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February 08, 2007 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-02-08

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8A - Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
young but ready

Daily Sports Writer

Freshman Mel Santander decided late to come to Michigan, but

ow reaping the benefits of his decisit

Frosh thrives post-move

Daily Sports Writer
Freshman Mel Santander almost
decided to stay home this year.
Fortunately for the Michigan
men's gymnastics team, he changed
his mind.
The Michigan coaching staff
initially recruited the top-flight all-
arounder, but when he didn't show
interest, the Michigan coaches let
the matter drop. By this past sum-
mer, it seemed Santander would
remain in Massachusetts, preparing
with his personal coach for a shot at
the Olympics.
But, unbeknownst to the Michi-
gan coaches, Santander had applied
and been admitted to the Univer-
And when he and other young
gymnasts - in Battle Creek for the
Junior Nationals - visited Ann
Arbor on their day off, the recruit-
1 M

ing process received a jump-start.
"We brought him and his mom
in June of last year," Michigan
assistant coach Scott Vetere said
(recruits normally visit in the fall).
"He was very, very quiet. We really
couldn't get any words out of him,
just gentle small talk. ... We thought
he had a good time on the trip, but
when someone doesn't talk, you
really don't know."
Vetere and the rest of the team
got their answer about a week later,
when Santander finally committed
to Michigan.
"My family and my teammates at
home wanted me to try something
different, experience something
new, just take the chance to do it,"
Santander said. "If I didn't like it
here, I would go back home anyway,
so it was worth a shot."
Never a chatterbox, Santander
has nonetheless emerged from his
shell in the supportive, encourag-
ing surroundings of his new gym.,

Though he's still subject to some
gentle teasing - he was tagged
with the number 85 to represent
the number of days between when
he committed to Michigan and the
start of school - Santander's team-
mates are overjoyed to have him.
"Mel has an unmistakable swing
on the pommel horse," senior Aaron
Rakes said. "He's one of a kind on
that event. He's so graceful in all his
gymnastics; he's just a pleasure to
Santander .comes to Michigan
with an impressive rdsum4. Among
other accolades, he was a member
of the 2006 junior national team,
placed second in the all-around at
the 2006 USA. Championships and
last year was the state and regional
champion in the all-around (not to
mention all six individual events).
Especially strong on pommel
horse and parallel bars, Santander
has been instrumental in turning
two of Michigan's weaknesses from
last year into strengths. Two meets
into the 2007season, the Wolverines
were ranked No.1 it both events.
Santander isno stranger to pres-
sure - a definite positive as one of
the team's star freshmen. Despite
the usual nerves that accompany
the transition to collegiate gymnas-
tics, Santander has performed well
so far, with the promise of contin-
ued improvement.
"(Santander and fellow freshman
Torrance Laury) are both real quiet
kids, but they both have a reputa-
tion for hitting and being consis-
tent," junior Paul Woodward said.
"I think there might be some meets
they learn stuff at, maybe have to
struggle a little bit. ... But I think
at the end of the season when it all
-eauntsthey'll be a big factorrehw--
things turn out and how we do at
NCAAs and Big Tens."

When the Michigan softball
team won the 2005 Women's Col-
lege World Series, it wasn't the end
of an era.
Losing just two starters, the
2006 teamwas more of a continua-
tion of the championship-winning
squad than a new beginning.
But after losing four starting
position players (catcher Becky
Marx, second baseman Tiffany
Haas, third baseman Grace Leu-
tele and rightfielder Stephanie Ber-
caw) and ace pitcher Jennie Ritter,
the 11th-ranked Wolverines team,
who trail just No. 4 Northwestern
among Big Ten teams, must carve
out its own identity.
But it won't be easy.
The current squad can't leave its
team room without walking past
the pictures of Haas, Marx and
Ritter that hang to the left of the
door and list the trio's All-Ameri-
can accolades.
Perhaps the toughest task this
year will be replacing Ritter in the
circle. Ritter is Michigan's all-time
leader in strikeouts, shutouts, no-
hitters, starts and innings and sec-
ond in wins and complete games.
That job goes to senior Lorilyn
Wilson. Wilson has been pretty
successful when given the oppor-
tunity, but has been stuck behind
Ritter for her three years at Michi-
But whenthe Wolverines earned
their first No. Itranking in program
history in March of the champion-
ship year, Wilson's numbers were
better than Ritter's. Wilson was
11-0 with a 0.20 earned run aver-
age and a .096 batting average
against. Seven of her eight starts
From page 5A
how to play
the game as a senior over the nast cc

were complete games. And she
struck out 110 and had not given up
a home run in her 71 innings.
"Lorilyn Wilson is the No.1 rea-
son that we were No. 1 in March
of 2005," Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said. "I think she's total-
ly capable of carrying this team."
But that was March. It was Rit-
ter who led the Wolverines to their
first National Championship in
Wilson has never started a
postseason game and didn't even
appear in either the Big Ten or
NCAA Tournament last year.
But if she's given the opportuni-
ty this year (Hutchins said sopho-
more Stacy Delaney and freshman
Nikki Nemitz will have a chance
as well), her teammates have con-
fidence in her.
"I think Lorilyn is capable of
being as great a pitcher as Jennie
Ritter was," junior first baseman
Samantha Findlay said. "She has
the ability to prove a lot of people
wrong. She's worked hard in the
off-season and she's going to sur-
prise a lot of people.
"I don't think Lorilyn puts any
(pressure) on herself And we don't
Despite having a senior in the
circle, Michigan will have a young
A quartet of freshmen will be
right in the thick of things for play-
ing time.
"I think we're ayoung team, but
I can tell you that I told them that
the first day of practice," Hutchins
said. "We're not going to choose to
be young. We're going to choose to
be Michigan. We're going to play
Michigan softball. And there's no
excuse up on that scoreboard that
says 'oh, we're young.' It says win
or lose."
From page 5A
-----------_---_--------- - 1----- -
Michigan State starts a
d wle ith11 sntguar-Ot

Hutchins expects freshmen
Molly Bausher and Maggie Vief-
haus to start at second and third
base, respectively. They will have
to replace a pair of four-year start-
ers in Haas and Leutele.
But Hutchins said Bausher and
Viefhaus have even more experi-
ence coming in than the players
they will replace had when they
entered school.
Viefhaus helped the USA Soft-
ball Junior Women's National
Team win the 2006 Junior Wom-
en's Pan American Champion-
ships, leading the Americans in
batting average, runs and RBI.
Bausher was named to the EA
Sports High School All-America
second team
Freshman Angela Findlay,sister
of Samantha, sophomore Allison
Kidman and junior Angie Danis
are competing for playing time
in rightfield. For Angela Findlay,
a high school infielder, this is her
first time playing in the outfield.
"I think she's one of our most
game-savvy kids," Hutchins said.
"She's just a player. She finds a
way to get things done and she's
adapted quite well to the outfield
And as Hutchins likes to do early
in the season, catching responsi-
bilities will be split. Either senior
captain Tiffany Worthy or fresh-
man Roya St. Clair will catch, and
the other will be the favorite to be
the designated player.
The Wolverines will open their
season this weekend at the Wilson
Demarini Invitational with five
games against Texas-Arlington,
Mississippi and Houston.
Michigan follows that up with
at least 22 more games in southern
states to complete the non-confer-
ence season.
PURDUE:Amaker has talked
nd all season about how tough it
ew is to win on the road in the Big
am Ten, and the Boilermakers
nd exemplify Amaker's empha-
ee sis. They've recorded double-
er- digit wins over Michigan,
n- Michigan State and Illinois
Io. at Mackey Arena, but have
ar- dropped contests at Michi-
kA gan, at Indiana and even at
'ut Minnesota. At 5-5 in confer-
of ence play, Purdue probably
ast needs a win in one of its next
us three games (at Ohio State,
s- Indiana, at Iowa) in order
'ut to gain entry to the Tourna-
CE CHANCES: 35 nercent.




Lac dza mllul kJC1Lil: dat LVu~t: ends with point guard Dre
of years, he has tried to learn the game Neitzel, who leads the tea
more fromadefensive standpoint." in minutes and scoring a:
Cook will still have the opportunity to leads the conference in fr
jumpstart the offense. During scoring lulls throw percentage (90 pm
this season, the defensive and neutral zone cent). An impressive nonco
transition have been sticking points for the ference victory over then-N
Wolverines.As Cookhasmatured as aplay- 18 Texas will score the Sps
er, Hunwicknotes thatCook's abilityto aid tans points with the NCA
the transition game has vastlyimproved. Selection Committeeb
"I think (Cook) has gotten a lot better with a conference record
and getting back to the puck and mak- 4-6, and two games again
ing that first play," Hunwick said. "In the Wisconsin and one vers
past, he has relied on just throwing it off Indiana remaining, it' po
- the glass, btIt5s i ee bleto make the sible Izzo's team misses o
first good pass and get the puck out ofthe on the Dance for the fit
zone." timeasince19 96-97 nGRo


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