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April 13, 2017 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Thursday, April 13, 2017 — 7A

‘M’ to face test in
No. 18 Oklahoma


team has yet to claim a victory
over a ranked opponent, but
Thursday, that
could change
when No. 18
travels to Ann



“I think it’s

going to be like
a heavyweight




going to be two very good teams
going at it.”

The Sooners (5-4 Big 12,

27-9 overall) will certainly be
a challenge, despite Michigan

competition to win 10 of its past
11 matchups and claim a third-
place standing in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma boasts a solid

record in a tough conference,
highlighted by two wins over
No. 6 Texas Tech two weeks


Wolverines (6-3 Big Ten, 26-7
overall) sport a high-octane
offense that boasts a .292 overall
batting average with 329 hits
and 205 runs batted in total on
the season so far, capping off an
impressive start to the season.


similarly exhibited a strong
showing on offense with a .284

with 334 hits and 209 RBI led
by catcher Renae Martinez with
a .355 batting average.

What sets the Sooners apart

from the Wolverines, though,
is their powerful pitching staff.
Michigan has had incredible
success from the mound with
a 3.08 combined earned-run

average. Oklahoma’s 2.73 ERA
shows that the Wolverines’ bats
will have to prove their worth
in order to scrap hits from the
Sooners. Jake Irvin spearheads
their pitching staff with a 1.30
ERA over 34.2 innings-pitched.

Just as Bakich hinted at, the

matchup will be a showcase of
a high-caliber pitching squad in
Oklahoma against a Michigan
offense that has consistently

situations and has stayed hot all

The Wolverines are fresh

off a win against Eastern

which sophomore right fielder
Jonathan Engelmann launched
a walk-off double in the 13th
inning to grant Michigan the


Wolverines dropped their final
matchup against Illinois, 5-7, in
a game marred by 11 forfeited

If Michigan wants success

against its first real challenge of
the season, it will need to stymie
the cooling of its offense in
the past two games, especially
against the Sooners, who will
take advantage of any sacrifice
of opportunity.

The Wolverines will likely


baseman Ako Thomas, who
claims a .346 batting average,
and junior third baseman Drew
Lugbauer, who claims 42 RBI,
continue to perform the way
they have been.

On paper, it will be the

toughest test Michigan has
faced to this point, and perhaps
the toughest test it will face
the rest of the season — the
Wolverines have no ranked
opponents on their schedule.
In order to accomplish this tall
task, they will have to prove
they deserve their own ranking.

As Bakich put it: “You look at

it and you say, ‘Okay, yeah, this
is going to be a very good test, a
very good challenge.’ ”


Daily Sports Writer

at Michigan

6-3 Big Ten,
26-7 overall;
Oklahoma 5-4
Big 12, 27-9

4 P.M. ET

Where: Ray
Fisher Stadium

Falk, Wolverines top Michigan State

By keeping her mind free of

distraction, Aidan Falk continues
to show up when it counts.

After going 6-for-9 at Ohio

State last weekend, the junior
right fielder put out another
stellar effort Wednesday. She
notched two doubles and three
RBI en route to a 5-1 win for
the Michigan softball team (9-1
Big Ten, 29-8-1 overall) against
Michigan State (5-5, 21-13) during
a game moved to Alumni field due
to flooding in East Lansing.

“I’ve been trying to see the ball

and swing more freely, getting it
off the brain,” Falk said.

Following consecutive singles

in the first inning, Falk launched
a double to the left-center field
gap to give No.18 Michigan a 2-0
advantage and, ultimately, its
game-winning runs.

She would again knock an RBI

double in the third frame, as two
Spartans collided on a Falk flare
to left field, allowing a runner to

Leading the team with 14

doubles, Falk has been a staple of
the Wolverines’ offense all season.
But contrary to her foothold in
the batting order, she has found
herself in a new spot defensively.


Megan Betsa and first baseman
Tera Blanco in the lineup, Falk
has been relegated to starting
in the outfield — a place she
played for just the first time this
season last month. She was again
penciled into the right field spot
against Michigan State.


Wednesday shows exactly why
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
calls the junior’s offense the most
versatile aspect of her game —
rather than her ability to play yet
another new position.

Falk’s “versatility,” stemming

from her ability to keep her mind
clear in the batter’s box, has now
become a focus for the rest of the

“A lot of us have gone toward

that now,” Falk said. “We know
how to play the game, so turn
off the brain and stop thinking.

We all know how to hit, it’s just a
matter of our minds getting in the

Clear minds seemed to be

the case for sophomore second

junior designated player Amanda
Vargas too, who each added
RBIs of their own. Sophomore
left fielder Natalie Peters also
smacked three singles.

But it could have been a much

larger margin of victory for

It left seven runners on base,

including three in the third inning
and two in the fourth inning. In
the former, senior shortstop Abby
Ramirez’s groundout helped the
Spartans escape the frame having
surrendered just two runs. An
inning later, with runners on
second and third with one out,
consecutive strikeouts left the
Wolverines empty handed.

In the circle, senior right-

hander Megan Betsa was once
again victorious, striking out 17
batters — tying her career high —
and allowing only one run.

But the road to her 15th win

of the season was bumpier than

After surrendering two walks

and a hit to load the bases in the
fifth inning, Betsa found herself
with Michigan State’s best hitter
at the plate — Leah Foerster —
who looked to drive in the game-
tying run.

Betsa buckled down to strike

out the next two batters, however,
eliminating the Spartans’ best
offensive chance all evening.

Even more impressive was how

Betsa finished the contest, retiring
her last eight outs on strikes.

“She’s been more consistent

this year,” Hutchins said. “She’s
our leader, and that’s one of the
things we need from her. She
needs to give us that sense of ‘I’ll
get it done until the offense gets it
done.’ ”

In Falk and Betsa, Michigan

had some of its usual candidates
leading the charge.

And for Falk to continue her

hitting streak and possibly the
Wolverines’ dominance in the
Big Ten, it’s just about keeping
softball off the brain.


Daily Sports Writer


Junior right fielder Aidan Falk notched two doubles and three RBI against Michigan State, further proving how valuable her bat is to Michigan’s lineup.

Hutchins helps Betsa
in fifth-inning trouble



to the pitching circle in the
bottom of the fifth inning to
talk to her senior right-hander
Megan Betsa. The PA speakers
remained hushed.

“I had said before the game,

we were wondering whether I
have a walk-out song when I go
to the mound,” Hutchins said.

“So when I went out there,

I asked her ‘What are they

‘Nothing.’ … Then one came on
and I said ‘What’s this song, this
is not my song’ and she agreed
it’s not my song. So we came to
the conclusion that I don’t have


command was teetering, with

the tying run to the plate for
the Spartans. After a single by
catcher Lindsay Besson loaded
the bases and brought a vocally
dormant Michigan State dugout
to life, the Wolverines’ 4-1 lead
appeared vulnerable.

Perhaps more importantly,

though, so did Betsa.

Hutchins’ visit — in contrast

to one from pitching coach Jen
Brundage — signaled a mental
fix rather than a physical one. Up
to that point, Betsa was cruising,
with a bloop single serving as
the only real blemish on her day
to that point. Hutchins knew
what Betsa needed, and knew a
light-hearted conversation was
all it would take for her to regain
focus and escape the jam.

The senior ace has been

adamant about her improved

something she says she “had in
the past, but… I don’t know if
I’ve ever actually had this type
of confidence.”

But here was real adversity.

With the bases loaded in a
crucial midweek tilt against a Big
Ten foe, even the most confident
of pitchers would be fazed.

It was a test of her mental

acuity in a pressure situation;
a test Betsa passed with flying

It was like Hutchins turned

on a light only she could

mowed down Michigan State’s
pinch hitter Jordan Davis to
set up a showdown with the
Spartans’ star centerfielder Lea

Foerster came into the game

boasting team-highs in batting
average (.420), home runs (9)
and slugging percentage (.870).
In addition, she had just three
strikeouts all season. Foerster
had already singled in the third
inning to account for Michigan
State’s only run on the day, and
the first run Betsa has allowed at
Alumni Field all season.

But this time, Betsa came out

on top, dialing a 2-2 fastball past
Foerster to get the last out of
the inning, stranding all three
runners on base and preserving
the 4-1 lead.

“She pitched herself into the

jam and she pitched herself out,”
Hutchins said. “And what’s the
approach? Do what you do. Spin
the ball. When you spin the ball,
you’re really hard to hit.”

Betsa stayed in the groove,

striking out the side in the sixth
inning and the seventh inning
en route to a complete-game, 17
strikeout performance.

“I think she threw really well

today,” said sophomore catcher
Katie Alexander. “Even though
she got deeper into the count… I
think she did well fighting back
from that.”

All it took was a casual

conversation with her coach
— no mechanical tweaks or
background music necessary —
to get the job done.




Daily Sports Writer

Wilson, Wagner take different paths to draft


basketball team gathered with
family and friends to celebrate the
past season, two of its players were
looking forward to an exciting, yet
uncertain future.


Wagner and redshirt sophomore
forward DJ Wilson both declared
for the NBA Draft on Monday. But
both players opted to do so without
hiring agents, leaving the door
open for a possible return to Ann
Arbor for the 2017-18 season.

In the weeks that followed

the Wolverines’ Sweet 16 loss to
Oregon, Wagner and Wilson spoke
with family, the Michigan coaching
staff and consulted with reports
from the NBA Advisory Committee
to make an informed decision on
their respective futures.

“After we got all the facts — we

got great input from the Advisory
Committee — and they looked at
those facts and I encouraged them
to look at this aggressively and go
after it,” said Michigan coach John
Beilein. “Don’t go into this if you’re
not going after it all.”

Beilein has yet to have an

underclassmen declare for the
draft since the new rules were
established two seasons ago. They
allow younger players to ‘test the
waters’ and go through the NBA
Draft Combine, interviews and
workouts before making a final
decision to go pro. So the process
Wilson and Wagner will be going
through the next couple months is
just as new to Beilein as it is to his
two players.

“It’s so new to so many different

people,” Beilein said. “Everybody’s
learning, because it’s like a game.
You throw a game up and are they
zone? Are they man? Are they
pressing? Are they not? Are they
overplaying? Are they not? And it’s
the same thing we deal with when
we talk about their futures.”

Just like preparing for any game,

Wilson and Wagner will be treating
the draft process the same way —
working out regularly, checking the

tape and gathering any information
out there — despite the different
end goal.

Beilein says he believes both

forwards will receive invites to
next month’s NBA Draft Combine
in Chicago, and that will be the
greatest source of information
for both of them as they make the

The final deadline to pull out

of the draft is May 24, and neither
Wilson nor Wagner have any idea
if it will take that long for them to
make the final commitment to stay
or go.

As for how events will transpire

between now and the deadline,
Wilson and Wagner seem to have
different approaches on how they
each attack the draft process.

Wilson said he started thinking

about his potential NBA prospects
as early as the beginning of the
season, when coaches began to
instill the confidence in him that
with a breakout season he could get
on some teams’ radars.

Within the past few weeks,

Wilson has reached out to the
likes of Marquese Chriss, Kelly
Oubre Jr., Stanley Johnson and Ben
Gordon about the draft process and
life in the NBA.

Based on early feedback and

the conversations he has had with
coaches and current NBA players,
Wilson realizes at this point he
should be focused on working
out and improving all areas of his
game, rather than focusing on just
his strengths or weaknesses.

“I think it’s just working on

my overall game, working on
everything,” Wilson said on where
he’s looking to focus on improving
in the coming weeks. “I can get
better in all facets of the game, so
there’s not really one particular
area where I’m gonna key in on

As for Wagner, his focus has

been much narrower, as he’s only
recognized himself as a viable
prospect for a few weeks now,
unlike Wilson.

“As a basketball player, you don’t

think that far (ahead),” Wagner
said. “You’re not successful if you

don’t focus on the next thing. I’ll
focus on preparing for the workout
and for the combine and then we’ll

Wagner has talked to former

Michigan guard Caris LeVert and
some other individuals he knows
back from when he played in
Germany. He says that from what
he’s learned, moving onto the
NBA will be nothing like what he’s
experienced in Ann Arbor the past
two years and completely different
from the experiences he went
through playing for his professional
club — ALBA Berlin — through his
prep days in Germany.

The sophomore has also been

planning for the summer as if
he’s staying at Michigan. Wagner
believes he’s going to attend
summer workouts in Ann Arbor
and enroll in spring-term classes.

Neither Wilson nor Wagner will

commit to saying if they’re leaning
one way or another in terms of
staying or leaving. Right now, the
pair is focused on learning as much
as they can about how well their
games can carry over to the next
level and if they personally are
ready to bear the responsibility of
NBA life.

While it may be agonizing for

others waiting for their decision,
Wilson and Wagner are taking
solace in knowing they have
time to make what could be the
biggest decision of their lives, and
are confident whatever way they
choose to go will be the best choice
for them.

“I have no idea what I’m going to

do,” Wilson said. “As of right now,
I’m a Michigan Wolverine. Ask
me in a few weeks and that might
be different. But right now, I don’t


Moritz Wagner and DJ Wilson will each test the waters of the NBA Draft.


Daily Sports Writer

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