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April 18, 2011 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-04-18

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2B - April 18, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPORT MONDAY COLUMN p
Afinal goodbye *

was 13 years old when I made
the biggestsports mistake of
my life.
I had been to a handful of
Michigan gamesbefore, but as a
teenager now, the game had really
started to come together for me.
So with my grandparents' season
tickets - a pair of tickets that
would change
my life - my
dad and I
embarked for
the Big House
to see Michi-
gan take on
Washing-
ton in the RYAN
2002 season KARTJE
opener.
And as the
Wolverines traded jabs with the
Huskies, Phil Brabbs lined up in
the first quarter for a field goal
from 36 yards out. He missed. I
'still remember the look on my
dad's face when he missed that
fledgoa. And when he missed
the second one before halftime -
scratch that, shanked the second
one - I could never forget the
disappointment on his face. Sit-
tingin our seats at halftime, my
section was full of less-than-kind
words for Brabbs, and the boos
were obvious.
Brabbs was clearly shaken,
and when he missed some easy
practice kicks atchalftime, I
couldn't help but feel bad for the
guy.And when Troy Nienburg,
Michigac'sotherkicker, lined
up for and missed an easy field
goal that would've put the Wol-
verines in the driver's seat, my
dad - in his typical sports-is-a-
glass-that's-always-half-empty
fashion - declared that Michigan
would lose the game. I'm still a
bitunclear on the chain of events
that led to my dad angrily pull-
ingme up the stairs of Michigan
Stadium, but before I knew it, I
was walking past the U-M Golf
Course and away from the Big
House.
If you know Michigan football
lore, you know what happened
next. Braylon Edwards drops the
ball, Tyrece Butler jumps on it
and the ref (incorrectly) calls it
a fumble. John Navarre throws
two incomplete passes, settingup
a 60-yard field goal. Then, out of
what only could have been des-
tiny, the Huskies get called for a
.12-men-on-the-field penalty and
Phil Brabbs finds himself staring
downthegoalposts for a 44-yard
field goal.
Since that day, I've told only
close friends that I missed the
end of that game. As soon as we
got home and saw the highlights,
my dad made me promise to never
tell a soul that we left early (sorry
Dad). But asawe walked to our car,
parked a mile or so down State St.,
and listened to the car horns and
howlingchants of the Michigan
fans who had justseen a legend-
ary football game, I began to real-
ize the gravity of the situation.
There was a certain magic
to sports that couldn't be rep-
licated anywhere else. It was
just frustrating enough for us to
feel personally slighted when a
freshman kicker misses two easy
field goals. But it was also magi-
cal enough that the same kicker
could redeem himself in legend-
ary fashion two quarters later and
become a cult hero in Ann Arbor.
There is no suspense like

sports, and as I walked into the
offices of The Michigan Daily in
December of 2007, I knew that
I wanted to be the guy who put

that suspense into words, sharing
that same magic I should've felt
in watching Phil Brabbs nail that
game-winning kick. A year after
I started at the Daily, I dialed the
phone number of a certain infa-
mous Michigan kicker, who had
recently and tragically been diag-
nosed with incurable cancer.
And when Phil Brabbs
answered the phone, I didn't
immediately ask him any ques-
tions. Instead, I told him about
how I left that game early, howI
missed his kick. I told him, in that
moment, he had almost single-
handedly convinced me to be a
sportswriter and a sports fanatic.
He laughed, shocked that one
single kick from a random fresh-
man kicker could alter the course
of someone else's life. But it had.
Just like one conversation with
Red Berenson made me want
to be a feature writer. And one
television in Denard Robinson's
grandmother's garage made me
know I was making the right
decision. The Daily and this Uni-
versity and Phil Brabbs and Red
Berenson and Denard Robinson
ad so many others have given
me opportunities in the past
four years that I only could have
dreamed of had I not missed see-
ing that kick in 2002.
I've met my sports idol,
Charles Woodson, at a charity
golf tournament. I've seen last-
second comebacks at legendary
stadiums like the Big House
and Notre Dame Stadium.I've
been publicly chastised on the
Internet. I've been to Florida and
then California and then back to
Florida again. I've seen a certain
kind of heartbreak on the faces of
athletes most people will never
understand. I've talked mindless
hours about defensive football
formations or basketball recruits,
and called it work.
And I've spent 50 or so frus-
trating hours per week working
with some of the most stubborn,
egotistical, maddening, creative,
sincere, honest and amazing
people I've ever met. So many
what-ifs, so many happenstances
have put me in the position I am
today, and I will never stop being
grateful. And for those of you
who have consistently read my
columns (all three or four of you),
thanks for being there. And espe-
ciallythanks for puttingup with
my recentbouts with nostalgia.
Thanks to those of you who had
confidence in my writing, to my
friends and my family who never
doubted a single one of my crazy
ideas. Mom, Dad, John, Molly,
Amanda, Megan, Dillon, Oleg,
Tyler, Cameron, Matt, Tim, Joe,
Chantel, Burns, Nicole, Jake, Aar-
onson, Pyzik, and everyone else
who I've worked with, you guys
have made me the writer I am just
as much as Brabbs' kick did.-
A special thanks to my dad
though, who may still be embar-
rassed that we left the Big House
in 2002. But Dad, without your
frustration, that day (and a lot of
other days), we would've never
left, we would've never made the
biggest sports mistake of my life.
I would never be a writer, and I
never would have felt the magic
in sports that I do every single day
today. These past four years have
been awfully magical, and if I've
done anything for you, I hope it's
that I shared with you some of

that magic. Thank you, all of you,
for the best four years of my life.
-Kartje can be reached
at rkartje@umich.edu.

JAKE FROMM/Daily
Junior pitcher Brandon Sinnery struck out nine batters on'134 pitches in his shutout of the Fighting Illini.
Blue picks up first series win of
season against Fighting Illini

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Writer
The series had all the familiar
themes for the Michigan base-
ball team: mental mistakes, big
innings and slumbering bats.
Only this time, Michigan (4-5
Big Ten, 11-23 overall) found
itself in an I
unfamil- MICHIGAN 2
iar role. In
their week-
end series ILLINOIS 0
against MICHIGAN 3
Illinois, the
Wolver- ILLINOIS 6
ines were MICHIGAN 7
the ones
capitalizing on their opponent's
mistakes. The Wolverines were
the ones putting up crooked
numbers. And the Wolverines
were the ones shutting down the
opponent's lineup.
Illinois (4-5, 12-19) knocked
the Wolverines around for a
9-2 victory in the first game of
the three-game set on Friday.
But in Sunday's double-header,
Michigan rode junior right-
hander Brandon Sinnery's com-
plete-game shutout in the first
game and a late-game comeback
in the nightcap to take the series.
It was Michigan's first series
win all season.
Michigan coach Rich Malo-
ney has said several times this
season that, sooner or later, a
pitcher would turn in a gem and
go deep into the game. He prob-
ably just didn't think it would

take this long.
Or come from Sinnery.
But Sinnery, who was dropped
from the rotation earlier this
year, was dominant, striking out
nine batters on 134 pitches en
route to a 3-0 victory. The first
five outs he recorded in the sec-
ond game were strikeouts, and
he only surrendered four hits
and one walk in his complete-
game performance.
He almost didn't get the
chance, though.
"I was going to take him out
going into the ninth," Maloney
said.
Sinnery, though, had other
plans.
"I had a shutout going," Sin-
nery said. "And I wanted to fin-
ish it."
In the second game of the
double-header on Sunday, Illi-
nois quickly made up for lost
time. A Michigan error led to an
Illinois run in the top of the first,
and the Illini added two more in
the second.
Leading by two runs in the
seventh, Illinois appeared to be
closing the door on any hopes
the Wolverines had to win the
series.
Then they opened it back up.
After two singles, a rare throw-
ing error by sophomore third
baseman Brandon Hohl, who
had been brilliant in the field all
series, allowed Michigan to cut
the lead to one.'
Freshman right-fielder
Michael O'Neill, who stepped

into tl
in his
ripped
line fo
proves
"I h
appros
hour, I
day),"
out a1
a char
sh
Any
have
chanc
just un
In
menta
errors,
crucia
the vi
boxsc
Michij
compa
Illini n
Up(
one os
out S
McMu
his sin
off thr

he box with just one hit An inning earlier, sophomore
previous 14 at bats, then centerfielder Patrick Biondi
1 an 0-2 pitch down the caught a fly ball off the bat of Illi-
r a two-run double. His hit ni right fielder Davis Hendrick-
d to be the game-winner. son with runners on the corners
ad worked on two-strike and one out. Instead of throwing
ach with coach for an home, he threw to first to double
hour and a half (on Satur- up the runner who had strayed
O'Neill said. "I widened too far from the bag.
little bit, I stayed back on "We were up two, so the run-
ngeup, and if I wouldn't ner (on third) didn't mean as
much," Biondi said. "I saw how
far off (the runner on first) was,
got the ball and just thought I'd
"I had a give it ashot at first."
Those two plays saved the
utout going. Wolverines at least one run -
the difference in their 7-6 win.
d I wanted to "We really took advantage of
finish t. some of their mistakes, which
we really haven't done a whole
lot of," Maloney said.
The series was defined by
comebacks. After the Michigan
worked on that, there's no pitching staff got roughed up for
e I would've hit it. It was nine runs on Friday, it seemed as
areal" if this series wouldend up like
all of its other series this season.
a season riddled with But just like Sinnery battled
1 mistakes and defensive back from a rough start to the
Michigan made two season, just like the Wolverines
l decisions that secured battled back to win on Sunday,
ictory. In this case, the they battled back to take the
ore is deceptive. Though series, too.
gan committed four errors "As bad as it's been, the truth
red to Illinois' one, the of the matter is the guys have
made the last mistake. been playing hard," Maloney
one run in the ninth with said. "We may not have been
ut, the Wolverines threw playing well, but we've been
enior left fielder Casey playing hard. We haven't quit by
rray as he tried to stretch (any) means.
gle to a double on the cut- "Today was a huge day for this
ow. team."

MEN'S GYMNASTICS
Freshman Mikulak becomes third
Wolverine to win NCAA All-Around

By MICHAEL LAURILA
Daily Sports Writer
COLUMBUS - In 2010, Chris
Cameron became just the second
Michigan gymnast to ever win
the NCAA All-Around crown.
One year later, freshman Sam
Mikulak became the third Wol-
verine gymnast and the first
freshman to become the All-
Around champion in the history
of the NCAA.
These accomplishments came
just two weeks after he became
the first freshman to win the Big
Ten All-Around Title since 1994.
Mikulak's score of 90.75 this past
weekend was .25 higher than
Cameron's score from the year
before.
The former all-around cham-
pion recognizes the talent Miku-
lak has.
"(Mikulak's) a much better
gymnast than this country has
really ever seen as far as being
the complete and entire pack-
age," Cameron said. "I'm just
glad to see somebody that has the
ability to reach his potential."
Along with winning the all-
around title in 2010, Cameron
was also the NCAA floor exercise
champion. But for the majority
of this season he was unable to
compete - or if he did partici-
pate, it was only on one or two
events because of injuries and ill-
nesses.
After not competing at the Big

Ten Championships, it was an
improvement for Cameron to go
out and perform this past week-
end. Though he competed in
the all-around, a fall on pommel
horse put him out of contention
for the repeat performance.
"I'm not going to lie," Cameron
said. "It was hard to finish (my
career) knowing that I was more
prepared and mentally ready to
go for the past two years. Cer-
tain difficulties come your way,
and your life kind of jumps past
college while you're still there.
That's what happened in my
case."
But Cameron still plans to con-
tinue gymnastics as a member of
the U.S. National Team next year.
During the championships,
each team is allowed six compet-
itors for each event, and four of
those six count towards the team
score. Gymnasts who participate
in the all-around tend to exhibi-
tion one or two events because
they aren't in the top-six on their
respective teams.
Since Cameron excelled on
events like the pommel horse,
floor and rings, he was weaker
on the high bar and had to exhi-
bition the vault in 2010. Mikulak
excels on certain events also, but
his weaknesses are lesser in com-
parison.
Mikulak's score was top-three
in every event for Michigan on
Friday.
"(Mikulak) does one of the

0

Freshman Sam Mikulak became the first freshman Ail-Around champion i
history of the NCAA with a score of 90.75.

most difficult vaults in the world
and there's not too many people
that can hang with him on floor,
either," Michigan coach Kurt
Golder said. "His weaker events
are coming. (Parallel) bars went
from an average event to a strong
event, and high bar, rings and
pommel will get better over the
summer. He won't have a weak-
ness come next year."
The fact that he had the sec-
ond-highest score of any Wolver-
ine on the high bar and pommel
horse - hisweak events - speaks
volumes to his talent.
When Mikulak vied for a spot
on the national team last fall in

the Winter Cup Invitational, he
came up just short. Two years
ago, Cameron became the first
Wolverine to earn a spot on that
same national team since 1999. If
Mikulak keeps this up after the
season, he and Cameron may not
have to wait long to be reunited
as teammates.
"(Cameron) helped (Mikulak)
a lot this year," Golder said on
Saturday. "I've seen them talking
one-on-one and (Cameron) giv-
ing him encouragement, routine
ideas and so forth. To have two
NCAA All-Around champions
on the team at the same time is
amazing."

*I

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