The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
March 21, 2011 - 3B
Strong pitching leads Blue to sweep in Oestrike Classic
By NEAL ROTHSCHILD
Daily Sports Writer
YPSILANTI - The numbers
Before the Oestrike Clas-
sic this weekend, the Michigan
baseball team had only received
one quality start from its pitch-
ers. It's no stretch to say that a
team is going to have trouble
winning games when its starters
are getting pulled in the fourth
and fifth innings.
Fittingly, Michigan went 3-12
during those games.
But something changed this
weekend on the Eastern Michi-
gan campus at Oestrike Stadium.
All three Wolverine starters
earned quality starts, and two
of them got wins as Michigan
swept the weekend competition
with victories over Alma, Oak-
land and Eastern Michigan to
move to 6-12.
"It's huge," Michigan coach
Rich Maloney said. "We pitched
really well all weekend, which
is very encouraging. We found
ways to win which we hadn't
done all year. For the kids to
show resiliency and fight and
battle, we're proud of them."
The Wolverines had to sweat
out the first game on Friday
against Division-III Alma.
Despite a strong performance
on the mound from redshirt
sophomore Tyler Mills, Alma
overcame a three-run deficit
and forced extra innings.
But a leadoff triple by fresh-
man Michael O'Neill in the 12th
inning put the Scots on their
heels. Three batters later, junior
John Lorenz ended the game
with a run-scoring single to give
the Wolverines the 4-3 win.
Saturday's game marked
another pitching duel. Redshirt
sophomore Bobby Brosnahan
traded zeroes with Oakland's
Aaron Wick for much of the
The 1-1 deadlock was snapped
in the seventh inning when red-
shirt sophomore Kevin Krantz
drove home sophomore Derek
Dennis, who had reached on a
Brosnahan finished the after-
noon with 7.1 innings under his
belt, picking up his first victory
of the season.
He only allowed five hits and
a run. Freshman Alex Lakatos
nailed down the game with a
The finale pitted Michigan
against the Eagles, who had also
won their first two games. The
winner of Sunday's game would
take home the Oestrike Classic
In keeping with the theme of
the weekend, the starters kept
pace for much of the afternoon.
Michigan sophomore Kyle Clark
and Corey Chaffins of Eastern
Michigan didn't give the batters
much to hit, and both pitched at
least seven innings without sur-
rendering more than five hits.
At the end of six innings, East-
ern Michigan clung to a 2-1 lead.
But Michigan wasn't about to let
a promising weekend get away.
Lorenz led off the frame with
a single to left field and redshirt
junior Garrett Stephens fol-
lowed with a walk.
Everyone in the stadium
knew that the No. 8 hitter, red-
shirt freshman Zach Johnson,
would be bunting. And it was a
perfect one. Chaffins fielded the
bunt along the third-base line
and threw off his back foot to
second baseman Zack Leonard
covering first base. But Leonard
All runners were safe, and
two batters later sophomore
center fielder Pat Biondi deliv-
ered the game-changing deci-
sive blow with a three-run
double to left-center field.
"I was looking for a fastball
that was in the middle of the
plate that I could drive," Biondi
said. "He kind of left it up a little
bit and I put a good swing on it."
The Wolverines added an
insurance run in the seventh to
put Michigan ahead, 5-2.
Clark came out after 7.1
innings and sophomore Ben
Ballantine closed the door with
the Wolverines' second straight
He struck out four of the five
hitters he faced.
"Three quality starts, it's out-
standing," Maloney said. "That
gives the whole team a lift."
This weekend, Michigan's
starters each pitched 7.1 innings
and allowed just a combined five
Perhaps the Oestrike Classic
was the opportunity the team
needed to get back on track.
"We've been scuffling a little
bit lately," Clark said. "But once
we came out here, we just want-
ed to get after it and have some
fun. I think everything's start-
ing to come together.
"Hitters have been barreling
up some good pitches and pitch-
ing's definitely coming along, so
I think we're looking good right
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Krzyzewski was dancing on the
bench - Michigan was essentially
playing a road game against the
Blue Devils in Charlotte.
"At one point coach called a
timeout and was trying to show us
his hops," Smith said. "Sometimes
coach just wants to show that he's
athletic too and then he was just so
Though Duke had the momen-
tum, Michigan climbed out of the
hole after having five players fin-
ish in double digits. The Wolver-
ines simply made the last mistake.
Utilizing its four-guard - and
sometimes five-guard - offense,
Michigan forced Duke to play just
one big man when they usually
From Page 1B
got a lot of poise. It's grace under
The phenom from High Bridge,
New Jersey - only an hour
and a half away from the Wells
Fargo Center, which hosted this
year's championships - isn't
overtly confident or cocky. Team-
mates say he keeps to himself.
McFarland said numerous times
throughout the week that he has a
quiet confidence about him.
"I don't think I really talk a
lot about how confident I am,"
Russell said. "But, you know,
throughout the day I might be
* quiet outside, but inside the
play at least two. Forward Ryan
Kelly was Krzyzewski choice for
mostofthegame. Kellyscored just
four points but also had to defend
against freshman guard Evan
Smotrycz - who tallied 11 points
in the first half.
On Morris's last shot, Kelly was
the closest defender in front of
"(Morris) had been playing very
well," Kelly said. "I just tried to
make a little distraction. At that
point whatever happens - you
are prepared for anything at that
Along with Kelly was anoth-
er unfamiliar face - freshman
guard Kyrie Irving. Irving had
just returned from a season-long
injury in Duke's second-round
win against Hampton - where
he played just 20 minutes. He had
only practiced with the team two
and a half times before Sunday's
But Irving looked fresher than
ever against the Wolverines. After
not seeing much action in the first
half, Irving finished with 11 points
and three rebounds. More signifi-
cant than anything else was his
presence at the free throw line
- he sank 9-of-10 shots from the
charity stripe on Sunday.
Ultimately, Duke's stellar
guard play from Irving and Smith
helped Duke squeak by Michi-
"I just thought, I don't want to
take this Duke jersey off," Smith
said. "Michigan was playing us
tough soI thought I didn't want to
lose. I love playing for Duke and
I look forward to playing with my
teammates. I didn't want to lose."
From Page 1B
contingent, which normally
moves the ball with military-like
precision, to just seven assists.
In comparison, the Wolverines'
guards, who faced the Blue Dev-
ils' man-to-man defense most of
the game, dished out 12 assists.
Krzyzewski was impressed
with freshman Kyrie Irving's
penetration into Michigan's zone.
He was able to attack the defense
and kick the ball out, but Duke's
outside shooting was affected by
the zone - it only shot 5-for-20
from long range.
In addition to foring the
Blue Devils into low-percentage
shots, the Wolverines' 1-3-1 zone
defense forced the Blue Devils
Duke didn't have as much time
to prepare for the 1-3-1 zone as it
would have liked because of the
quick turnaround in the second
and third-rounds of the tourna-
ment. But one thing the Blue Dev-
ils did know how to do against a
zone was rebound. With a zone,
when players aren't matched up
one-on-one, sometimes people
can't find a body to box out, and
opposing players are able to crash
the boards with more ease. This
was exactly the case on Sunday,
as the Blue Devils dominated the
Wolverines on the boards, 33-22.
However, with Duke's inher-
ent size advantage, it's quite likely
Michigan would have been out-
rebounded by that kind of mar-
gin if it had played a man-to-man
defense as well.
wheels are always turning, and
I'm always thinking about what
I'm going to do when I'm out on
the mat there."
Whatever those wheels are that
drove Russell through stiff regu-
lar season competition - the Big
Ten plays home to five of the top
six wrestlers in his weight class
- and through Nationals matches
that atpoints were so close they
were hard to watch, the wheels
weren't going to be stopped.
Just after Russell rose from the
mat pumping his fists in the air,
he was relegated to limp weakly
off the stage. He limped again up
to the podium.
He continued to limp through
the gloomy shadows of the arena's
basement and then through an
elevator, where he greeted family.
Still in his uniform, his ankle was
His hands, though, were
wrapped tightly around his
trophy. But even with his body
suddenly weakened, and despite
the fact his dream was now mate-
rialized and in his hands, Kel-
len Russell's wheels aren't done
"It's abig relief to come here
and win my first national title, but
again, I have another year, so I've
got to start training for next year,"
Russell said, only minutes after
winning the title.
After 730 nights, Russell's
dreams are now reality. But who
am I to think the 731st dream will
be any different?
Michigan coach John Beilein helped Michigan reach the third round of the
NCAA Tournament last weekend.
"It was very effective," junior
guard Stu Douglass said Sunday.
"When we threw it out there it
kind of made them stumble a lit-
tle bit on the offensive end. They
were getting some good looks ...
When we went into it, it was very
Michigan employed the 1-3-1
zone more in the second half and
outscored Duke by two points
in that stanza. However the
foul troubles of freshman Evan
Smotrycz and redshirt freshman
Jordan Morgan forced Beilein
to move players into different
positions in the zone, but he was
pleased with the overall perfor-
mance of his team.
"It's a unique defense that we
used when I was at Richmond
... and at West Virginia," Beilein
said. "We practice it often, we
use it rarely. But when we do
use it and it's effective, we'll stay
From Page 1B
sistent option Michigan has.
"I think, too, on that shot, a
clean look would have been if we
let him go to the basket," Duke
coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
"He played a great game. That
kid is one of the best guards in
the country. He reminds me of
Andre Miller, you know, and
how he plays, because he can
run the point from out on top
and he can run the point from
And though one can blame
or praise Morris for attempting
that shot, the Los Angeles native
is one of the biggest reasons
that the Wolverines were in this
Morris finished the game
with a team-high 16 points and
recorded six assists and three
rebounds. All season, Morris
has been the guy to step up and
make plays for Michigan when it
needed them most.
After saying at the Big Ten
media day in Chicago earlier
this season that the team would
reach the 20-win mark and
Michigan proceeded to lose six
conference games in a row at
one point. Morris looked like a
But then Morris - who leads
the Wolverines in scoring, aver-
aging 15 points a game - did
exactly that. The Wolverines
recorded their 20th win against
Illinois right before getting
selected to go dancing as a No.
The floor general is an inte-
gral component in the success of
Michigan coach John Beilein's
offensive scheme: Since Morris
can run the point from either the
top or inside the paint, Michi-
gan's 3-point shooting weapons
become much more lethal with
him on the floor. Not to mention,
he can score himself.
"His baskets were on extend-
ed dribbles," Krzyzewski said.
"And just to make sure that our
transition defense didn't give up
the layup, it wasn't the shot that
he has been hitting ... (Morris)
played a great game. That kid,
he's very, very good. I mean, he's
Morris missed the shot that
could have extended the Wol-
verines season by another game
at least, but he's also the reason
Michigan has been so competi-
tive with some of the top teams
in the nation.
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