchant had a less-than-flattering series
of games. She managed just two hits in the
four games but was bailed out with ease.
The rest of the Wolverines picked up 38
hits, led by freshman Samantha Findlay
- who also has 16 home runs on the sea-
son - and senior Nicole Motycka. Motyc-
ka has gone from last year's most reliable
pitcher - she was named Big Ten Pitcher
of the Year last season - to one of this
year's most reliable hitters.
So, they're a one-trick pony. They rely
too much on hitting.
Quite the contrary. It's almost widely
considered to be the opposite. Although
the Wolverines sport one of the nation's
top offenses, their rock all year has been
their pitching staff. And when you're look-

ing for someone to praise f
performance on the rubber,1
ther than junior pitcher Jenni
weekend, she improved her s
to 21-0. That's more wins by
five Big Ten teams this seas
has the ability to start game
nate throughout. She also ca
a close game and bring the t
rough spots. Oh yeah, and sh
a perfect game, which wasa
no-hitter of the season.
Great pitching and great h
thing has to be wrong. Does
suck?
Simply put, Carol Hut
Hutch, as she's known
softball world - is a lege
respect wherever she go
more than deserved. AtI
weekend, the Hoosiers we
ing their 38-year progr
win. Earlier this season,
her 900th career gamea
She had 23 wins in her lon
coach of Ferris State in 19
picked up the rest in her
years as the Wolverines' c
last 21 years.
You've got me sold. They

with a 1.62 ERA while senior Jimmy Conroy boasted a 5-
0 record with a 2.28 ERA. But Michigan could not figure
out Whitmore, who got ahead of hitters with his fastball
and then took advantage with his change-up.
"He wasn't throwing anything too special out there,"
Rose said. "I think a lot of us were trying to do too much
with (the pitches), and we got a little outside of our-
selves."
Freshman Derek VanBuskirk felt the full brunt of
Whitmore's performance. VanBuskirk struck out three
times on just nine pitches.
Notes: Senior Jim Brauer passed Steve Howe to move
into eighth on the all-time strikeout list. Brauer now has
197 strikeouts - one more than Howe - and is three
away from becoming the eighth Michigan pitcher ever to
record 200 ... New Illinois football coach Ron Zook was
at Sunday's game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The pitch was nowhere near the strike zone ... Bohm hit
his first triple of the year in the eighth inning of Sunday's
game. He knocked in Matt Butler from first base to give
Michigan a three-run lead.
or the strong win the College World Series.
look no fur- Obviously not. Although they do
e Ritter. Last seem to have all of the tools neces-
eason record sary to make a run at the national
herself than championship, they are still anything
on. She also but a lock to win. A record of 44-3
es and domi- is clearly impressive, but the Wol-
an come into verines still have some flaws. Even
:eam through though they are third in the Big Ten
e just pitched in fielding percentage, their biggest
also her third flaw does seem to be their defense.
In their losses against Iowa and Cen-
hitting, some- tral Michigan - the only two losses
s their coach they've suffered in the last 46 games
- their fielding let them down. They
chins - or may not flood the stat sheet with
around the errors, but, when the errors come,
nd. She gets they are usually at the most inop-
es, and it's portune times (see last year's World
Indiana last Series game against LSU). Another
ere celebrat- possible roadblock for Michigan
am's 850th could be its inability to get consistent
Hutch won play from two pitchers. Ritter seems
as a coach. to be a pretty safe bet for a solid per-
ne season as formance day in and day out (see her
984 and has 21-0 record this ye-r), but the Wolver-
subsequent ines have struggled a little as of late
oach for the to get big game performances from
a second starter. Sophomore Lorilyn
're a lock to See BELL, page 12A

The reflections
a redshirt sent#
Lousvlle4r , f "Iv.
I hate Chris Webier~ Loved nh
when he played at Michigan, 4
through The Timeoit. B~ut Xhp
turned his back on the prograq\
when he's needed to show h iinseYf
rthe most.
HWillie Hesto;; l 4icet[
Goin' to work running back during a 43414oA .
national title stretch fro wb"1 K
Iwas one phone call away from- - was left out of urlist bfdtho~.
becoming team manager'of 15 Michigan football pilaycrt t'r
the Michigan men'st basketball becase we e,ef him le ,al
team. ent and more- a "
It was early on during my fresh- B.J. Symons at-Texas Tec
man year, and I had just started I can't believe Ilistirtetcis P
writing for the Daily. I saw the our rival, Champaign i tk tf4s1 .
flyers on the Diag advertising a college city in the gohfereIm; 4
meeting to choose new team man- Assembly Hall ook li herl * "
agers, and decided to check it out ship from the end of "fled4'? t1'.'
A couple of days later, I was offered
the position. It took me a minute or thoughts
two, but I finally declined and made I think NASCAR is thi s yli ,
the Daily part of my college life. est, mostpointless "spot" eve
Now, five years ater thanks created.cthey drive fr fi. e ho
to what I like to call an "academic so one guy can pas anot gxe
redshirt" - I'm finally hanging up the right at the finish liIse Nc$de
my ... pen and paper, I guess. 1,000,000 times on the rewayaf
Outside of this column every I'm supposed to get eXcite se
other week, my time athehe Daily they're going fast?
effectively ended in January, I think I miss the NHL I4,f!
when he e new class of editors more than I thought Iwoulg. '
took over for the outgoing seniors, probably because the NH lybf
The months since then have been are the best professiond. pyVh
unusual around.
That's because the Daily had I think the men's bask t1elt i
completely dominated my free time will win a Big Ten title inoI
during the last few years. I worked three years.
around 50 hours a week during this I think former women's sl$
past football season - I think my ball coach Sue Guevara got&ig
roommates even subletted out my time raw deal when the Uirsity
room because I was gone so mUch. let her go - and Ive a wtts e&l
Thanks for not throwing me out. guilty about the story theD ly \
And thanks to my girlfriend, that set the wholeiing in
Amy, who put up with the late I believe Brayon Edwar:ds ttiea
nights here more than anyone -e to greatest receiver ever to pyteit*
the point w shs e created her own Michigan, and I expect thatte
"Daily time" formula. If I said I'd a great ambassador for the
be done working in 20 minutes, it sity - he's well spoken i4'
meant I'd call her in thrme hours. If anda poster child for not go
I said I'd be done at midnight I'd early. -adIet
see her at 2 or 3 a.m. i appreciate I think anyone whodoesnii' a
you not breaking up with me. to football games lin Novet~ber ,'
But with the space on my final because it's too cold or ti or.y'
column rapidly drawing to a close, should have his or her season 1I4
I've got some thoughts that I've ets revoked. There isrotipgtik
wanted to get into print and haven game at the Big House.
Just run out of the time to do so. So
here's what I've got left: Memories f.*
I can't fit them all in heres &ey
Confessions started at that Super Six compot.
My freshman year, I covered tion. I covered Michigan's'CC A
the women's gymnastics team. My titfe in 2002,yand the w id4Af
friends tried to get me to askout press box a week laterWhen
Elise Ray because "How mnany thought Yost was goinltoto'jik
chances do you get to hook up with under the crowdrnoise aso,~
an Olympian?" I never asked her verines clinched a Frozen F r ..u
out, but, if she's reading this, I may The next year, -I sat dnab1e1
have succeeded at the rare opportu- cheer, but smiling nonetliclosts,
nity to creep out an Olympian. Michigan rallied fror5 d15
And while I'm on the topic of in the final five minutestoob.ea
women's gymnastics, my trip to Wisconsin in basketball. Day

the Super Six competition at the later, I envied the people stqua4i ': .
University of Georgia during that the court after Michigan finall,
2000-01 season still marks one of knocked off Michigan Stat a
the best trips I've taken in my time I got to sit front row at MiadisdM
at the paper. Square Garden as Michigan wq44he
I respect the hell out of Tommy NIT in 2004, and it almostau
Amaker ... but I was disappointed up for the feeling I had sitg g
when Rick Pitino, at the last min- room at the Michighn Un ioIIs4 .
ute, shunned Michigan and went to See BURKE,-pag
(~rgst lball nEftAi iment re nts..
~tor it2 I..^i
-r-
A Fan-Run Event for Fans of the Television Series.
Buffy the Vampire $aayer r1andA
Held at the Beautiful Marriott Eagle Crest Resort
and Conference Cesnter in Ypsilanti, MIchigarn
Headliers 'Bonus GuestsA
Anthony Stewart Head (Gies) Kali Rocha (Halfrek'& Ge 1 Ye
Nicholas Brendan (Xander)* Kelly Donovan (Xander's uDOU
Adam Busch (Warren)" Jason Cater (41epoMat
Tom Lenk (Andrew) Stacey Scwivy
Danny Strong (Jonathan)"
FCaturod Muskcl Guest Common Rotato~n F
James Marsters (Spike) in Concert!** 2,ci Ao Jag ';
Julie Caitln

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