April 7, 2006
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'M' looks to keep
up shutout streak
By Amber Colvin
Daily Sports Writer
After missed opportunities,
baseball faces tougher task
The last time an opponent scored a
run against the Michigan softball team
was March 26. The red-hot Wolver-
ines are riding the waves of a six-game
shutout streak and a nine-game win-
But waiting in the wings are two
Big Ten opponents ready to bring
those streaks to a halt. No. 12 Michi-
gan squares off against Indiana (3-1
Big Ten, 18-3-1 overall) and Purdue
(2-2, 22-18) this weekend at Alumni
Field in Ann Arbor.
Who can the Wolverines (2-0,22-9)
thank for their string of shutouts?
They should probably start with
the one-two punch on the mound,
comprised of senior Jennie Ritter and
junior Lorilyn Wilson.
"Our pitching staff is carrying a lot
of the load right now," Michigan coach
Carol Hutchins said.
Ritter, who is now the all-time
strikeout leader at Michigan, has
been consistently impressive in recent
games. The All-American notched 14
Ks in game one of Tuesday's double-
header sweep against Western Michi-
gan and allowed just one hit.
Wilson's turn to gobble up the
Bronco batters came in game two of
the doubleheader. She did her job with
10 strikeouts, surrendering just one
hit. After a shaky start to her season,
the Salem, Ore. native now sports a
9-4 record this season after a shaky
start. She currently holds a five-game
If the Hoosiers or Boilermakers
make contact, the Michigan defense
will be waiting to meet them.
In Tuesday's doubleheader, sopho-
more Samantha Findlay recorded 12
putouts. Senior Tiffany Haas had three
at second. The Wolverines made just
one error all day.
"The defense is doing great," Haas
said. "We've been consistent."
The offense, however, lacked con-
sistency. The Michigan bats blew
the Minnesota pitching staff away in
Sunday's Big Ten opener, but they had
trouble finding a way past Western on
By David Murray
Daily Sports Writer
Stumbling out of the gates is an under-
The Michigan baseball team fell flat
on its face.
In their Big Ten opening series, the
conference foe in the standings last year,
but were unable to defeat the Gophers even
once in four chances. Their last win against
Minnesota came on March 4,2004.
After leaving numerous batters
stranded on base against Northwestern,
Michigan laid any doubts of its offen-
sive potency to rest in its last game. The
Wolverines were sup-
posed to beat up on the
lowly Northwestern Wild-
cats. But three losses and
just one win later, Michi-
gan (1-3 Big Ten, 13-10
overall) finds itself at the
bottom of the Big Ten.
Poor defense and the
lack of timely hitting
plagued the Wolverines
over their a disappointing
season opening weekend.
Maize and Blue seemingly
saved all of its chances from
the Big Ten opener for Cen-
tral Michigan, scoring a sea-
son-high 19 runs and tying a
season-high with 19 hits.
"When you win, every-
thing is going good," fresh-
man Adam Abraham said.
"Last weekend was rough,
and we know that we are a
Although Minnesota's pitching has
been stellar, its hitting has been abysmal.
The Michigan pitching rotation will look
to capitalize on Minnesota's team average
of just 246, the worst in the Big Ten. This
could be detrimental to Minnesota's chanc-
es of winning the series, because the games
will be played in the Metrodome. There,
any offensive output gives teams a chance
to win, because pitching and defense are
exemplified in an indoor environment.
"With the hitters we have, I think we
have an offensive team," Michigan coach
Rich Maloney said. "But it is going to be
tough in the dome, because that doesn't
Just as the bats seemed to come alive
recently, the pitching staff has also given
Michigan coaches something to look for-
ward to against Minnesota.
The relief pitchers have given up just'
one run over their last 24 1/3 innings and
have bailed the starting pitchers out of
numerous holes. Also, Craig Murray, who
recorded the only win for Michigan in his
first career complete game last Friday,
will get the nod in the first game of the
series. Freshman Zach Putnam, who has
shown flashes of brilliance in his young
career but has been battling injury prob-
lems early in the season, is expected to
start over the weekend as well.
have a greater task at hand: defeat-
ing teams that are slated to contend for
the Big Ten title.
The Wolverines can redeem themselves
this weekend. But it won't be against a team
that was just 3-15 like Northwestern.
This weekend, Michigan strolls into
Minneapolis where it will face a Minne-
sota team (2-2, 13-10) predicted to finish
at the top of the Big Ten.
The Wolverines finished ahead of their
better hitting team than that. Hopefully,
we can go into Minnesota and show we
can hit again:'
Michigan will need its recent offensive
success to carry over to Minneapolis,
because the Gophers rank second in the
Big Ten with a team ERA of 3.87. The
return of junior shortstop Leif Mahler
from injury should help bolster Mich-
igan's offensive potential. The Colum-
bus native boasts a .370 batting average,
ranking 14th in the Big Ten for players
with at least 19 games played.
Becky Marx and the Wolverines look to continue their winning ways this weekend.
Tuesday. If not for eight Bronco errors, triumph over the defending national
it may have been more difficult to get champions.
the Wolverines on the scoreboard. "We have our work cut out for us this
But a promise of progress came weekend," Hutchins said. "Both teams
in the final inning, when Michigan are out to beat anybody, and they're
scored a quick four runs. Haas jump- very capable, Indiana in particular.
started the late offensive
surge by hammering a
triple deep into right- TO
field, and sophomore
centerfielder Alessan- Indi
dra Giampaolo followed No. 12,
with a single. 41
Team home-run lead- Alum
er Becky Marx polished
off the inning with a """
blast to leftfield, her 10th
homer of the season.
"Our offense continues to improve,"
But strong pitching, defense and
offense don't mean the Wolverines
can take it easy this weekend. Both
Indiana and Purdue will be hungry to
They've come out and
won a lot of good games.
They're playing good
softball and they have a
lot of confidence."
The Hoosiers opened
conference play last
weekend with a 4-1 win
over Ohio State. They
also nabbed back-to-
back 4-0 decisions over
and currently trail Michi-
N WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS
Senior's relaxation increases
By Sara Livingston
Daily Sports Writer
gan by just one game in the confer-
ence standings. Michigan is tied with
Northwestern for first.
"We better be fired up because Indi-
ana is very capable of knocking us,
and Purdue too," Hutchins said.
STL$LFNY N LVR
"I can do this. I've done this a thou-
sand times before."
With those words, fifth-year senior
gymnast Lauren Mirkovich can make
her two-minute uneven bar routine
seem 20 minutes long. By mentally
slowing down every transfer, spin and
release, she has become the Wolverines'
most consistent gymnast, winning six
uneven-bar titles this season.
Over the years, Mirkovich has
learned how to mentally
prepare for every situa -------_
tion, developing a series
of rituals to ensure she is TOM(
fully focused before each Michigan1
routine. Before she steps Northea
onto the mat, Mirkovich 6:0
spends a moment alone to
focus on the task ahead. Crisle
She zones out the crowd
and reminds herself that
she completes the same
routine at practice every day. With that
thought fresh in her mind, Mirkovich
grabs ahold of the bar and begins to talk
herself through the routine.
"Throughout my routine, I have lit-
tle areas where I breathe every time,"
Mirkovich said. "I pretty much take a
breath to calm myself down. It sounds
funny because it all happens so fast, but
to me, it's so slow, and it just helps me
focus on seeing my toes and staying on
Mirkovich's level of self-confidence
enables her to execute such consistent
routines. Just knowing she has com-
pleted the routine flawlessly hundreds
of times before, both in practice and
Wolverines fall, but
The Michigan men's gymnastics
team finished in fourth place in its
national qualifying session last night
with a final score of 208.50. As a
result, the Wolverines failed to quali-
fy for tonight's team finals.
But the Wolverines had eight
competition, relaxes the Burlingame,
Calif. native. With that extra boost of
confidence and self-awareness, Mirkov-
ich can immerse herself in the flow of
the routine and execute it seamlessly.
"I think the biggest thing is that she
has just become such a consistent per-
former on bars, and, as a senior with that
experience you know you can count on
her," Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.
"Her confidence in herself is what leads
to her success, and what gives us the
confidence in her is that we know in
those situations (during meets) that, no
matter what has happened
to her and to the team, she
is able to go up there and
hit her routine."
After redshirting her
freshman year due to
a torn ACL, Mirkov-
ich returned to the gym
with a renewed love for
the sport. Coming out of
high school, Mirkovich
was already a technically
sound gymnast. And although both her
ACL tear and broken wrist have ham-
pered her time in the gym, Mirkovich's
determination and work ethic have
brought her back to competing at the
highest level each time.
"Gymnastics was something that I
used to do every day," Mirkovich said.
"And yeah, you have your struggles in
the gym, but when it was taken away,
I realized how much I really love this
sport, and I realized that I was just lucky
that I was able to do gymnastics for four
more years. Now, the most important
thing for me is just going out there and
having fun. These are my last few times
to swing bar routines, and I have enjoyed
individuals advance to the individ-
ual finals qualifiers today.
The team was led by senior Gerry
Signorelli, who totaled 50.05 points
to advance in the all-around. Fresh-
men Kent Caldwell and Daniel Rais
each joined senior Luke Bottke in
one of his two individual final qualifi-
ers - floor and vault - respectively.
Freshmen Ralph Rosso (pommel
horse and parallel bars), Phillip Gold-
berg (rings), Joe Catrambone (high
bar) and junior Aaron Rakes (rings)
every moment of it."
In the height of her final year as a
Wolverine, Mirkovich couldn't help but
experience d6ja vu watching freshman
Becky Bernard break her foot early in
the season. Mirkovich drew on her own
experiences to help the freshman deal
with everything from the recovery pro-
cess to schoolwork to class selection.
Mirkovich constantly reminds Bernard
that she is still an important part of the
"She really helped me through (my
injury),' Bernard said. "We just met
and talked, and she just taught me about
what she learned from her injury and
just told me what to expect from rehab.
Lauren reminded me to keep working
towards the end of the season and that
the team would need me then"
Mirkovich has uplifted the spirits
of the entire team with her maize-and-
blue-decorated quote boards. The little
cork boards hang on every Wolverine's
locker and contain motivational quotes,
inspirational phrases and passages that
help keep the team thinking positively.
"The quote boards are just great for
the team to have," Plocki said. "The
great thing is you can read something
and make that personal and have that
affect you. You can pick something in
your own life and try and pattern that
more after a certain thought or phrase
and the boards just help the kids main-
tain a positive attitude."
The Wolverines will undoubtedly
turn to Mirkovich for her consistency
and postseason experience on Saturday,
when they take on No. 2 Utah, No. 14
Auburn, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh
and Rutgers in the NCAA Northeast
Regionals at Crisler Arena.
will compete in today's events with
the hopes of advancing to the finals
Michigan improved its team finish
from the past two years. The Wolver-
ines finished in fifth place in 2004
and in sixth in 2005.
Oklahoma won the team session with
a score of 217.225, followed by Illinois
(214.775) and California (213.900).
They will join Stanford, Penn State
and Iowa - the team-final qualifiers
from last night.
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