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April 07, 2010 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-04-07

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8A - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


LaMarre needs
to provide spark

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez talks with his trio of quarterbacks during spring practice. All three are expected to compete for the starting job.
Rodriguez says Forcierand
Robinson are splitting snaps

At this point in the year,
much of the Michigan
baseball season has seen
the Wolverines simply going
through the motions.
Yes, they
have managed CAITLIN
to compete SMITH
with a moder-
ately difficult On Baseball
schedule. And
Michigan (2-1
Big Ten, 15-10 overall) is cur-
rently tied for first in the Big
Ten after its opening weekend
against Indiana.
But those good numbers have
disguised a mediocre overall per-
Michigan fans have been
forced to hear the same old
excuse: pitching and batting
weren't working in unison.
The Wolverines have had their
moments - sweeping Indiana-
Purdue Fort Wayne and holding
off a late comeback run from
Eastern Michigan - but the
toughest competition is yet to
Against Indiana this past
weekend, Michigan batters
knocked around the Hoosiers'
pitchers to win the first two
But when looking for the cru-
cial, final game sweep on Sunday,
the Wolverines gave up 26 sloppy
runs - the most allowed by a
Michigan team since a loss to
Minnesota in 2001. And on top
of that, an 11-run Indiana rally
in the fourth inning marked the
most runs tallied in one inning
against the Wolverines since
After a game like that, the
Wolverines are in need of a mid-
season spark.
And hopefully junior out-
fielder Ryan LaMarre, who was
injured in late February against
Texas Tech, can provide exactly
In the 2009 season, LaMarre
started in 53 games, leading the

team with a.344 batting average,
55 runs scored and 62 RBIs.
He was also second team
All-Big Ten Outfielder, third
team All-American to Baseball
America and the NCBWA. He
has the ability to give new life to
a lethargic offense and provide
the team with needed in-game
LaMarre has missed 18 games
this season due to a broken
His long-awaited return to
game action came last Friday
against Indiana as a pinch run-
ner, when LaMarre stole a base
and scored Michigan's 10th run
of the game.
Michigan fans are hoping that
he will fully return into the line-
up this weekend against Purdue.
He has the talent to impact
games in many ways, with his
speed, defense and hitting in the
top of the lineup.
While fans shouldn't expect
to simply see the "Ryan LaMarre
Show," they might witness an
overall boost in team perfor-
Since Michigan has endured
more than a month's worth of
play without LaMarre, it has
become a stronger team. Team-
mates like senior second base-
men Mike Kittle and redshirt
sophomore first baseman Garrett
Stephens have stepped it up to fill
his cleats, soto speak.
With a reliable swing and solid
fielding skills, LaMarre should be
able to fill in the gaps where con-
sistency between pitching and
hitting has been lagging. This
will give the rest of the team the
opportunity to support him on
the field and improve their play
as well.
Only time will tell if LaMarre
can return rejuvenated after his
His presence is much needed
but the beginning of his return
might not be just another walk in
the park.



By TIM ROHAN higher level of play out of Forcier in
Daily Sports Writer his second season.
"I've had a couple of conver-
The person with a headstart sations with Tate in particular
usually wins the race, right? because he plays that high-profile
Through four weeks of spring quarterback position and how we
practice, Michigan coach Rich expect him, even though he had
Rodriguez maintains that the some success early as a freshman,
quarterback position is still up for how we expect him to continue to
grabs among sophomores Tate progress and get better each and
Forcier and Denard Robinson and every year," Rodriguez said. "And
early-enrollee Devin Gardner. Tate's a very, very competitive guy.
Forcier was an early enrollee And I think he's a guy that likes
himself this time last year, and the challenges. The last couple of prac-
Wolverineswere facing a much dic- tices, he's responded with that."
ier quarterback competition. A year Rodriguez left the door open to a
later, Forcier finds himself in camp, setup similar to last season's, with
having started every game in 2009, Forcier starting games and Robin-
splitting snaps with Robinson in a son coming in as a change-of-pace
classic position battle. quarterback. Rodriguez has said
"There's no question they're ina repeatedly that he will play what-
battle for it," Rodriguez said Tues- ever number or combination of
day at a press conference. "Tate quarterbacks they "feel (they) can
knows that, and Denard knows win with."
that. They've probably split equal "We're not necessarily wanting
reps with the first group, not that one guy to clearly establish himself
we have a first team, but with the as much as we want to improve,
first group out there. And we'll constant improvement from all
continue to do that throughout the those guys," Rodriguez said.
spring and see if somebody sepa- With his freshman season under
rates themselves or if they both his belt and a whole year of learn-
continue to get better." ing in the process, Robinson could
Forcier had an extra spring and be more prepared at this point to
all of last summer to get acquaint- challenge Forcier for the start-
ed with Rodriguez's complicated ing spot. And taking reps with the
offense, which helped him win last first group gives Robinson a more
year's competition. consistent chance to show his stuff
As a true freshman, he orches- than the 2009 season allowed,
trated the offense and produced especially as a passer. Forcier
nearly 200 yards per game through threw 250 more passes than Robin-
the air and on the ground com- son in 2009.
bind. The offense was statistically This time around, though,
one of the best in the Big Ten. Rodriguez sees differences in Rob-
Rodriguez and his staff expect a inson's mental grasp of the posi-

"More than anything, under-
standing the offense, particularly
things in the passing game and
where he should look for the ball,
reading defenses," Rodriguez said
of Robinson's development. "I
think he understands our concepts
pretty well. ... We really worked
hard on his fundamentals, and he
still has a ways to go. But he's a tal-
ented, talented guy and he loves to
play. He's one of those guys that's
very explosive. You got to have an
opportunity for him to touch the
ball, and obviously if you're quar-
terback, you're going to touch it
every snap."
Whoever plays quarterback next
season will be charged with tak-
ing better care of the ball. Michi-
gan had 29 fumbles as a team last
year and lost 13 of those to the
other team. In Rodriguez's offense,
which features a quarterback who
is able to run the ball, limiting fum-
bles is key.
Normally at this time in the
spring, Rodriguez has his quar-
terbacks wearing a different color
jersey to avoid contact. But to make
sure that his quarterbacks avoid
costly turnovers when running
with the ball, Rodriguez has the
quarterbacks in full-contact drills.
"It was a major issue for us last
year, all year, and particularly at
that position," Rodriguez said of
the fumbles. "We've got to make
sure that they know how to take
care of the football in traffic and
they can have the proper ball secu-
rity. And the only way to do that is
to get tackled. If the only time you

get tackled is in a game, then you
worry about do they truly grasp it."
Takinga couple of extra hits now
may also help someone like Gard-
ner learn quickly how important it
is to hold onto the ball.
"He carries it out there a little bit
like he's running along in the sand-
lot," Rodriguez said, extending his
right arm out to mimic carrying
the ball away from his body. "Some-
times when you're a young guy and
you're in the open field, you feel the
freedom to carry the ball out there.
Whenyou get to this level, the guys
chasing you are a little bit faster."
Gardner is still behind the other
two sophomore quarterbacks, due
in large part to a lack of experience.
But as of now, Rodriguez assures
that the race is wide open.
Gardner has progressed during
the first eight practices this spring
in Rodriguez's eyes. But Rodri-
guez is careful to point out that it
is unfair to put too high of expec-
tations on Gardner too early in his
career as a Wolverine.
Rodriguez is certainly lookingto
improve upon the 15 interceptions
the quarterbacks threw as a group
last season as well as the fumbling
"We can't beat ourselves, I
know I said that plenty of times
last year, but I think we'll have a
better football team," Rodriguez
said. "But we're not going to have
a good enough team to beat our-
selves with turnovers and negative
yardage play. So that's been a huge
emphasis for us this spring limiting
turnovers and as many negatively
yardage plays as possible."

Triple-threat Nemitz
proves her versatility


Daily Sports Writer
A softball team that fires on all
cylinders - offense, defense and
pitching - will always be tough
to beat.
But senior Nikki Nemitz, a hit-
ting pitcher for the Wolverines, is
showing that she can dominate all
three phases on her own.
Nemitz was named this week's
Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after
throwing a one-hitter on Sunday
against Wisconsin. And while
the senior was dominant on the
mound, her 3-for-5 weekend
performance at the plate earned
some recognition as well.
"(Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins) always says hitting is
contagious," Nemitz said. "If you
have momentum, if you're feeling
good on one side of the ball, then
you're absolutely feeling good on
the other side of the ball.
"I don't think pitchers have
it any different. Anyone can
have that same feeling, because
if you're fielding really well or
pitching really well, you're going
to translate that to the plate."
As a hitting pitcher, Nemitz
has seen action from the bat-
ter's box in 26 games this season,
while starting 13 games from the
mound. Boasting a .294 batting
average and a 1.85 ERA, Nemitz
has helped her team in countless
ways already this year.
"That's why I love softball,"
Nemitz said after the Wolverines'
trip to Louisville in mid-March.
"I love being a hitting pitcher. I
get to help myself and contribute
to the team on both ends of the
The lefty has settled in nicely to
the newly renovated Alumni Field
during Michigan's recent four-
game home stand, going .545 at
the plate while logging two wins
on the mound during that stretch.
In the Wolverines' home open-
er against Bowling Green, Nemitz
was both the starting pitcher and
the offensive spark, as she mus-
cled out a grand slam in the bot-
tom of the fifth inning to propel
Michigan to a 10-2 victory.
"Every hit is awesome," Nemitz
said after the game. "I got my

pitch, and it felt perfect off the
bat. I was seeing it well, andI was
confident. It's always a nice feel-
ing to hit it hard and hit it over
the fence anyway. That time,
there just happened to be three
of my teammates on base. I can't
really hit a grand slam without my
A St. Claire Shores native,
Nemitz was recruited primar-
ily as a pitcher. Hutchins knew
there was pop in her bat as well
and gave Nemitz an opportunity
to hit during her freshman and
sophomore seasons. But the focus
remained on consistently improv-
ing her pitching game.
"I chose to be a pitcher because
I couldn't handle not being in con-
trol of the game," Nemitz said.
"I like that. Pitchers like to be in
control of situations, otherwise
we wouldn't pitch. I mean, we're
the ones that touch the ball the
most on the field. I like the feeling
of being able to help myself. When
I hit the ball, I obviously help my
own cause and that's fun. But I
also realize that I'm one of nine
With pitching as her priority,
Nemitz has posted stellar num-
bers on the mound over her three-
plus years as a Wolverine. Last
season, as a junior, Nemitz was
named the Big Ten Pitcher of the
Year and an National Fastpitch
Coaches Association All Ameri-
can pitcher. Last season she went
28-7 with a 1.07 ERA while setting
career highs in wins, strikeouts,
and opponent averages.
But Nemitz also brought her
offensive game to a new level last
season, as she averaged .294 with
eight home runs and 37 RBI from
the batter's box-all career highs.
While her numbers last year
will be tough to beat, as a senior,
Nemitz is stating her case for the
Big Ten and All American awards
once again. As a three-time All
Big Ten first team selection-as a
pitcher in 2007 and 2009 and as
a utility player in 2008- Nemitz
is intent on staying on top of her
If she continues to find success
in all three phases, Nemitz can
certainly end her Michigan career
with a bang.

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4 - 5:30 pm
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