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April 06, 2012 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-04-06

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6 - Friday, April 6, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

0

Michigan faces rival Spartans Delany heating up
By LIZ NAGLE
Daily Sports WriterF ater slow start

Last year, the Michigan base-
ball team finished last in the Big
Ten conference with a record
that looked almost identical to
Michigan State, just flip-flopped.
Spartans -
36-21 - first M$U at
place.
Wolverines Michigan
- 17-37 - last Matchup:
place. MSU 18-8;
Michigan Michigan 13-16
declared its When: Friday
team motto 5:35 P.M.,
"Flip It" to Saturday1:05
represent the P.M., Sun-
hoped-for day 3 P.M.
180-degree Where: Ray
turn around Fisher Stadium
from last sea- (Fri., Sun.),
son. But one McLane Sta-
series into con- dium (Sat.)
ference play, TV/Radio:
there's not BTN (Sun.)
much to show
for it.
Though the Wolverines won
a 7-3 midweek contest over Cen-
tral Michigan, they will continue
searching for Big Ten redemp-
tion this weekend against their
bigger in-state rival.
Michigan (0-3 Big Ten, 3-16
overall) will host the first and
third games of the series against
Michigan State (2-1, 18-8) today
and Sunday, and the Wolverines
will travel to East Lansing for
tomorrow's matchup.
It's going to be a tough week-
end for the Wolverine bats,which
face one of the top pitchingstaffs
in the conference. So, will Michi-
gan coach Rich Maloney stick to
the usual lineup?
"Honestly, I haven't even
thought that far yet," Maloney
said. "I'll have to sleep on this
one."
The choice seems obvious
since just three players are hit-
ting consistently, but Malo-
ney likes to weigh his different
options and experiment.
Though the top of the bat-
ting order has remained mostly
unchanged this season with its
use of the outfielders - junior
Patrick Biondi, freshman Will
Drake and sophomore Michael

PAULgans Mh/Uaily
Freshman pitcher Trent Szkutnik tnssed atoem against Minnesnta last weekend and will start tomorrow atainst MSU.

O'Neill - Maloney occasionally
mixes it up.
Against Central Michigan,
Maloney bumped freshman
shortstop Dylan Delaney from
his usual spot at the bottom of
the order to second in the lineup.
It was a bitof a surprise consider-
ing his measly .176 batting aver-
age and .250 on-base percentage,
and Delaney went hitless against
the Chippewas.
"The two-hole may be where
he ends up at some point," Malo-
ney said. "Whether we'll use it
this (weekend), we have to talk
about it as a staff and try to figure
it out."
Michigan is still stuck in a
hitting slump. Sophomore first
baseman Brett Winger especially
has been feeling that pressure at
the plate and now in the dugout.
In his last 10 games, Winger
has tallied just five hits, dropping
his batting average to .265. Malo-
ney gave him the opportunity to
"rest his mind" against the Chip-
pewas and started senior catcher
Coley Crank at first base.
Maloney hopes Winger will
come back refreshed against

Michigan State, because the
Wolverines need the extra run
support. While Biondi, Drake
and O'Neill continue to carry the
offense, the Spartans will come
into the series with an advan-
tage. Michigan State left fielder
Jordan Keur bats .368 with a
.460 on-base percentage. But the
numbers don't end there.
Spartan second baseman Ryan
Jones posts similar statistics and
ranks third in the Big Ten with
42 hits on the season. Unlike
Michigan's batting order, Michi-
gan State has consistency and
an ample supply of production
throughout the lineup.
If the Wolverines lag behind
on the scoreboard, the lopsided
pitching staffs will also play a
role. The Spartans have the low-
est team ERA in the conference
at 2.60, and no other team is in
close contention.
Though Michigan boasted a
strong string of starting-pitching
performances during nonconfer-
ence play, last weekend's poor
performance just added to the
Maloney's concerns.
After freshman left-hander

Trent Szkutnik's gem on the
mound against Minnesota,
Maloney has decided to start
Szkutnik between senior }right-
hander Brandon Sinnery on Fri-
day and junior right-hander Ben
Ballantine on Sunday.
If Szkutnik pitches as he did
last weekend, when he threw
for six innings with just two hits
and no runs against the Golden
Gophers, the Wolverines might
have a chance to claim at least
one win. But Michigan State has
found success with its hurling
trio - right-handers Tony Bucci-
ferro, Andrew Waszak and Mike
Theodore. The threesome gives
up very few earned runs, limits
their walks and has combined for
79 strikeouts.
Though the matchups don't
look promising for Michigan,
Maloney believes the key is con-
fidence. He's trying to instill that
in his team by exploring the dif-
ferent possibilities in the batting
order and on the mound.
"We're just trying to cre-
ate something," Maloney said.
"We're trying to find what com-
bination might work."

By STEVEN BRAID
Daily Sports Writer
When Michigan baseball coach
Rich Maloney looks at freshman
shortstop Dylan Delany at the
plate, he doesn't see a player who's
struggling to find his footing in
the batter's box. He sees a hitter
that is continually improving and
one whose hitting woes won't last
long.
"I think in the big scheme of
Dylan Delaney's career, he's going
to be a really good hitter," Malo-
neysaid.
Delaney, who has started all but
one game for the Wolverines (0-3
Big Ten, 13-16 overall), has had a
rocky start to his freshman cam-
paign. Of all of Michigan's regular
starters, Delaney's .176 batting
average ranks him at the bottom,
but that hasn't stopped him from
contributing to the offense - he
has 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
Though Delaney has been at
the bottom of the order for the
majority of the season, Maloney
has experimented with him in the
two-hole on occasion to tryto mix
up the lineup and find different
sources of production.
Slotted behind the leadoff hit-
ter, junior center fielder Patrick
Biondi, Delaney wen hitless in
Michigan's 7-3 victory against
Central Michigan on Wednes-
day. But he did walk once, and he
scored a run.
Whether he's hitting at the top
or the bottom of the lineup, Del-
aney approaches his at-bats the
same way.
"I have no preference, really,"
Delaney said. "My job is the same
either way. I'm just trying to move
runners, get on base and help the
team win."
Delaney attributes his troubles
at the plate to a slow adjustment
to the pitching style in collegiate
baseball.
His inability to adapt quickly
might be the biggest reason for
his high strikeout total. Though
Delaneyis tied for most strikeouts
on the team with 32, his improve-
ment at the plate has been visible
over the past three weeks.

In the first 19 games of the
season, he struck out 21 times,
including an eight-game stretch
in the middle of March when he
was fanned 15 times.
But in his last 11 contests, Del-
aney has struck out just nine
times, an encouraging sign for
him.
"Early in the season, (off-
speed pitches) gave me a little bit
of trouble, but I've been working
reallyhard, the coacheshave been
helping me outa lot, and I've been
doing a lot better lately."
CLIMBING UP THE LADDER:
This weekend's series against
Michigan State might end up
being an eventful one for two of
Michigan's upperclassmen, as
Biondi and senior catcher Coley
Crank are making their way up in
the record books.
When Biondi swiped second
base in the fourth inning of the
Wolverines' victory against the
Chippewas, he collected his 18th
stolen base of the year.
With that, he tied Jim Durham
for the second-most stolen bases
(74) in the program's history.
Biondi, who has converted 18 of
his 24 stolen-base attempts, needs
just 17 more stolen bases to pass
all-time leader Eric Rose, who set
the record in 2007.
"It's not something I'm think-
ing during the game," Biondi said.
"It's kind of cool to think of over-
all, but when I'm out there, I'm
just playing the game, trying to
help our team win."
During the same game, Crank
smacked his sixth home run of the
season. Not only did it tie him for
the team lead, but it also placed
him ninth all-time, with 29 career
home runs.
Though he is batting just .200,
he has provided the Michigan
lineup with some much-needed
power and ranks third on the
team with 21 RBIs.
Crank's next home run will
move him into a four-way tie with
Chris Sabo, Mike Cervenak and
Bryan Besco.
Casey Close has the all-time
record with 46 career home runs,
which he set in 1986.

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