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March 16, 2012 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.cam

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 9

The ichgan ail - m c h i a n d il y cm ~ r d a y ,Marh 16 202 -

Michigan heads out to
Coastal Carolina Tourney

Winger off the mound

By ISABELLAACHENBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Statistically, the Michigan
baseball team (7-9) hasn't been
playing its best. The team has
lost five of its the past six games
- most of which were winnable,
according to coach Rich Malo-
ney. But the team refuses to lose
spirit when looking ahead to the
Coastal Carolina Tournament
this weekend.
"This past weekend, we actu-
ally played really well," Maloney
said, referring to the LSU Tour-
nament in Baton Rouge, La.
On Sunday morning, they
ended their five-game losing
streak with a nail-biting 6-5 win
over Notre Dame.
"I took a lot of positive signs
from this last weekend," said
senior righthander Brandon Sin-
nery. "We actually pitched pret-
ty good."
Sinnery started the weekend
on the mound for the Wolverines
and allowed no walks in eight
innings during Friday's LSU
matchup.
But the Wolverines didn't
fare well earlier in the weekend.
Michigan lost to LSU, 6-0, on
Friday; to Notre Dame, 2-0, on
Saturday; and again to LSU, 6-4,
on Saturday.
"I don't think we're as far off
as it might seem," Maloney said.
Despite the 'tough competi-
tion, the Wolverines tallied 11
hits and three home runs in the
second LSU game.
"Even though the game
wasn't a victory, I think we prob-
ably should have won the game,"
Maloney said. "We deserved to
win the game. But I was pleased
with the way our guys played."
The team is hoping all of their
"almost-wins" will be real wins
this weekend, when they head
down to South Carolina to play
against Coastal Carolina (9-6),
Alabama-Birmingham (12-5)
and Connecticut (6-8).
"(Coastal Carolina is) a very
well-coached team," Maloney
said. "They're an outstanding
program, so we've got great

By LIZ NAGLE
Daily Sports Writer
Brett Winger once stood on top
of the mound.
Standing at 6-foot-3 with a
powerful arm, he made pitching
look effortless. There were always
high hopes for Winger to excel as
a right-handed pitcher.
Starting at the age of five,
Winger spent much of his pre-
college preparation perfecting his
delivery. But he couldn't do it all
on his own. Enter coaches Frank
Viola and Randy O'Neal.
Beginning in eighth grade and
extending through his career at
Olympia High School in Orlando,
Fla., Viola and O'Neal guided
Winger through the mechanics of
pitching.
Both coaches had the experi-
ence and credentials that even-
tually led Winger to hurling
Olympia's first no-hitter in school
history.
Before coaching Winger, Viola
was a left-hander for five different
major league organizations - he
boasts a Major League Baseball
World Series MVP award (1987)
and American League Cy Young
award (1988). And O'Neal was a
right-hander that debuted with
the Detroit Tigers and threw 248
strikeouts in his MLB career.
Absorbing the wealth of knowl-
edge his coaches had to offer,
Winger claimed a few titles of
his own. He was named to ESPN
RISE Magazine's All-Area Cen-
tral Florida's top players list in
2009 and selected as a 2010 Pre-
season Baseball Factory/Under
Armour All-American.
With an accomplished back-
ground and promising future,
Winger committed himself to the
Michigan baseball team.
"Brett has good size," Michi-
gan coach Rich Maloney said a lit-
tle more than two years ago. "He
has a good fastball with life on it
and the makings of a very good
slider. I think the best thing about
Brett is that he is extremely com-
petitive and is very projectable as
a pitcher."
Little did he know, Winger's
fastball would never reach Ray
Fisher Stadium's home plate.
Though he was recruited as

ERIN KIRKL AND/Daily
Sophomore first baseman Brett Winger has taken his ha cks across the diamond.

Senior righthander Brandon Sinnery took positives out of last weekend.

respect for them."
The last time Michigan faced
off against Coastal Carolina was
in 2010, and Michigan lost in
both games.
This year, theWolverines will
get two chances at redemption
- once this weekend and once
again May 8-9 at Ray Fisher Sta-
dium in Ann Arbor.
Last year's game against Con-
necticut also ended in a loss,
16-9.
When the Wolverines played
against Alabama-Birmingham
in 2006, they lost 5-4. The team
definitely has its work cut out for
it this weekend.
Sinnery's solid and reliable
pitching this season is keeping
him in the starting lineup for
Friday's game.
Sophomore right-fielder
Michael O'Neill's outstanding

season hit a bump in the road
last Friday when the LSU pitch-
ing staff snapped his 10-game
hitting streak.
The Wolverines are focusing
on the fundamentals in prac-
tice, but Maloney tweaked this
week's practices to cater to the
playing styles that they'll see
this weekend.
"We know that Coastal likes
to steal and they like to bunt so
we're working a lot on defense,"
Maloney said.
This week's practice has
boosted the players' confidence
going into this tournament.
"I like the attitude of the team
and the way they keep trying to
learn and get better," Maloney
said.
"They're just a play,- a pitch,
a hit away from having three or
four more wins."

pitcher, Winger stepped down
from the mound. He's now bat-
ting in runs and rounding the
bases. He is labeled asa first base-
man, and maybe that's where he
belonged all along - at-bats and
fielding ground balls were not
unfamiliar territories to Winger.
It was always a lingering possi-
bility. He felt comfortable hitting
and maintained a high batting
average in high school. So when
he became a Wolverine, Winger
hoped to get the chance to do a
little bit of both.
He intended to redshirt his
freshman year, but when the team
was struggling at the plate, Malo-
ney tested out an experiment on
Winger, who made his collegiate
debut as the designated hitter. It
was March 27, 2011, and Wing-
er hit a seventh-inning double
against Michigan State.
Maloney saw him as a power
hitter and utilized that skill in the
middle of the batting order. Last
year, Winger posted a .294 batting
average and .314 on-base percent-
age in just 25 games in which he
saw action.
"I guess he's a hitter now,"
Maloney said with a laugh. "He's
a super hard worker, very pro-
fessional in his approach, mean-
ing he just works and works and
works and works, tireless worker.
And you gotta like those kind of

guys."
Last summer, Winger played
in the Great Lakes Summer Col-
legiate League for the Lake Erie
Monarchs, batting .301 with 17
RBIs. He also pitched in a hand-
ful of games, but his game log
displayed mediocre pitching sta-
tistics.
With a .328 batting average,
13 RBIs, three doubles and a .365
on-base percentage this season, it
seems that Winger really is meant
to be a hittingthreat.
At the start of his recent eight-
game hitting streak, Winger
recorded home runs in consecu-
tive games against Ohio State and
Chicago State.
He went 3-for-6 with three
RBIs over the Cougars.
The switch from the mound to
the plate seems as if would be a
challenge, but Winger was a natu-
ral.
"I'm very happy with the tran-
sition," Winger said. "I've been
starting every game. ... They gave
me a chance to hit, and it really
worked out."
Winger's current Big Ten con-
ference lead with 146 put-outs
shows that he not only commands
a forceful bat, but also plays solid
defense at first base.
"They always said I would be ...
a pitcher," Winger said.
It turns out they were wrong.

HEART OF TEXAS
From Page 8
He could turn a spot with
Honey Baked into a spot on the
United States National Develop-
mental Team, which send a few
players to Michigan every year.
The USNDT is based in Ann
Arbor and consistently feeds play-
ers to top college programs. If he
was going to play on a team in high
school, this was the one to play
on. But first, he had to get on the
junior team.
Krohl had Chris travel to
Toronto with his Honey Baked
team to play in a top-prospect
camp, which was essentially a try-
out for the team.
Chris scored seven goals in
that tournament, and his spot was
cemented.
But for all this to unfold, Chris
had to leave Texas. At age 15, he
had to leave everything he had
ever known and move to a city
where he knew no one and to a
culture he knew nothing about,
living with a family he had never
met.
Chris would have to learn
things by himself that ordinary
teenagers do with their parents,
such as how to manage money or
how to drive a car.
The decision was made for
itself.
"I put it in my head that if this
is something you want to do, you
have to make a commitment now
and decide this is what you want
to do for the rest of your life,"
Chris said.
Facing the prospect of having
her eldest child leave the house
at 15, Candice said no. He was too
young to be living on his own.
But after Chris told her she was
the only one against him leav-
ing, Candice relented, saying she
wouldn't be the one to hold him
back from his dreams.
"It was terrible," Candice said.
"Besides the death of my mother,
putting him on that plane was the
hardest thing I have ever done."
Chris still claims that regard-
less of whether it is sunny or
cloudy, Candice wears sunglasses
when she is driving him to the air-
port. It could be the darkest day of

winter, but if she is driving Chris
to the airport, those sunglasses
are going down.
To this day, more than six years
later, dropping Chris off at the air-
port makes Candice cry.
So Chris started over in Michi-
gan, living in Saline with a host
family that Krohl had set him up
with. Soon after, the USNDT team
came calling, where he would be
playing with future Wolverines
A.J. Treais and Lynch.
There was still an adjustment
period.
On his first day of class at Pio-
neer High School, the Texan
answered a question the same way
he had his entire life: with a "yes,
ma'am." His teacher stared Chris
down, telling him not to call her
ma'am.
Chris answered with another
"yes, ma'am."
She sent him out to the hallway,
where the confused newcomer got
a lecture on why using "sir" and
"ma'am" was disrespectful to a
youngteacher.
Click. Click. Click.
Chris stopped at the second
level of Yost Ice Arena during his
sophomore year of high school,
pausing to admire the arena of the
team he had wanted to play for as
long as he could remember. Then-
Michigan assistant coach Mel
Pearson continued, venturing to
the club level seats that sit directly
above the Michigan bench.
Click. Click. Click.
The cowboy boots slowly
clicked as Brown maneuvered up
the stairs of Yost, lifting his eye
line up to the endless rows of ban-
ners that adorn the rafters of the
historic building. He sat down
next to Pearson, who talked up the
tradition and success of the Michi-
gan hockey program, even though
he didn't have to sell anything to
the kid that watched that 1996
National Championship game.
This meeting with Pearson was
the first visit Brown had made to
a university and the first time he
had been in Yost. He also hadn't
met head coach Red Berenson yet.
So when Pearson offered a

scholarship, Brown had to excuse - current N
himself to call his parents back in Hagelin ha
Texas. year - but ti
Click. Click. Click. song and the
"Chris told us, 'Dad, I have had The ado
no interest in going anywhere something
else, my whole life, but here,' " his interesting
father, Chris, remembers. also the ma
The phone call lasted less than and the trip:
a minute. "For me,i
play," said C
brother, wh
Michigan a
hockey tea:
The flag unfurls, covering the physical pl
heads of at least 40 students in the people in.
student section, called "The Chil- everyone els
"My biggest goal grow
Dallas was to play for th
Tornadoes ... because t
the goal for everyone.
think I was ever going tc
of Texas and play
- Chris Brown

lew York Rang
d a Swedish fl
he combination
flag is.
ration certain
to do with1
background, I
ssive hits, thes
s to the penalty
it's mostly hiss
Chase Brown,

er Carl
ag last
n of the
ly has
Chris's
but it's
scuffles
box.
style of
Chris's

depicts two crossed hockey sticks
with flags draped over them. One
flag is a combination of the Texas
state flag and the American flag,
and the other is a Michigan flag.
His country and state split a
stick, but his school gets its own.

no is a freshman at Before the 2009 NHL Draftthe
nd plays on the club Browns received a phone call they
m. "He's more of a weren't expecting from the Phoe-
ayer, and that draws nix Coyotes, who asked if either
He is different than of Chris's parents were psycholo-
e's typical player." gists or in the psycho-analysis
field. A bit confused, the Browns
said no. Why?
Every NHL prospect takes a
hockey IQ test before the draft,
similar to the Wonderlic prior to
the NFL draft.
ing up in According to the Coyotes, Chris
had received the best score the
ie Texas team had ever given out. They
hat was wanted to know if his parents had
I didn't helped him with the test.
The Browns assured them that
get out Chris scored that on his own - so
the Coyotes picked him early in
the second round in 2009, 36th
overall, as the fifth American
taken.
When he was a prospect, the
biggest knock against Chris was
his offensive repertoire, which
scouts thought needed more
refinement. The size, physicality
and defense were always there,
ration comes from but he hadn't tied everything
e the one in the begin- together offensively.
uary, when Michigan Flash forward to February2012.
on Miami (Ohio) late With Michigan up 2-0 on
te. Senior goaltender Miami, Chris got the puck in the
nwick had been get- Michigan zone and took off, going
attention than usual, from one side of the ice to the
ion was mounting on other before getting to the Red-
With a little more than Hawk zone. He leaned right while
ft in the game, Chris sliding the puck in between the
wk defenseman Will legs ofWeberbeforeshiftingtohis
ped gloves and tried to left and recovering the puck.
punches. Miami goaltender Connor
as a big game against Knapp didn't have a chance. He
tate the next week- didn't flinch until the puck was
hting in college hockey past his left shoulder.
utomatic suspension. The entire play took about five
couldn't let anyone seconds.
his goalie. His team- "I think he's come a long way
more important than since the firsttime I saw him play,"
Treais said. "He was kind of raw
importantly, it's the in the beginning. Everyone knew
right shoulder, which he was going to be good because

he was so big and he had a great
shot, but he's out there making
plays now and he's smarter with
the puck."
Chris has led everyteam he has
ever played on in penalty minutes
(he leads senior defenseman Greg
Pateryn by one measly minute,
entering this weekend), but those
penalties are never high-sticking
or hooking.
They are almost always board-
ing or cross-checking. A player
who getshitby Chris is going to go
a lot further than normal, which
referees aren't used to seeing. The
wrecking ball plays within the
rules, but he tries to bend them as
much as he can.
"I'm in the game and I'm going
to hit people," Chris said. "I think
the coaches and everyone else
knows that. I'm going to be physi-
cal. If you happen to fall too far
from the boards, I'm sorry, but
that's how Iam going to play."
More than six years after he
moved, Chris is still every bit the
Texan. Moving to Michigan and
playing a sport that is so very un-
Texan seemingly hasn't changed
him atall.
The ceiling for Chris remains to
be found. After the season, he is a
front-runner to be a captain next
year, expanding the role he has
filled in his whole career.
"Brown's got a lot of respect on
this team," Berenson said. "He's a
classy kid, a serious student and a
player who is getting better every
year.
"I like everything about
Brown's game."
After Michigan, who knows.
He could see himself teaching
kindergarten after hockey - how
many future NHL players would
say that?
Chris will be welcomed in
Phoenix, where he has the poten-
tial to have a lengthy NHL career.
He will be back in the desert,
back where people will under-
stand why he is wearing cowboy
boots. The locals will understand
the boots, but they won't under-
stand the skates.
Click. Click. Click.

dren of Yost." Chris has just scored
a goal, and the students are going
crazy, the lone-star flag shaking
like it's on a pole during a windy
day. Shortly after, the crowd hears
the song that makes Chris differ-
ent from every other Michigan
hockey player.
That song is "Deep in the Heart
of Texas," and it was the brain-
child of Michigan Hockey Band
director John Pasquale, who also
hails from Texas. He started play-
ing the song after the Children of
Yost made a Texas flagthatbounc-
es over the top of the student sec-
tion after a Chris goal or big play,
things that have happened with
increasing occurrence.
"The Texas flag is a nice thing,"
Berenson said. "Plus, I love the
song."
The flag is not unique to Brown

The ado
moments lik
ning of Febr
was up big
in the gam
Shawn Hum
ting more
and frustrat
both sides. V
a minute lei
and RedHa
Weber drops
throw a few
There wa
Michigan S
end, and figi
earns an a
Still, Chris
mess withI
mates arer
anything.
But most
tattoo on his

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