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June 18, 2007 - Image 11

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-06-18

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Monday, June 18, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

sports@michigandaily.com
734-764-8585

Dumb luck kept
Blue from win

eROB MIGRIN/Daily
Sophomore Zach Putnam and the Wolverines were swept by Oregon State in their super regional.
Michigan wasn't,
but will be, ready

By COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
On Baseball
After the Michigan baseball team
crumbled on national television during
last Monday's super regional elimination
game against Oregon State, it was easy to
say the Wolverines obviously weren't one
of the best eight teams in the nation. But
they didn't lose their shot at the College
World Series because they were inexperi-
enced, playing on the road or because they
simply weren't good enough.
Michigan's chances of going to Omaha
came down to two plays. As soon as
Oregon State rightfielder Scott Santschi
walked in the top of the ninth inning, and
pinch runner Braden Wells scored two
batters later on a single to left, the series
was over.
One hit, one run. That's all it took to
nullify a no-hit bid, cool a hot streak and
end the Wolverines' season.
"It was just crazy that they won that
game, with the way (sophomore Zach Put-
nam) pitched and the way we got more hits
than they did," Michigan coach Rich Malo-
ney said. "That was about as good as it
gets. If we played that same game, 9 of out
10 games, we're going to win that game."
And Oregon State's improbable victory
- winning a game with just one hit - had
little to do with the Wolverines' talent
level or their status as NCAA Tourna-
ment underdogs. But sometimes, baseball
involves chance. "It's baseball," Maloney
always says when asked about an odd hit

or a close game. Anything can happen.
This was the Wolverines' year, and a
game that could have gone either way
turned out to be their breaking point. The
second game exposed a team that, after
defeating the No. 1 team in the nation
twice and staying neck-and-neck with
the defending champions through eight
innings, had lost its momentum and finally
gone cold.
But if the first game had been won by
the Wolverines, the underdogs with no
super regional experience, would they be
playing with the other top seven teams in
the country?
"I think the whole series would have
been different," Maloney said. "I really
think we would have been in Omaha."
Along with finishing 2-1 against No.
1 Vanderbilt - the team Maloney still
described as "truly the No. 1 team" in the
country despite its regional loss to his
Wolverines - Michigan also defeated Col-
lege World Series team Mississippi State
earlier in the season. The Wolverines
obviously proved they could play with,
and were, one of the best.
And one game of bad ball, on the heels
of an unlikely first game loss, doesn't
mean that the Wolverines couldn't have
competed in Omaha.
"It's just one of those weekends where
there's really no explanation for what hap-
pens, but we just didn't get the job done,"
junior leftfielder Derek VanBuskirk said.
"We definitely believed that we had the
See RATKOWIAK, Page 12

By ANDY REID
On Baseball
There's absolutely no denying the Michi-
gan baseball team had one of its most success-
ful and special seasons in nearly 20 years.
After all, collecting a regular-season Big
Ten championship, an NCAA regional title
over No. 1 Vanderbilt and a super regional
berth would warrant celebration and a hefty
bonus for the coach in most clubhouses
around the nation.
While the Wolverines may say their run to
the second round of the NCAA Tournament
fell just short of their ultimate goal - one of
the eight spots in the College World Series in
Omaha, Neb. - the rest of the college base-
ball universe was pleasantly surprised to see
Michigan win a four-team regional for the
first time since 1984.
But, as the Wolverines and their high-
powered offense were almost completely
silenced by Oregon State in the Corvallis
Super Regional last weekend, it became clear
Michigan just wasn't quite ready to compete
with the big guys.
The defending-national champion Beavers
limited a Wolverine offense that averaged
more than seven runs a game in the regular
season to just two in the whole series. Michi-
gan, which thrived on stringing together
multiple hits during the season, could barely
even touch the ball, let alone tally several
solid base hits in a single inning.
Oregon State's sweep over the Wolverines
though had less to do with the Beavers' haves
and more to do with Michigan's have-nots;

what Michigan had not was a solid, experi-
enced senior class to rely on.
The Wolverines will return seven players
to their batting order next season, losing just
their two lowestbatting averages in the line-
up, Eric Rose and Brad Roblin. They will also
return three of the four weekend starters to
the mound, one of whom, sophomore Zach
Putnam, was voted team MVP last week.
Michigan, which entered the super region-
al with a higher seed than Oregon State,
didn't just struggle in the high pressure of a
super regional. In the double-elimination Big
Ten Tournament, in which the Wolverines
were heavily favored, the young squad bowed
out after just two games - losses to No. 6-
seed Ohio State and No. 3-seed Penn State.
In those games, Michigan sent just seven
runners across the plate, even though it col-
lected a whopping 25 hits. The inability to
take advantage of so many base runners cost
the Wolverines their second-straight Big Ten
Tournament Championship.
When it came down to it, Michigan's
youth kept it from reaching Omaha this
season. In high-pressure, must-win situ-
ations, the team folded and didn't play its
style of baseball. In fact, the only postsea-
son success the Wolverines found was in
the Nashville Regional, a series in which
host Vanderbilt was so heavily favored to
win that Michigan felt absolutely no pres-
sure and therefore played more like itself.
But the Wolverines' Achilles heel this
season, their youth, will be a blessing come
next season, especially with the experi-
See REID, Page 12

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