The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 29, 1991 - Page 11
BASEBALL OPENS BIG TEN SEASON
Sluggers set to battle Bucks
y Matthew Dodge
aily Baseball Writer
The Big Ten baseball champi-
onship series has been scheduled
early this season. Well, for Michi-
gan, it has.
The Wolverines are on NCAA
probation for the 1991 season. They
are ineligible for the Big Ten's post-
season tournament. The Michigan
team, ranked 21st nationally, must
prove its strength during the regu-
In a perfect world, Michigan
(11-7) would be playing Ohio State
for the Big Ten title in May. How-
ever, that will not happen, so this
weekend's four-game series in
Columbus will be vital to the for-
tunes of both teams.
"Going into the season, I
thought they would be the team to
beat," Michigan coach Bill Freehan
said. "This is a series that people
will be watching."
Ohio State (19-2) is the ninth-
ranked team in the latest Baseball
America poll. The Buckeyes will
enter Saturday's doubleheader fresh
off a Florida road swing. Yesterday,
the squad closed its spring tour in
Del Ray, Fla.
The Wolverines and Buckeyes are
expected to finish at the top of the
Big Ten heap. It is a toss-up as to
which of the two teams will take
the regular season title.
The conference slate begins for
each squad with doubleheaders both
Saturday and Sunday. But each team
has taken different paths to the Big
Michigan traveled to Florida
State to play two games against the
top-ranked team in the nation,
losing both. The Wolverines' non-
conference schedule has been as
difficult as possible. Ohio State
took an opposite approach in form-
ing a pre-Big Ten schedule.
The Buckeyes' 19-2 record has
been boosted by an 11-game winning
streak. But that streak came at the
expense of weak competition:
Columbia, Manhattan, and East
"They choose to do things dif-
ferently," Freehan said. "Their
competition differs from ours. We
have played against teams better
Michigan head coach Bill Freehan looks on from the dugout during a
recent game. The Wolverines will face Ohio State this weekend.
Senior catcher Julie Cooper takes to the basepaths during a recent practice. Cooper and the Wolverines open
the Big Ten season today with a doubleheader at Indiana and complete the four-game series with a
Blue opens conference season
than Ohio State on the road. We
went down to Florida State and
"I am looking forward to this
trip. We see ourselves as being more
than capable. I see us being as good
as Ohio State."
The key to the Wolverines' series
will be the pitching. Ohio State's
Trautman Field is a hitter's park.
Whichever team can hold the oppos-
ing sluggers under wraps could win.
"It's a small ballpark," Freehan
said. "Our hitters might really like
Michigan hurlers Jason Pfaff (4-
1), Russell Brock (2-3), and Dennis
Konuszewski (1-0) will be in charge
of making sure that the Buckeyes
hitters are not happy.
With the outset of the confer-
ence schedule, the Wolverines will
play more doubleheaders than they
could ever want. Almost every not-
conference game has been nine ip-
nings, which has built up the e-
durance of Freehan's starters.
"I don't like doubleheaders; I
never have," Freehan said. "The Big
Ten season is more difficult. The
doubleheaders take concentration.
When a team wins the first gamg,
they may have a hard time staying
focused for the second."
Whatever problems Michigap
may have against Ohio State, a lac
of concentration probably won't lie
one of them.
by Ryan Herrington
Daily Sports Writer
Spring is usually considered the
season of rebirth. True to form, an-
other Big Ten softball season will
.egin to sprout this weekend in In-
The Michigan softball team
opens its Big Ten season by travel-
ing to Bloomington to face the In-
diana Hoosiers in a pair of double-
headers. The four-game series, being
flayed today and tomorrow, also
mnarks the beginning of Indiana's
Big Ten season.
Michigan (11-7) came off a
three-week hiatus by taking third-
Place in the National Invitational
Softball Tournament in Sunnydale,
Calif. last weekend. The Wolver-
ines went 3-2, losing only to
'ighth-ranked Iowa and host San
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins,
beginning her seventh Big Ten cam-
paign, feels confident that her team
Is prepared to start the long road
toward what she hopes will be a
Big Ten championship.
"We're in really good shape,"
Hutchins said. "We had one of our
best practices of the year
(Tuesday). I think we're in a good
position to begin the (Big Ten) sea-
Hutchins believes her team
must execute its offense in order to
be successful this weekend. So far
this season, outfielder Patti Bene-
dict has led the way in the hitting
department for the Wolverines.
Benedict, the Big Ten rookie of the
year last season, currently leads the
team with a .321 batting average.
Indiana (14-14), which finished
in third place in the Big Ten last
season with a 16-8 record, is com-
ing off a busy pre-Big Ten schedule
which included tournaments
hosted by Miami of Ohio, South
Florida, and Florida State. Fourth-
year coach Diane Stephenson ex-
pects a good effort from her young
squad in its Big Ten opener.
"We just need to play consis-
tently this weekend," Stephenson
said. "We need to take it one game
at a time."
Pitching will be highlighted
throughout the weekend series.
Christy Brown, a first-team, All-
Big Ten pitcher and the Hoosiers'
lone senior, is bound to see a con-
siderable amount of time on the
mound. In her first three years at
IU, Brown has posted a stellar 0.72
ERA, allowing only 22 earned runs
in 212.2 innings.
"We really look to her for our
leadership," Stephenson said.
Not to be outdone, the Wolver-
ines staff consists of senior Andrea
Nelson (3-2, 2.69 ERA), sopho-
more Kelly Forbis (5-3, 1.05) and
first-year player Julie Clarkson (3-
2, 0.84). All three have divided the
pitching duties and have become a
fairly formidable trio.
"What's nice is we can start any
one of our three pitchers and feel
confident," Hutchins said. "It's
not important who pitches but
who gets the win."
According to Hutchins, all
three of the pitchers will see action
However, the Wolverines have
only one thing in mind this week-
end and that is to get off to a fast
"During the Big Ten season, the
biggest obstacle is whoever were
facing that day," Hutchins said.
"This weekend it's Indiana."
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