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March 29, 2006 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-29

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Wednesday
March 29, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

ORTSe ichrganilg

8

Win puts Cagers in NIT finals
By Jack Herman__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Daily Sports Editor

BASEBALL

Pickens leads

'M'

past Bowing Green

NEW YORK - They're back.
Just two years after winning the NIT,
Michigan topped Old Dominion, 68-43,
to advance to Thursday night's champi-
onship game against South Carolina at
7 p.m. in Madison
Square Garden.
"It's a different
feeling, because I
think we've had to overcome a lot more
things than that year to be here at this
point;" said Daniel Horton, who was the
NIT's MVP in 2004. "We had to battle
through some injuries and some tough
breaks that didn't go our way through
the conference season. For us to be
here and battle through the adversity, it
means a lot to me, and we want to end
the season right."
Right now, it seems like it will be
more than just the feeling that's different
on Thursday night.
The Michigan (22-10) team that won
convincingly last night looks nothing
like the one that lost seven of its last nine
to end the regular season, including a
first-round Big Ten Tournament game
that kept it out of the Big Dance.
The team that played last night - and
the other three games of the NIT - is
the team people expected to show up at
the start of the season. Rather than the
"Daniel Horton and friends" Wolverines
that developed near the end of the year,
chalk this run up to the Big Maize and
Blue machine.
"It just shows that we're trying to
win this thing as a team," senior Chris
Hunter said. "We've been having very,
very good practices, and I think that's
leading onto the court. We're being very
unselfish on the offensive end and on the
defensive end."
For example, see Courtney Sims.
The junior put on a terrific perfor-
mance last night, scoring a game-high
18 points and grabbing seven boards.
Sims played much more like the domi-
nating big man that tore through Mich-
igan's non-conference schedule than the
willow that wilted during the Big Ten
season.
Want more proof? See Ron Coleman.
The sophomore struggled at the end
of the season, going just 1-for-6 in the
Big Ten Tournament before scoring

By Chris Herring
Daily Sports Writer
Anyone who saw Doug Pickens hit
yesterday knew that it was just his day.
The sophomore took it upon himself to
keep Michigan's
winning streak
alive yesterday *
against Bowling
Green.
Pickens blasted a first-inning home
run and scored three times to help lift the
team to its sixth straight win with a 7-4
victory over the Falcons at the Fish.
Pickens went 3-for-4 and knocked in
two RBI in the game.
"Sometimes you might not be as emo-
tionally into a midweek game, so it was
really good to come out on top," Pickens
said. "We want to believe that we can win
every game."
Redshirt freshman Ben Jenzen picked
up the win in relief, throwing three and
one-third innings of no-hit, scoreless ball.
Freshman Jason Christian (1-0) came in
to nail down the win in the ninth for his
first save of the season.
Pickens got it all started in the bottom
of the first when he knocked the first pitch
he saw over the leftfield fence for his fifth
home run of the season. At first, it didn't
appear that his shot would clear the wall.
"I kind of got under (the pitch) a little
bit, and I hit it pretty high into the air,"
Pickens said. "The way (the leftfielder)
reacted to it, I thought he was going to
catch it at the wall."
The team picked up more runs in the
third inning, with the game tied 1-1. Junior
Brad Roblin walked and then advanced
to third on an error to start the inning.
Pickens then picked up his second hit of
the game, scoring Roblin. Sophomore
Nate Recknagel followed that by punch-
ing a single in the hole between first and
second base, moving Pickens from first
to third.
"The hit that Recknagel had was
huge" Coach Rich Maloney said. "He let
the ball get deep and just tried to hit it the

other way. Even if he hadn't hit the ball in
the hole like that, (Bowling Green) still
couldn't have turned the double play."
Then, Pickens scored on senior Mike
Schmidt's sacrifice fly. After three
innings, Michigan (11-7) held a 3-1 lead.
Bowling Green (9-Il) got back into the
game in the fifth, when junior Andrew
Hess - who struck out seven hitters and
only allowed one hit prior to the fifth
inning - began to tire. The Falcons
scored three runs on a walk and three
singles to take a 4-3 lead. In response,
Maloney replaced Hess with Jenzen.
From that point on, it was lights out
for Bowling Green, as Jenzen allowed
just two baserunners in three innings of
work.
"I thought Ben Jenzen did a great job,"
Maloney said. "He went in there, and
didn't want to come out (of the game)."
Michigan started its comeback in the
sixth inning, and scored in its last three
innings. In the bottom of the sixth, fresh-
man Kevin Cislo's RBI groundout scored
senior Jeff Kunkel. Then, Christian
scored off a Recknagel single and Pick-
ens came across on sophomore Derek
VanBuskirk's sacrifice fly in the seventh.
In the eighth, Kunkel scored on a Chris-
tian single.
Christian came in to pitch and close
the game out. He struck out two and
allowed no hits in the top of the ninth to
solidify the team's 11th win.
"From a pitching standpoint, we
showed some very positive signs," Malo-
ney said.
But, it is still apparent that the team
needs to improve defensively heading into
Big Ten play, which starts Friday against
Northwestern. The team committed two
errors yesterday, and has committed six
in the last two games.
"We have to get back to playing solid
defense," Maloney said. "We know we
are capable of playing a lot better than we
have. We have been giving these teams
too many outs, and as we get into confer-
ence play with better teams, it's going to
be tough to play through (the errors)."

FOREST CASEY/Daily

Senior Graham Brown led a Wolverine defense that held Old Dominion to 43 points.

four points total in Michigan's last three
games. Last night, however, Coleman
recorded nine points, acting as the gar-
bage man by tipping in a couple missed
Michigan shots.
And then there was Brent Petway,
who energized the Wolverines with what
he called his best dunk ever. And Jerret
Smith, who had four assists compared to
zero turnovers. Heck, even Amadou Ba
scored two points.
Add it up and Michigan claims a 25-
point victory, even though Horton went
for just 10.
So what does the senior attribute the
Wolverines' new look to?
"We're back to the three 'H's,' " Hor-
ton said, referring to Michigan coach

Tommy Amaker's early goal for the
team to be healthy, happy and hungry.
He shouldn't forget to thank Old
Dominion, either. Although Michigan's
defense can surely be credited for hold-
ing its opponent to its lowest point total
and field-goal percentage all year, even
Amaker admitted the Monarchs didn't
exactly help themselves.
Extra special gratitude should be sent
to Old Dominion's leading scorer Isaiah
Hunter, who hit a less-than-terrific 1-of-
15 shots.
"Let's give them some credit, they
probably missed some shots that they
would ordinarily make," Amaker said.
"... But I certainly thought we just tried
to challenge them, contest shots and not

give them second shots."
And by finally bringing it together in
the postseason, the Wolverines, who will
graduate at least seven seniors, will get
(almost) all they could ask for.
"It's great (to play in the NIT Champi-
onship);" Hunter said. "There's a couple
of ways you want to go out, and you defi-
nitely want to go out winning. If it's not
the NCAA Tournament, you want to go
out winning something."
Said Horton: "That's special. Of
course, I think any college basketball
player would rather be in the national
championship game, but to have a chance
to play in Madison Square Garden again,
the greatest arena in the world, it's a spe-
cial moment."

0

N SOFTBALL
Wilson on target
again in home opener

NIT

clearly meant more to Monarchs

NEW YORK -
They were a No. 5 seed.
It was the furthest they've
ever advanced in a postseason
tournament. n
They were in the NIT
semifinals for the first
time in school history.
That's right, I'm talk-
ing about Old Dominion.
A small Division-It
school in Norfolk, Va.,
the Monarchs played
NCAA Tournament
Cinderella team George KF
Mason, and NCAA
Tournament bubble team WRI
Hofstra during the regular The Six
season.
When the NIT selec-
tion committee seeded the Monarchs
fifth, few people could have predicted
they would be able to advance all the
way to Madison Square Garden, but
they did.
And that's where the magical story
ended.
Last night, Old Dominion jogged
onto the Madison Square Garden court

with little chance of beating the more
talented and deeper Michigan team.
Still, the Monarchs started the game
determined to prove that they belonged
with the Michigans, South
Carolinas and Louisvilles of
college basketball.
Old Dominion jumped
out to an early 21-14 lead,
but that's when the ship
started to sink. The Mon-
archs suffered through an
eight-minute drought late
in the first half and allowed
Michigan to wake up. Then
[N junior forward Arnaud Dahi
HT went down with what team
Man doctors believed to be a torn
ACL. To put the finishing
touch on the loss, the team's
leading scorer, senior guard Isaiah
Hunter, made just one of 15 shots.
In the end, the Wolverines were just
too strong for Old Dominion. They out-
jumped, out-ran and out-muscled the
Monarchs. If a player fell to the court,
he more than likely had Old Dominion
stitched into his jersey.
Even with the odds stacked against

Vi
IG
xth

them, the Monarchs came out of the
locker room at halftime and showed the
resilience of a team not ready to end its
season. Old Dominion fought back and
erased a nine-point halftime deficit to
tie the score at 35 just over four min-
utes into the second frame.
And that's the difference between
Michigan and Old Dominion. An NIT
championship means a lot more to the
latter.
After the game, Monarchs coach
Blaine Taylor almost broke down into
tears when asked about how much he
would miss his seniors next year.
He then compared New York City
and Madison Square Garden to places
of lore.
"In some respects, it was a dream
come true" Taylor said. "I think partic-
ularly where we came from, to be one
of the last eight teams standing in the
land and then all of a sudden to land
in a magical place, I feel like Alice in
Wonderland a little bit."
Was a second trip to New York City
in three years a dream come true for
the Wolverines?
Following Michigan's quarterfinal
victory over Miami, the team expressed
its gratitude to be able to return to
Madison Square Garden and compete
for the chance to win a championship.
But they admitted that it wouldn't
be the same as an NCAA Tournament
berth. It was still the second-rate NIT.
For most Wolverine fans, this year's
NIT run has been more than a disap-
pointment. Many students boycotted
the three Michigan home games, and
Wolverine fans in the Garden couldn't
even come close to the decibel level of
the Monarch faithful.

Before the game, members of the
Old Dominion band heckled Michigan
about the fact that it was in the NIT
instead of the NCAA Tournament.
And they never stopped cheering for
their Monarchs.
The Old Dominion fans probably
knew coming into the game that a
Monarch victory was improbable. But
they still enjoyed the chance to watch
their team step onto a national stage.
As one of their fans prominently
displayed a sign reading, "ODU and
George Mason, why not?"
For a school like Old Dominion, a
berth to the NIT championship game
would have registered a reaction simi-
lar to that of the George Mason fans
after its unheralded run to the NCAA
Final Four. The Monarchs were the
underdogs, the team that didn't belong.
But they still fought to play another
day.
For graduating Old Dominion senior
Alex Loughton, the final score won't be
what he remembers the most about his
last chance to suit up for the Monarchs.
"(I want to hold close to my mem-
ory) the way we fought to get here"
Loughton said. "I think that's going to
stick out in my mind more than the end
result tonight. (I'm) just really proud
of the boys and the way we handled
ourselves this year through the ups and
downs."
Sounds like something Michigan
seniors Daniel Horton or Chris Hunter
would say if they had lost their last
game as a Wolverine ... in the NCAA
Tournament.

The No. 12 Michigan softball team
can finally stop clicking its ruby red
slippers. After a whirlwind of travel,
the Wolverines'
grueling sched-4
ule landed on the
home opener at last.
The homecoming proved to be sweet,
with Michigan's 3-0 shutout of Bowling
Green (17-9) yesterday at Alumni Field.
The game served up noteworthy num-
bers for a few Michigan players, as well
as Michigan coach Carol Hutchins.
The victory was the 958th win of
Hutchins's career. She now sits tied for
eighth place on the all-time NCAA wins
list.
Junior Lorilyn Wilson pitched her
third consecutive shutout for Michigan
(18-9), striking out 10 Falcons.
"It's a great foundation;' Wilson said.
"It's hopefully going to launch me into
the Big Ten season. It gives me lots of
confidence going in having three shut-
outs in a row."
Wilson was named Big Ten Pitcher of
the Week after going 2-0 and notching
20 strikeouts at the Louisville Classic
last weekend. Wilson's successful week-
end included a no-hitter that was nearly
perfect, blemished only by a walk in the
seventh inning.
Plagued by inconsistency at the begin-
ning of the season, Wilson has recently
made a significant turnaround. She gave
up just four hits - all in the first two
innings - and no walks in yesterday's
outing
"Lorilyn is doing what we need from
her," Hutchins said. "We need her to
keep us in games and contribute, and
I'm pleased with her performance. She
wasn't real sharp the first two innings,
I think. Then she looked like she really
changed her game face and got deter-
mined and she got better."
The first few innings were also dis-

By Amber Colvin
Daily Sports Writer

appointing for the offense, which failed
to get on the scoreboard until the fifth.
With the bases loaded and one out in the
fourth, the Wolverines looked primed to
open the offensive floodgates. But the
threat was short-lived. Bowling Green
pitcher Hayley Wiemer retired the next
two Michigan batters to stifle the Wol-
verine rally.
But the bats started firing once the
fifth inning arrived.
Freshman Teddi Ewing kicked off the
inning with a single up the middle. TWo
outs later, sophomore Samantha Findlay
stepped up to the plate and blasted a shot
just inside the right foul pole to bring in
two runs. The homer ended Findlay's
nine-game home run drought, the sec-
ond longest of her career.
"(Ewing's hit), that was the momen-
tum change," Findlay said. "She got on
base and we moved her and we got her
in. When somebody gets a hit, it goes
contagiously and I think that really
helped our momentum."
Senior Becky Marx continued her
career year, following Findlay at the
plate and hammering her eighth home
run of the season over the rightfield
fence. The blast gave Marx her single-
season home run record.
After Wilson's punchout punctuated
a scoreless seventh inning, Michigan
celebrated its first home win.
"(Playing at home) is awesome "Find-
lay said. "We love Alumni Field, and we
wanted to protect our home ground. We
came out here and knew we were fight-
ing for our field and for Michigan:'
Michigan has dominated the all-time
series with Bowling Green 25-5.
The game served as a final non-con-
ference tune-up for the Wolverines, who
kick off the Big Ten season Sunday with
a doubleheader against Minnesota.
"We're looking forward to the Big
Ten;' Findlay said. "We're peaking
at the right time, and this game has
helped us prepare. I think we'll be
ready to go."

- Kevin Wright can be
reached at kpwr@umich.edu.

U U

Program in Science, Technology and Society
Distinguished Lecture
Making Darwin
Biography and Character
Janet Browne
University College London

. 4 Sv'#'n4

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