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April 04, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-04-04

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8 - Friday, April 4, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Frozen with excitement, Blue must wait

By MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Writer
There's just one word to describe
the dead week before the Michigan
hockey team's trip to the Frozen
Four - excitement.
No current Wolverine has ever
played this late in the season. That
makes the final weekend even more
special for the team's two seniors,
captain Kevin Porter and alternate
captain Chad Kolarik.
And with nearly half the team
made up of freshmen, many of the
rookies are surprised they clinched
a berth in what was supposed to be
a rebuilding year.
First-year goaltending coach
Josh Blackburn has been there
before - just never from outside
the goalie's crease.
"I'm excited now and I'm not
even playing," said Blackburn,
who played in back-to-back Frozen
Fours in 2001 and 2002 as Michi-
gan's goalie. "It's an exciting time,
and it's just that waiting period.
You can't wait for it to come, you
can't wait to get on the plane to
head down there and you can't wait
to get started."
Blackburn came to Ann Arbor in
fall 1998, months after the Wolver-
ines'second national championship
in three years. He was hired before
this season to coach Michigan's
goalies.
Blackburn remembers well the
week before leaving Ann Arbor for
the Frozen Four. He recalls espe-
cially "feeling good every day" and

Rodriguez
gives updates
on spring
practice
Threet, Sheridan Offense riddled
still frontrunners with injuries during
to start at QB spring practice

a

Senior Kevin Porter and the Wolverines are waiting in anticipation of next weekend's Frozen Four.

having an extra bounce in his step.
"It's pretty neat to see the guys
experience what I experienced,"
Blackburn said. "See them going
through the emotions of it."
But with all of that excitement
comes a seemingly never-ending
wait.
"It takes forever," Blackburn
said. "You just can't to wait to get on
a plane and go there and go play."
Along with the break, the hard-
est part is the daily routine of prac-
tice, according to associate head
coach Mel Pearson, who played in
the 1981 Frozen Four as a Michigan

Tech forward.
"For me personally, it's tough to
wait so long," Pearson said. "You
get a little nervous, you get a little
anxious to play."
The key for the coaching staff
is not letting that translate onto
the ice this week. While Tuesday's
optional practice revealed some
rust after a couple days off, assis-
tant coach Billy Powers said the
team executed much better the past
two days.
Michigan's experience this sea-
son leading up to - and performing
in - big weekends also alleviates

some worries the coaching staff
might have for a young team.
From the season-opening tour-
nament in St. Paul to the College
Hockey Showcase, the Great Lakes
Invitational and the CCHA play-
offs, the Wolverines have excelled
when the spotlight has shone
brightest.
"Just the combination of those
experiences has been good for
our team, especially with so many
young players," Michigan coach
Red Berenson said. "I don't think
(the Frozen Four) will faze them."
All they can do now is wait.

Blue to open facility with pitching duel

After saying last week that
redshirt freshman Steven
Threet and redshirt sopho-
more Nick Sheridan have taken
the lead in the competition to
become Michigan's quarter-
back, Michigan coach Rich
Rodriguez said yesterday that
those two remain competitive
with each other. But he said
Threet has been a little better
lately in recent live team situ-
ations.
Other than size - Threet
is 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, and
Sheridan is 6-foot-1, 201
pounds - Rodriguez doesn't
see much of a difference
between the two.
"They're both about the
same,"Rodriguezsaid."They're
both good athletes, both very
smart guys. I think they're
tough guys. We let them get
hit more than they will in the
future, we hope. And they're
pretty accurate, and they have
good arms."
Rodriguez doesn't subscribe
to the if-you-have-two-quar-
terbacks-you-don't-have-any
theory.
Incoming freshman Justin
Feagin, a dual-threat quarter-
back, could offer a change of
pace.
Although it creates chal-
lenges, the thin roster will
likely lead Rodriguez to play
more freshmen -this year than
in recent memory.
"It's really hard for any true
freshman quarterback because
there's so much they have to
learn," Rodriguez said. "There
are certain positions - receiv-
ers and skill positions - that
maybe guys can come in and
there's not as much on their
plate."

Though yesterday's practice
was only in shorts, the Wolver-
ines were still feeling battered.
Rodriguez cpnfirmed yester-
day that wide receiver Junior
Hemingway is the latest Michi-
gan football player to suffer a
spring practice-ending injury.
After sustaining a severe high
ankle sprain, the sophomore is
expected to return by the start
of summer workouts.
Sophomore Greg Mathews
missed yesterday's practice due
to illness. And the dwindling
number of wide receivers has
forced the coaches to search for
flexible options.
"Guys are going to have to
learn more than one position, but
in the long run, that may help us
because we'll be able to roll some
guys in and out of there," Rodri-
guez said.
With eight days remaining
before the end of spring prac-
tice, the health of the Michigan
running backs is still a point of
concern.
Rodriguez said redshirtjunior
Kevin Grady, who sat out the
2007 season with a knee injury
suffered in last year's spring
practice, has been "practicing,
healthy and eager to prove him-
self." Junior Brandon Minor has
been sporting a soft cast after
spraining his wrist but has not
missed any reps.
But Rodriguez also confirmed
that junior Carlos Brown, a back-
up to Mike Hart last season, will
miss the rest of spring practices
with a finger injury he sustained
in mid-March.
"We don't even have the num-
ber of bodies that we would nor-
mally carry on the travel squad,"
Rodriguez said. "It's a deep con-
cern."

By IAN KAY died, because that's the only reason
Daily Sports Writer they wouldn't be excited to play."
Problems draining excess water
After spending seven of its last from the outfield forced the post-
eight weekends on buses and in ponement of Wednesday's game
hotels, the Michi- against Bowling Green, leaving
gan softball team players with more time to think
is happy to be back 1OWa at about their new digs.
in Ann Arbor. Michigan "I can't wait to just be on the dirt
And after 32 gpd look out and see everybody,"
road games, the Matchup: senior outfielder Michelle Weath-
team couldn't Mihigan 9-3 erdon said. "I'm really excited to get
wait for its home on the field and take it all in."
opener scheduled When: Today Weatherdon's eagerness is under-
for Wednesday, at 4 P.M. standable. No. 5 Michigan (4-0 Big
newly-renovated Where: Ten, 29-3 overall) has crossed the
Alumni Field. Alumni Field country several times over the past
But when poor TV/Radio: two months for tournaments in
conditions in the BTN Florida, Texas and California.
outfield pushed "Breaking (the field) in and get-
opening day back to today, they ting used to it and making it our
could barely contain themselves. home is just going to be a great pro-
"Once our kids have had to cess," Weatherdon said.
wait to play, if they're not excited, As ifthe ballpark's opening wasn't
they're dead," Michigan coach Carol enough, conference rival Iowa (1-1,
Hutchins said. "I mean literally, they 21-11) will be the first opponent in

the new stadium.
The Hawkeyes present a tough
match-up for the Wolverines.
Michigan has rolled over most of
its opponents this season on the
strength of its pitching. Sophomore
Nikki Nemitz and freshman Jordan
Taylor have combined for an NCAA-
best 0.63 earned run average.
But Iowa is one of the few teams
that can match the Wolverines' pair
of aces.
The Hawkeyes' top two starters,
Brittany Weil and Amanda Zust,
come into the weekend with the
nation's fourth-best ERA (1.10).
Michigan should be familiar with
Weil. The junior surrendered just
five runs in two games against the
Wolverines last year, but was outdu-
eled by Nemitz each time.
Nemitz hurled 12.1 shutout
innings, and Michigan won 2-0 and
3-2 (10 innings) in Iowa City.
"They're a great team," junior
shortstop Teddi Ewing said. "We

have to get up to play them. They're
goingto come at us."
The Hawkeyes also have a Michi-
gan connection. Hutchins worked
asanassistantunder currentHawk-
eye coach Gayle Blevins while both
were at Indiana University in 1981.
Following the Iowa series, Michi-
gan will take on Illinois (1-1,17-17) in
a Sunday double-header. The Wol-
verines split a double-dip against
the Fighting Illini last season, then
eliminated them in the quarterfi-
nals of the Big Ten Tournament.
As the Wolverines kick off the
heart of their Big Ten season, the
actual games this weekend will be
overshadowed by the opening of
Alumni Field. The complex includes
an 1,800 seat grandstand, as well as a
new concession stand and press box.
"We just built a $6 million facil-
ity - it's time to play in it," Hutchins
said.
And that's something to get excit-
ed about.

DANFELDMAN - COURTNEYRATKOWIAK

Wolverines look to avenge last year's postseason loss

By JASON KOHLER t
Daily Sports Writer g
Even 10 months later, it still I
stings. i
The pain of last season's 6-5 Big b
Ten Tournament loss to Penn State P
at Ray Fisher Stadiumlingers for the T
Michigan baseball team. It was the it
Wolverines' fourth to the Nittany
Lions at home in 2007, and it endan- it
gered their chances of gaining an at- it
large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"It hurts any time you lose four of w
five," Michigan coach Rich Maloney tl
said. "You have to tip your hat off s
Serving
Ann Arbor
since 1980

o them. They whooped us pretty
ood."

This afternoon,
Michigan will get
ts chance at pay-
ack when it faces
enn State (2-2 Big
'en, 8-14 overall)
h State College.
But the Wolver-
ines aren't dwell-
ing on the past.
"Certainly
we want to beat
hem," Maloney
aid. "As far as the

Michigan at
Penn State
Matchup:
Michigan
14-7; Penn
State 8-14
When: Today
6:35 P.M.
Where: Med-
lar Field

the team failed to keep form in a7-3
loss at Central Michigan Wednes-
day.
For the Wolverines to rebound
against Penn State, they will need
to score runs early. Although the
Nittany Lions average just 4.5 runs
per game and have a .260 batting
average, they have one of the best
pitching staffs in the Big Ten. Junior
Drew O'Neil leads the Penn State
bullpen, and Maloney calls him the
best closer in the conference.
"It's important for us to get a lead
and just take what we get," Oaks
said.
Normally, Maloney shoots for
his team to score at least six or
seven runs per game, but against
Penn State, he thinks five might be
enough.
But lately, even putting up a hand-

ful of runs has been difficult. Michi-
gan averaged just 4.2 runs in its last
six games, the same average it had
against Penn State last year.
"Sooner or later, we have to break
out of this thing," Maloney said.
Michigan points to a lack of ener-
gy as the culprit for its poor batting.
"It starts in the dugout and locker
room, and it carries out onto the
field," junior Zach Putman said. "If
we can find a way to get everyone
excited for the game, it will be a
good weekend."
Michigan shouldn't have too
much trouble getting pumped to
play after what happened last year.
"This weekend, we need to come
in with extra focus and determina-
tion and realize we need totake it to
them because last year, they took it
to us," Oaks said.

revenge factor goes, that's water
under the bridge."
The Wolverines (4-0,14-7) lead
the Big Ten after sweeping Iowa
last weekend. But inconsistency
has plagued Michigan all season,

Lawsuit against
west Virginia
doesn't weigh on
coach's mind
Michigan coach Rich Rodri-
guez was asked at the press
conference whether he had any
reaction to yesterday's hearing
about the ongoing legal battle
over the $4 million buyout in
his contract with West Virgin-
ia University.
"No, what happened?"
Rodriguez asked. "I wasn't
paying attention. I should've
been."
Judge Robert Stone granted
Rodriguez the right to present
evidence to prove West Vir-
ginia didn't live up to promises
made when he signed the con-
tract.
Stone also said West Virgin-
ia had the right to documents
related to Rodriguez's hiring
at Michigan.
When the reporter began to
explain that, Rodriguez quick-
ly cut him off.
"No, I don't need to answer
that," Rodriguez said. "My wife
called me. Rita was there. The
attorneys were there. I didn't
delve into the details too much.
I will, later tonight, but I'm
focused on spring practice."
The dispute between Rodri-
guez and his former employer
could last into the 2008 sea-
son. D
- DA N F ELDMA N

Team to practice,
play spring game at
local high schools
The weather in Ann Arbor was
perfect for football yesterday, but
the Michigan football team had
nowhere to go.
With Michigan Stadium under
construction and the outdoor
practice fields torn up to con-
struct a new indoor facility, the
Wolverines had to play indoors.
But some fresh air is coming
soon. Michigan will practice at
Pioneer High School Saturday,
April 12, and will hold its final
spring practice at Saline High
School on April 12.
For the first time in recent
memory, the final spring practice
will be closed to the public.
"That's unfortunate but who
are you going to turn away?"
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez
said. "If you had a bigger venue,
like the Big House, you could
have everybody there."
The biggest advantage to prac-
ticing outdoors is working on the
kicking game. The low ceiling of
Oosterbaan Fieldhouse has limit-
ed Michigan's work on punts and
kickoffs.
Rodriguez also looks forward
to seeing how his quarterbacks
and receivers can deal with in the
elements.
"It's a little different throwing
and catching when you're outside
and have some wind," Rodriguez
said.
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