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6A - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Experienced Toth delivers late for Michigan

0

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Writer
Anthony Toth wasn't even
supposed to swing. He was sup-
posed to let the 2-2 pitch at his
shoulders fly by and let the count
go full.
Then again, he wasn't sup-
posed to play four years ago,
either. He was supposed to red-
shirt, let his first year go by and
prepare for the next season.
But for the redshirt senior sec-
ond baseman, things don't always
work out the way they're sup-
posed to. Like how a teammate's
injury thrust Toth into the lineup
his true freshman year.
Like how he had to redshirt
his second season, less than a
year after playing in the Super
Regionals.
Like how on Saturday, he
somehow connected with a pitch
he knew he couldn't handle for
a game-winning and potentially
season-changing double.
No. For Anthony Toth, things
don't always work out the way
they're supposed to. And that's
been a good thing.
With his hit Saturday in the
9-8 win against Winthrop, the
co-captain increased his team-

leading total of game-winning
hits to seven. And though Toth,
who said he can't even remem-
ber any of his game-winning hits,
cannot explain his success under
pressure, his past offers its own
explanation.
"It's been a very, very long
journey," he said. "I mean, this is
my fifth year. I've played a little
bit of college baseball."
Over those five years, Toth
experienced more than most col-
lege baseball players ever will.
The recruited walk-on stepped
onto campus in 2006 thinking
he'd redshirt his true freshman
year. In Fall ball, the undersized
Toth was having serious issues.
"Offensively, I was just pep-
peringballs into the visitor's dug-
out all daybecause I just couldn't
catch up to anything. My swing
was so bad," Toth said.
In the winter, Michigan coach
Rich Maloney and the coaching
staff prohibited Toth from hit-
ting a baseball. Instead, he did
dry swings with a monster bat -
a heavily weighted bat - for three
months trying to solve his swing
troubles. The three months, they
figured, would be worth it. After
all, he was redshirting that year
anyway.

But an injury to starting short-
stop Leif Mahler changed that.
Suddenly, Toth Was forced into
the mix as the utility infielder
off the bench. But the freshman
rolled with it. He made six starts
at second base, recorded 11 hits in
26 at bats and was a key defensive
player.
And, most importantly, he got
his first taste of a win-or-go-
home atmosphere when the Wol-
verines completed their series
victory over Vanderbilt in the
Regional Finals.
"The clinching game ... was the
most nervous I've ever been in
any sport at any point in my life,"
Toth said. "And I actually made
an error that game, and it was
to put the winning run on in the
bottom of the ninth. So, as you
can imagine, I was freaking out."
Luckily for Toth, the error
didn't cost Michigan the series.
The freshman had survived his
first pressure situation, and in
doing so, gained experience that
would prove invaluable in the
years to come.
When Mahler returned to
health in 2008, Toth was forced
to go from the field at the Super
Regionals to the bench for a red-
shirt season his sophomore year.

Toth waited and watched, but he
never stopped working.
"Anthony, for one, has worked
from the bottom up," Maloney
said. "Just on his own, the swing,
he had to reconstruct ... plus he
was weak, strength-wise. He's
worked his tail off to get stronger.
I don't know how many pounds,
you'll have to ask him, I bet you
he gained 25 to 30 pounds.
"It just says alot about who he
is as a character and how bad he
wanted to be a player for Michi-
gan."
As Toth began to develop phys-
ically, he began to develop into a
team leader as well. Strength-
ened by his experience and his
work ethic, he's now one of the
team's best situational hitters -
especially late-game situations.
After losing two close games
in the first half of the Bojangles
Baseball Classic last weekend,
the Wolverines managed to
claw their way back to an 8-8 tie
against Winthrop entering the
ninth inning.
That's when he saw the pitch.
"Coach and I talked about all
the time that a pitch that I can't
handle is anything above my
hands," he said. "It was a fastball
that was up at my shoulders that

0

Fifth-year senior second baseman Anthony Toth tallied his seventh career
game-winning hit last weekend.

I should've never been swinging
at."
He was never supposed to
swing at the pitch. And he cer-
tainly wasn't supposed to be able

to hit it. But for Toth, things don't
always work out the way they're
supposed to.
And on Saturday, that was def-
initely a good thing.

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4

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