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April 20, 2005 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-20

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April 20, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com
sportsr@michigandaily. cam

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The Michigan baseball team will play the first night game in the program's history on Friday.
M' Nine ready for primetime
Ohio State at Michigan Friday, 7:05 p.m.E The Fish ESPN

Complacency can kill a team.
When the No. 1 Michigan softball team took the field
yesterday at Alumni Field, it carried along numerous dis-
The Wolverines (11-1 Big Ten, 46-
3 overall) had finally returned home
after two successful road trips over
- a span of two weeks. Yesterday, they
faced off against Eastern Michigan,
winning both games in the doubleheader 5-1 and 14-2.
But, during both games, Michigan struggled at times to
focus on the task at hand.
During the first inning of the first game, sophomore Lori-
lyn Wilson stepped into the pitcher's circle for the Wolver-
ines. Eastern Michigan's Lauren Clark laced a high fastball
into rightfield to start the game for the Eagles (11-17). Then,
after Wilson struck out Heather Giroux, Lindsay Schmid
hammered another Wilson fastball off the right-centerfield
fence to score Clark and give Eastern Michigan a 1-0 lead.
But in the bottom of the first inning, Michigan found a
spark from an always-reliable source: senior Jessica Mer-
chant. With runners on first and second, Merchant stroked
a line drive double over the centerfielder's head to drive in
junior Tiffany Haas from second.
"I just try to see something and hit it," Merchant said. "There
was a lot of game left, so it wasn't really a high-pressure situa-
tion. We went down one, and you have to score to win."
Settling down from a rough first inning, Wilson shut down
the Eagles' offense during the remainder of the game. She
allowed just two more Eagles to reach base. Wilson surren-
dered just one run and two hits during her seven innings of
work and improved her record to 19-1.
But Michigan coach Carol Hutchins always looks for the
weak spots and tries to correct them before the Wolverines
reach the point in the season when it will be too late.
In Wilson's case, Hutchins wants to see her maintain her
in-game concentration.
"Wilson buckled down the best in the fifth, sixth and sev-
enth innings," Hutchins said. "In the first four innings, she
was not on. When she clears out her ears (and regains focus),
she'll be better. We need her, and, if she doesn't show up to
pitch, we're going to have a hard time."
As the sun began to sink into the horizon, the Wolverines
started the second game with renewed fervor. Junior pitcher
Jennie Ritter struck out three Eagles in the first inning while
walking just one. In the bottom of the first inning, the Michi-

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer

It's not every day that ESPN comes
to Ann Arbor and is headed somewhere
other than Michigan Stadium or Crisler
Arena. And it's not every day that the
three living Wolverines who have their
numbers retired show up for the same
game. But this Friday isn't just any day;
it's the day that Michigan hosts the first
night game in the 82 years of The Fish's
existence. The 7:05 p.m. game against
Ohio State (4-8 Big Ten, 18-13 overall)
will be anything but ordinary for the
Michigan baseball team (3-9, 20-12).
Aside from the College World Series,
college baseball is rarely featured on tele-
vision. And when it is, teams from the
Big Ten and other northern conferences
are seldom shown.
"Except for Clayton (Richard, who is
a quarterback on the football team), this
will probably be the biggest TV audience
anyone on our team has ever played in
front of," freshman Doug Pickens said.

"We haven't been really playing up to
par, so I think this is a good time to show
off our skills and let everyone else in the
country know that we are a 'for real'
baseball team."
Senior Jim Brauer will get the start in
the first night game ever played at The
Fish. Brauer has established himself as
the Wolverines' No. I starter, and coach
Rich Maloney is confident that he can
handle the pressure of such an impor-
tant event.
"Jimmy's pitched in a lot of big games
in his career at Michigan," Maloney said.
"He's a big-game pitcher. I think he'll be
outstanding. He's mature, he's a veteran
- there's really not much more to say."
Brauer takes comfort in the fact that he
led Michigan to a 6-1 victory in Colum-
bus last spring. On that night, Brauer
notched a complete game victory, allow-
ing eight hits and striking out five.
"With all that TV coverage and
stuff, you just gotta put it in the back
of your mind," Brauer said. "I pitched
the Ohio State game last year in Ohio

State under the - lights there were
5,000 people there."
Both Ohio State and Michigan were
considered preseason contenders for the
Big Ten Title, but the teams have fallen
to eighth and ninth place in the confer-
ence, respectively. The Wolverines, who
were swept by Minnesota and were able
to take just one of four from Iowa, might
have gained some momentum with their
series split against Illinois last weekend.
The Buckeyes seem to be headed in the
opposite direction - they dropped three
of four to Michigan State after winning
three of four from Purdue the previous
weekend. Regardless of the two teams'
struggles, the historic first night game
and the traditional rivalry between them
should bring fans out in droves, includ-
ing legends Moby Benedict, Bill Freehan
and Don Lund - each of whom has their
number retired at Michigan.
"I think we're going to have a sellout
crowd," Maloney said. "I know they're
saying 2,000 already are coming. And
that's not counting the students. This
series is bigger also because of the
way we started the season and the hole
we dug."
With its veteran ace on the mound,
the key to Michigan's success will be at
the plate. Junior Chris Getz expects to be
excited but said that he believes the key
for the Wolverines is to play the same as
"I might have a little more adrenaline
for my first at-bat," Getz said. "But you
can't really change your approach at all."
Even the less experienced Pickens
expects to handle the pressure of a larger
crowd, lights and cameras.
"I'm not nervous - I'm excited,"
Pickens said. "It's baseball. You've been
playing it since you were five years old."
Today, the Wolverines host Toledo
at 3 p.m.

Senior Jessica Merchant had two hits and two RBI yesterday.
gan bats came alive, registering 10 runs, and fell two batters
short of cycling through the lineup twice.
Freshman Samantha Findlay drove in the first three Michi-
gan runs with a home run over the leftfield fence. Following
an Eastern Michigan pitching change, senior Nicole Motycka
homered over the rightfield fence to give Michigan a 4-0 lead.
"We came out swinging our bats well," Merchant said.
But after extending the lead to 14-0 in the third inning,
the Wolverines lost some of their focus again. Ritter gave up
a run in the top of the third inning and another in the top of
the fifth inning.
"I thought Ritter struggled with her focus a little bit at the
end of the game," Hutchins said. "The most important part of
the game, at this point, is what's going on between their ears."
Even though the Wolverines have good reason to be confi-
dent in their ability to get a win whenever they sprint onto the
field, Hutchins understands that the distractions from'playing
at home, the media and the burden of being the top team in
the nation can hurt Michigan's focus.
"I don't think we are a team that will become complacent,
but I do think that you can start taking winning for granted,"
Hutchins said. "No matter what, you can never stop worrying
about the 'what ifs.' "


Pitcher Jennie Ritter won the second game of yesterday's doubleheader, improving her record to 22-0.

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