10 - Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Small-ball necessary 5-on-3 mishap doomed 'M'
for Blue's success
team is in flux. Its defense
has started to come
around, but its usually-dominant
starting pitching has latelybeen
inconsistent, and its offense has
scored runs in clusters.
But that offensive production
can't always bail out the Wolver-
needs to manu- _
facture runs by On baseball
using the "small-
ball" strategy, an offensive method
that involves getting runners on
base, advancing them and sac-
rificing outs to advance or score
Small-ball combines the impor-
tance of solid pitching with an
emphasis on scoring runs through
a systematic, analytical approach.
Michigan has often relied on over-
powering teams with a hot inning.
But in what could be a tight race to
the Big Ten title, the Wolverines
should shy away from that strategy.
Michigan needs to find con-
sistent scoringto win games. Its
last two losses came against Iowa
and Eastern Michigan. The Wol-
verines' pitchers delivered on the
mound duringboth games, but
their offense sputtered - play-
ing small-ball could have helped
manufacture runs and pull out
Players with high on-base per-
centages (OBS) and those who
can steal bases are valuable when
it comes to scoring without big
extra-base hits. But this season,
the Wolverines have seen its
stolen bases decline and the OBS
remain around the same.
On Sunday, Michigan dabbled
in small-ball as fifth-year senior
left fielder Kenny Fellows stolea
career-best fourbases in Michi-
gan's 7-5 win over Iowa.
The effort led to six total stolen
bases, and the Wolverines are now
33-of-52 on stolen base attempts.
Michigan was caught stealing only
22 times last season on its way to
78 stolen bases, right around the
pace of the current team. But last
year's team had the power to go
along with its speed, and this team
Coming into the season, Michi-
gan coach Rich Maloney expected
the pitching and defense to carry
the team and the offense to strug-
gle. But the offense, while incon-
sistent, has been a surprise, and it's
the other areas that have had speed
bumps. And there will be games,
like in Michigan's last two losses,
when the offense isn't scoring to
cover other problem areas.
Small-ball's emphasis on get-
ting players on base and advancing
them any way possible is some-
thing Maloney saw as necessary
before the season began - it just
hasn't yet translated consistently.
"I think we're going to have less
power," Maloney said at the "Meet
the Wolverines" night Feb. 16. "So
we're goingto have to be more
creative in producing runs. But
you can do itboth ways."
Maloney also talked about the
importance of the speedy corner
outfielders, Fellows and redshirt
junior Nick Urban. Senior tri-
captain Kevin Cislo's game is also
perfect for the small-ball philoso-
phy. Cislo leads the team with a
.482 OBS and is tied with Fellows
for a team-high eight stolenbases.
Urban isn't far behind with a.390
OBS and five stolen bases.
The Wolverines have the pieces
to do it, but they just need to
perfect the art of manufacturing
runs effectively. The power surge
can and will run flat at times, and
small-ball is the perfect remedy
for any team.
While the Wolverines could
attempt to recreate last year's
power squad, they have been
inconsistent with the bats thus
far. But with small-ball to rely on,
Michigan would be tough to beat.
After beatingIowa on Sunday,
Maloney said baserunning gave
the Wolverines momentum, and
he saw the effort his team put into
trying to manufacture runs in its
first Big Ten series of the season.
"We have to be a scrappy team
to havea success this year," Malo-
ney said. "We lost a lot of good
players last year ... so we can never
take a day off mentally."
And only when the Wolverines
play scrappier will they see that
small-ball will help this year's
team find the same success as last
year's power squad.
Air Force goalie Andrew Volkening saved all43 shots he faced in the Falcons' 2-0 win over Michigan on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
By CHRIS MESZAROS
Daily Sports Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Seldom
is the momentum of a game decided
But in the Michigan hockey
team's 2-0 loss to Air Force in the
first round of the NCAA Tourna-
ment on Friday, the Falcons had the
advantage from the very beginning.
After Air Force
picked up con- NOTEBOOK
elbowing and cross-checking calls
four minutes into the game, Michi-
gan had a two-man advantage for
one minute and 19 seconds.
The Wolverines got three Grade-
A scoring chances in the slot - a
deflection by sophomore Louie
Caporusso and two shots by senior
Brandon Naurato, one directly in
front of the crease. But Air Force
goalie Andrew Volkening was more
than up for the test on each occa-
"I think the momentum shift of
the game was when we didn't score
on the 5-on-3," sophomore for-
ward Matt Rust. "If we would have
scored there, we would have buried
Michigan failed to score at all. The
Wolverines went 0-for-7 with the
man advantage against Air Force.
"When you look back at that
game, Michigan needed to score on
that 5-on-3," Air Force coach Frank
Serratore said. "How many times
have you seen in hockey (that) you
get a 5-on-3, you don't score, and
you lose? And we weathered the
storm, after that our guys were
like, 'OK, we used our mulligan,
and now we have to start playing.'
I think we responded pretty well
The failure to convert on the
two-man advantage set the tempo
for the rest of the game.
Michigan dominated the early
going with seven scoring opportu-
nities in the first eight minutes. The
Wolverines also had a near-goal
from junior Brian Lebler that was
deflected awaybythe Falcon defense
before reaching the goal line.
But after failingto convert on the
power play, Air Force had more top-
notch scoring chances and scored
the two goals that proved to be the
difference in the game.
NOT ENOUGH WORK: Sopho-
more goalie Bryan Hogan has said
many times this season that he
would rather face many shots than
just a few.
Stopping more shots gets a goalie
into a rhythm, because he's used
to the game speed and isn't just an
observer in the crease.
The numbers back him up.
Hogan has just a .899 save percent-
age in games where he faces fewer
than 20 shots. He's posted a .919
save percentage when facing more
than 20 shots ina game.
And while limiting Air Force to
just 13 shots on goal can be a testa-
ment to the team's defense, Beren-
son was less than happy with the
pair of goals given up.
"I don't think it's a game of blam-
ing anyone," Berenson said. "I didn't
like the first goal and I didn't like
the second goal. As a goalie, you're
the last line of resort. But as a goalie,
you've got to make those saves."
FLUKEY FOUR: From a fan's
perspective, Air Force's win over
Michigan was an upset. But the
Wolverines weren't alone in a
wacky weekend in the NCAA Tour-
nament. Three No.1 seeds - Michi-
gan, Notre Dame and Denver - all
lost to No. 4 seeds in the tourna-
ment's first round. The teams in
this year's Frozen Four are No. 4
seeds Bemidji State and Miami
(Ohio), No.1 seed Boston University
and No. 3 seed Vermont.
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