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March 09, 2012 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 7

Breakdown: Michigan vs. Gophers

Junior center fielder Patrick Biondi and the Michigan baseball team have started the season with a 6-6 record.
Michigan looks to improve
fundamentals in Louisiana

By STEVEN BRAID
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan baseball coach Rich
Maloney consistently states that
the key to his team's success is
"making the routine play, rou-
tinely."
And if the Wolverines (6-6
overall) are going to find any
success this weekend at the LSU
Tournament, they will need to
get back to fundamentals.
"I don't think that we haven't
played well, we just haven't done
the little things that we need
to do to win," said junior cen-
ter fielder Patrick Biondi. "It's
not like we're not playing well
enough to win, we just need to
capitalize, and hopefully we'll do
that this weekend."
Michigan heads to Baton
Rouge, La. to face No.13 LSU (11-
2) and Notre Dame (5-4) in two
games apiece in front of what
will be a sold-out Alex Box Sta-
dium. Biondi and the rest of the
Wolverines recognize that they
aren't going to get many chances
on offense this weekend, espe-
cially against the Tigers, so they
know that they must do the little
things - something they haven't
done of late.
After starting off the season
by winning five of its first seven
games, Michigan has hit a rough
stretch. Its recent slide can be
traced back to defense and pitch-
ing.
"The less freebies you give
away, the better chance you're
going to have," Maloney said.
"We just have to get back to play-

ing that good, fundamental base-
ball and focus on not giving away
freebies out in the field."
In their last five games, the
Wolverines' defense and pitching
has been less than spectacular.
During that period, the defense
has committed eight of its sea-
son-total 13 errors and the pitch-
ing staff has allowed 30 earned
runs - about six runs per nine
innings. The pitching staff has
also given up late leads in two of
those four losses.
In a 5-3 defeat against Xavier
last Sunday, Michigan allowed
four late runs after holding a
3-1 lead heading into the sev-
enth inning. And in a 9-4 defeat
against Ohio State last Friday,
after getting six-plus innings
of superb pitching from senior
right-hander Brandon Sinnery,
the bullpen allowed three runs
across the seventh and eighth
innings that led to a 4-2 deficit
into the bottom of the eighth
inning. After Michigan's bats tied
the score, the Buckeyes scored
five unearned runs off of two
Wolverine errors and three wild
pitches.
"Most of our losses have come
where the other team has scored
late, so we have to pitch a little
better late in games," Maloney
said.
Though the Wolverines have
struggled in the field, their
offense has hit consistently.
Led by sophomore right fielder
Michael O'Neill and freshman
left fielder Will Drake, Michigan
ranks second in the Big Ten with
81 runs scored. O'Neill ranks first

in the country with 47 total bases
and leads the Big Ten in slugging
percentage (.940), hits (24), RBIs
(16), doubles (8), home runs (5)
and stolen bases (9). Drake, who's
hitting .372, has been a pleas-
ant surprise for Michigan. The
freshman ranks second in the
conference in runs scored (15),
fifth in hits (16) and first in triples
(3) while collecting two Big Ten
Freshman of the Week awards.
The Wolverines will also need
to lean on their excellent base
running to disrupt the opposing
pitching staffs. Led by Biondi
and O'Neill, Michigan ranks first
in the conference- with 28 stolen
bases in 36 attempts.
Though Michigan is not over-
looking the Fighting Irish, their
attention will most likely focus
on LSU. The Wolverines will
have their hands full against the
Tigers. LSU's Mason Katz was
recently named National Player
of the Week and is hitting .477.
He is one of five batters hitting
over .300 for the Tigers.
Michigan's pitchers will need
to try to contain LSU's lineup
because the Wolverines' lineup
will not get many good pitches
to hit against the Tigers. Consid-
ered by Maloney to be elite MLB
prospects, Ryan Eades and Kevin
Gausman headline LSU's pitch-
ing staff, and both sport ERAs
under 2.00.
The Wolverines, though, view
this as a great opportunity and
are just excited to get a chance to
play in front of 11,000 against one
of the better teams in the coun-
try.

By BEN ESTES games as Minnesota coach Tubby
Daily Sports Editor Smith continues to build for the
future.
Most observers expected that Edge: Douglass
No. 11 Michigan's first opponent Wing Guard: Tim Hardaway Jr.
in the Big Ten Tournament quar- vs. Austin Hollins
terfinals would be Northwestern, Minnesota finally begins to
but it looks like the Wildcats have put out some experience when
another long offseason on their its lineup reaches the wings. Hol-
hands after losing to Minnesota lins certainly isn't a veteran, but
on Thursday. he's started 31 of 32 games in his
Here's a position-by-position sophomore season. Averaging
look at the matchup, which tips 8.7 points per game, the 6-foot-
off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday: 4 guard isn't a great shooter, but
Point guard: Trey Burke vs. he does have the ability to knock
Andre Hollins down 3-pointers, boasting a 36.8
It's a tale of two talented fresh- shooting percentage from long
men point guards, one of whom range.
has established himself and one One would think that Hard-
who is still learning what it takes away Jr. - one of Michigan's
to be a floor general in the Big Ten. most important offensive threats
Burke, at this point, is Michi- - would have a significant advan-
gan's best player - he leads his tage in this matchup. But the
team in scoring with 14.6 points sophomore guard's struggles this
per game, and his dynamic play is season are impossible to ignore.
a big reason the Wolverines have Hardaway Jr. has shot just 28.9
improved from last season despite percent from 3-point range after
losing Darius Morris. For those shooting 36.7 percent last season.
reasons, Burke was named Big The Miami native has shown
Ten Co-Freshman of the Year. In signs of breaking out of his sea-
the teams' first meeting, he scored son-long slump in the team's last
a career-high 27 points against two games, scoring 25 points
the Gophers. on just seven shots against Illi-
Though Hollins is athletic and nois and making three of his six
talented, he is still a work in prog- 3-point attempts at Penn State.
ress - he has more turnovers (54) The Wolverines hope it's a sign of
than assists (47) this year. things to come as the postseason
Edge: Burke gets underway.
Shooting Guard: Stu Douglass Edge: Hardaway Jr.
vs. Joe Coleman Wing Forward: Zack Novak vs.
Neither player will ever be con- Rodney Williams
fused as a star for his respective Here is where it gets a little
team, but Douglass has the clear tricky for Michigan. Novak's
edge. He simply brings much contribution to the team is well
more to the table than Coleman - documented at this point, as the
leadership, shooting, toughness, senior provides steady leadership,
steadiness, experience and most toughness and the occasional hot-
importantly, defense. Douglass shootinginight.
was still struggling from 3-point Williams, meanwhile, is pos-
range when these teams first met, sibly the most athletic player in
but he's improved as the season the conference. But despite his
has wore on. athletic gifts, Williams - now
Like Hollins, Coleman is a in his third season - still has yet
freshman who is still adjusting to to emerge as a great basketball
the game at the college level, aver- player, with little offensive skill to
aging just 5.4 points per game and speak of. That could give the Wol-
shooting 41.7 percent from the verines an edge, but Williams is
field. He's entered Minnesota's still taller and quicker than Novak
starting lineup for good in recent - with the former's only real

game being to attack the rim, the
latter could be vulnerable. Novak
will have to play well to keep the
Gophers' only double figure-scor-
ing starter off the score sheet.
Edge: Williams
Center: Jordan Morgan vs.
Ralph Sampson Ill/Elliot Eliason
It's not clear who exactly Mor-
gan will square off with on Friday.
The 6-foot-11 Sampson III injured
his knee in practice earlier this
week and sat out on Thursday
night against Northwestern.
Should Sampson III notbe able to
go, Eliason will take his place, as
he did against the Wildcats.
Neither Minnesota center
is much of an offensive threat,
thoughthey are presences in
the paint with their height and
length. The key for Morgan will
be to avoid foul trouble and play
solid defense despite giving up
several inches.
Edge: Push
Bench
The Gophers have the defini-
tive advantage here. Sixth
option Julian Welch averages
10.2 points per game, and Chip
Armelin and Maverick Ahan-
misi can provide scoring bursts.
The question for the Wolverines
is whether junior guard Matt
Vogrich can hit 3-pointers and if
inconsistent sophomore forward
Evan Smotrycz can build off his
17-point performance against the
Nittany Lions last week.
Edge: Minnesota
Intangibles
Michigan isn't playing for as
much as it was last season, when
prevailing logic was that the team
needed a win in Indianapolis
to cement its spot in the NCAA
Tournament. But the Wolverines
are fighting for seeding, which is
more than NIT-bound Minnesota
can say.
Plus, Beilein's group will be
more rested than the Gophers,
and the Michigan coach's offense
is notoriously hard to face with
little preparation time.
Edge: Michigan
Prediction: Michigan 64, Min-
nesota 57

. O'Neill wins Big Ten honor
By LIZ NAGLE
Daily Sports Writer

Michael O'Neill has the three
C's that make up an admirable
athlete.
The sophomore right fielder
earned his second-straight Big
Ten Player of the Week title on
Monday. He split the first award
with Purdue's Eric Charles, but
this time around, he isn't sharing
the spotlight.
O'Neill feels honored but no
different from last week. He takes
into account that he is in conten-
tion with everyone in the confer-
ence, and that's what makes the
award special to him.
1. Competition
He currently leads the Big Ten
with 16 RBI, eight doubles and Soph
five home runs, while claiming
the No. 1 spot in the nation with purs
47 total bases. But without his he's
perpetual edge to win and excel, far.
the Wolverines would most likely 2.
have a void in the lineup. O
Because of O'Neill's produc- his
tion, Michigan boasts a lead in in
the conference with 72 RBI, 25 10-g
doubles and 10 home runs. batt
And even when the team falls Big
into a slump, O'Neill remains a of O
force to be reckoned with. He put righ
up impressive numbers last year, in th
even as the Wolverines dropped Pitts
to a last-place finish in the confer- Cha
ence. hom
At the end of his rookie season, he's
O'Neill was unanimously selected H
to the Big Ten's All-Freshman of p
team based on his excellent per- It
formance and 30 stolen bases, spok
which led the conference. and
But O'Neill is not only competi- mix
tive against opposing teams - he ance
challenges his teammates and ball]
himself on a day-to-day basis. pitcl
At Meet the Wolverines Night, "0
O'Neill mentioned his offseason conf
efforts and his need to improve on play
hitting curve balls and off-speed Malo
pitches. dent
That motivation drove him to 3.

A C A D E M Y AWA R D S
BESTPICTURE
BEST DIRECTOR BEST ACTOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
MICHEL HAZANAMCIUS JEAN DUJARDIN MARK BRIDGES WDOVIC BOURCE
AD DTROINO IMAoEANDAGCRIDEGESTURO e
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omore outfielder Michael O'Neill won a second Player of the Week award.

sue the smart, forceful at-bats
displayed in the season thus
. Confidence
'Neill has confidence in
team and receives respect
return. He's building on a
ame hit streak with a .480
ing average, just 0.001 below
Ten's leader, Joe Ciamacco
hio State. O'Neill picked up
t where he left off last year.
he opener this season against
sburgh in the Big Ten/Big East
illenge, he hit a third-inning
ae run. And from that point on,
had continuous success.
low is it that O'Neill is capable
utting up numbers with ease?
's all about perspective. He
ke about his accomplishments
conference honor with a
lure of modesty and assur-
. A friend asked O'Neill if the
looks like a beach ball being
hed his way and he concurred.
When you're playing with
idence, you're a different
er," said Michigan coach Rich
oney. "That's a special confi-
ce he has."
Consistency

Maloney drew a flat line
through the air with his hand to
demonstrate the plateau of con-
sistency.
But O'Neill's career would be
better represented as a slope.
He is steadily improving while
remaining reliable at bat, on base
and in the outfield. Time and time
again, he shows dependability.
O'Neill hit home runs in three
consecutive games, starting with
a first-in. C bomb over left field
at Florida Gulf Coast. Then, after
a loss to the Buckeyes, Michi-
gan dominated in a 17-8 win over
Chicago State, where O'Neill
went 3-for-5 with four runs and
four RBIs. Maloney likes to call
it "good fundamental baseball."
And O'Neill continues to impress
Michigan's 10th-year head coach
with every crack of the bat.
Competition, confidence and
consistency are the three char-
acteristics that led O'Neill to be
named the Big Ten Player of the
Week, again.
"Nobody else deserves it but
him," said freshman left fielder
Will Drake. "It's great to see him
succeeding."

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