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April 21, 2021 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Danny Zimmerman stepped up

to the plate with the bases loaded
during the Michigan baseball
team’s game against Minnesota
on Friday. The redshirt junior
outfielder launched his second
home run of the game, this one over
the fence in deep left field to make
the score 14-2, as the Wolverines
broke open the game and went on
to win 21-5.

Thanks in large part to a

plethora of home runs, Michigan
(18-7 Big Ten) swept Minnesota
(4-20) this weekend, winning 4-0
on Saturday and 9-5 on Sunday
after its rout to open the series
on Friday. Following its weekend
performance, the Wolverines sit
just a half-game behind Nebraska
in the race for the Big Ten title and
lead the Big Ten in home runs with

Michigan used the long ball

several times this weekend, racking
up eight home runs in three games.
Especially on Friday, the home run
ball was a theme throughout the

“We just did a good job of

swinging at good pitches and the
wind was blowing out, so we hit
five home runs,” Michigan coach
Erik Bakich said. “Everything was
going well for us offensively.”

Several of these home runs

played key roles in the wins this
weekend. Sophomore infielder
Ted Burton launched a huge
two-run blast in the ninth inning
of Saturday’s game to put the
Wolverines up 2-0, and they added
two more runs to ultimately take
the game, 4-0. Fifth-year transfer

important two-run shot to push the
score to 5-2 en route to Michigan’s
Sunday win.


Michigan players who had a strong
series offensively, leading the way
for the Wolverines with five hits
and a walk. Burton collected four
hits and eight RBI in the series,
including his big two-run homer

outfielder Jordon Rogers also
collected four hits and three walks,
while sophomore outfielder Clark
Elliott chipped in with four hits
and four walks.

“(What made us effective was)

eliminating their pitches, just
sitting off, laying off the off-speed
and hitting the fastball,” Rogers
said. “We’re a good hitting team
when we are all locked in and I
think this weekend we were. It was
a good example of that.”

On the mound, Michigan got

several strong starts out of its

left-hander Steven Hajjar allowed
two runs over five innings in the
opener and left the Wolverines

right-hander Cameron Weston
had a very strong outing in
Michigan’s second game, tossing
seven scoreless innings to give
his offense a chance to get going
after a slow start. In the finale on
Sunday, sophomore left-hander
Jacob Denner went a solid five
innings and gave up two runs.


pitching amazing this year,” junior
right handerWillie Weiss said.
“They’ve all been going deep into
games, doing everything that we
can ask for. I’m super proud of
all the pitchers, all the starting
pitchers and I am looking forward
to watching them keep showing

Out of the bullpen, junior

right-hander Willie Weiss was
lights-out for the Wolverines.
The Michigan closer came into

Minnesota threatening. With the
score knotted at zero, the Golden
Gophers had the bases loaded and
just one out. But Weiss came in and
shut the door, striking out all five
batters he faced to end the threat in
the eighth and close out the ninth.
In Sunday’s finale, Weiss was again
excellent, tossing the last four outs
out of the bullpen.


knowing that we have a consistent
guy who can come in and close the
door, even in close games,” Rogers
said of Weiss. “It’s just an amazing
feeling on defense, just knowing
that he’s going to get outs.”

The Wolverines were expected

to do well against a Minnesota
team that sits in last place in the
Big Ten. But winning on the road is
always difficult, and Michigan was
without the services of sophomore
infielder Jimmy Obertop, who hits
out of the cleanup spot. Despite
missing a key piece, the Wolverines
took care of business and swept the
Golden Gophers.

“It was a huge sweep coming

off taking two of three, getting
the series win against Ohio State,”
Weiss said. “It was nice to see us
stay hot, keep the bats going and
keep the momentum going into
this weekend.”

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 — 19

Thirteen months ago, Michigan

ended its season with a loss to No.
1 Oklahoma. At the time, the fifth-
ranked Wolverines expected to
face the Sooners again in the NCAA
Championships. A week later, those
expectations disappeared, along with
the rest of their season.

“Our whole theme or motto for

this season is ‘unfinished business,’ ”
Michigan coach Bev Plocki told The
Daily on Jan. 16. “We had a really
good team and season last year that
was pulled out right from under us.”

Saturday, No. 4 Michigan ended

its season with a win over No. 1
Oklahoma. And No. 6 Utah and
No. 1 Florida. And the rest of the
country. The team became national
champions, the first in the program’s
history and first for Michigan
athletics since men’s gymnastics won
in 2014.

This championship came in a year

mired in conflict and obstacles. A
sport that already requires impeccable
discipline asked for more — off the
mats and on them. That was part of
the bargain made for this season, and
this team followed it to a tee.

“It is incredibly difficult to take

away an 18 to 21-year-old’s social
life, and that’s essentially what has
happened,” Plocki said Jan. 16. “They
have handled it, they have dealt with
it because this team and this season is
a priority to us. Every single person
is all in terms of doing what we need
to do to reduce the possibility of this
season ending prematurely again.”


wasn’t a part of that bargain. Two
meets into the season and it already
appeared it could end before ever
really beginning. The hard work
and discipline, the win over No. 4
Minnesota so early in the season,
would amount to nothing.

But the season returned, and with

it an ascendant Wolverine squad.
After its first loss at the Big Five
Meet, Michigan scored 198.025 in a
dominant performance that broke its
record score. The next week, a new
record took its place at 198.100.


performance reached a new level
with every score over 9.9 in a victory
against Maryland. Its season high
reached a shocking 49.800, and it
became the best team in the country
on the vault.

“At the beginning of the year

we were doing big vaults, but we
couldn’t get the landings, and it was
just a process,” Plocki said after
winning the championship. “We
absolutely peaked at the right time
this year. We started right before the
championship part of the season, we
started being able to nail those 1.5s
and that’s when people started taking
notice of us too.”

The week after setting the new

program high against the Terrapins,
another low point appeared. For the
first time since 2013, Michigan didn’t
win the Big Ten Championship. A
score of 197.425 fell three tenths
short of No. 8 Minnesota’s mark, a
poor floor score that doomed the
Wolverines. It wasn’t the first time
floor brought the score down — in
their only other loss in the season,
Michigan scored a 47.500 on floor.

But the disappointment of losing

its iron-clad grip on the conference
didn’t last long.

“When we did not win the Big

Tens, I said to my team right then and
there, ‘We’re gonna trade in a Big Ten
Championship ring for a National
Championship ring this year,’ ” Plocki
said. “And I think that that’s when it
really got serious.”

Michigan didn’t lose a meet

through the rest of the NCAA
Tournament, matching its program
high once again in the Regional Final.
Its vault led the way, naturally. And

throughout the run, the floor held its

In the National Championship,



nationally on floor — beat out the No.
1, No. 4 and No. 6 floor teams in the
country with a score of 49.625.

Going into the final rotation, the

Wolverines held a lead of 0.1375 over

One last obstacle lay in between

them and euphoria: the beam, an
event they struggled on in the NCAA
Second Round. The high-stakes
event often sees low scores because
every misstep and wobble may end
up with a fall.

First, sophomore Gabby Wilson,

who averages a 9.809 on beam,
wobbled — her final score a 9.75. Next
in the lineup, senior Lauren Farley,
who grew up an hour from the arena,
also wobbled. Her final score of
9.7625 was kept.

Just like that, Michigan lost

their edge. From here on out, every
routine would mean victory or loss.

And then, excellence.
“I think I knew those routines

were semi off, but I also trusted
myself and the rest of the lineup,
so I was (thinking), ‘Get out there,
do my thing,’ ” sophomore Sierra
Brooks said. “I got on the beam and
I just honestly approached it with
as much confidence as I could ever

A 9.9625 from Brooks and a 9.9875

from junior Natalie Wojcik put the
title back in reach.

All eyes in the arena then fell

on junior Abby Heiskell. A season
riddled with conflict, detours and
sacrifice was now one routine away
from glory, one routine away from


on, hoping for one last wobble,

and disciplined, as this team has
been all season, the 2021 National
Championship was secured.


Managing Sports Editor


Michigan fifth-year outfielder Christan Bullock played a part in the
monstrous offensive display against Minnesota.



sophomore Caiden Baxter battled
it out against Alabama’s Lauren

the air. The crowd reacted to each
point emphatically, with the two
sets of fans taking turns bellowing
out chants of school pride. Baxter’s
normally cheerful on-court persona
became gradually replaced with a
fixated, stoic expression.

This was by far the biggest match

of Baxter’s young career so far — the
finals of the team competition at
Wheelchair Tennis Nationals. He
had been thrown into this position,
selected to fill the shoes of the
spectating graduate student Spencer
Heslop, who set the tournament
alight with an undefeated record but
sat out the team final for religious
reasons. Competing against a player
with a far superior rank, winning
this match would forever solidify the
Baxter name in Michigan Adaptive
Sports and Fitness lore.

Quickly, however, the match

became meaningless.

Baxter and partner Chris Kelley

had already lost the doubles match
against Alabama’s Thomas Venos
and Jeremy Boyd, despite getting out
to a hot start. While this result wasn’t
unexpected, it meant the pair would
have to win both of their singles
matches against Alabama to secure
the title. Kelley’s chances were high,
but Baxter would have to play to the
very best of his abilities for the entire
match in order to have a chance.

For much of the match, Baxter

did just that. He served expertly,
flustering Haneke-Hopps early on
with a number of aces. Crucially,
Baxter reeled in his inconsistency,
leaving it to Haneke-Hopps to make
the first mistake.

Defying expectations, Baxter took

the first set 6-4.

But at that point, the title was


strength on full display, Venos had
quickly overpowered Kelley. From
start to finish, Venos dictated the pace
of the match, smashing return after
return past the exhausted Kelley. In
dominant fashion, Venos won, 6-1, 6-2,

securing Alabama’s fourth consecutive
wheelchair tennis trophy.

Despite the most significant set

win of his career, Baxter quickly
learned that the outcome of his match
would mean nothing for Michigan’s
title aspirations. But for the team,
regardless of the outcome, this match
mattered for far more.

“We started this program within

the past year,” Dr. Feranmi Okanlami,
the director of Michigan’s Adaptive
Sports and Fitness program, said.
“Being here at all was step one. And
look at everything we came away
with: Three academic all-Americans,
a sportsmanship award, two second-
place finishes — you can’t really ask
for more than that.”

At the tournament, Michigan

was very much the new kid on the
block. The team had only recently
gained enough facility access to
begin practicing with each other
regularly. A number of the team’s
athletes had never participated in a
competitive event before, and many
had chalked Michigan off before the
play even began. Countless hours
of meetings, planning, training and
negotiating had gone into making the
establishment of this program and
this team a reality.

“For these athletes, to be (at

Nationals) after being asked to be

officers, strategic planners, business
moguls — they’ve had to do everything
to run this program,” Okanlami said.
“I have no words to truly say how
proud I am of this group and of all the
supporting staff that have allowed us
to become what we are right now and
what we hope to be in the future.”

Even before Michigan advanced

to the finals, people were beginning

to take notice of the waves the

Throughout the tournament, a
number of spectators, coaches and
players stopped by the Michigan
section to compliment the team and
express how impressed they were
with the speed at which Michigan’s
program had grown.


engagements ballooned, receiving


Michigan’s Varsity Tennis team
and, crucially, Michigan Athletics.
Michigan’s Adaptive Sports and

something special, and people were
beginning to catch on.

“I think that this (weekend) will

provide some context and some
inspiration for the institution to see
what this group has been able to
accomplish,” Okanlami said. “We
don’t want recognition just because
we want to be able to pat ourselves
on the back, but because we want
to be able to get access for the next
group of students who want to
compete alongside us at a University
of Michigan that is supportive for
students with disabilities.”

Despite a truly valiant effort,

Baxter would go on to lose his
match in a tiebreaker. Okanlami,
too, fell just short in his Tier 3 final,
narrowly bested by Arizona’s Owen
Anketell in a thrilling third set

For now, Michigan would have

to settle for runner-up. But along
the way, the team had accomplished
far more than a trophy — or a “shiny
tennis dinner plate,” as Spencer
Heslop dubbed it — could ever give

Daily Sports Writer

Michigan’s offense powers its way past

Minnesota in weekend sweep

Wolverines come second in
national tournament debut


Michigan Adaptive Sports and Fitness came second in its national competition over the weekend.

Championship for ‘M’ comes after
season of sacrifices and setbacks


Michigan women’s gymnastics won the first national championship in program history Saturday.


Daily Sports Writer

Penn State’s 4th quarter surge too much for Michigan

For the Michigan men’s lacrosse

team, it came down to the last three

After a 14-12 victory against Penn

State on March 20, the Wolverines
(2-7 Big Ten) looked to repeat its
performance against the Nittany
Lions (3-6) on Friday in Happy
Valley, Pa. Penn State, however,
managed to pull off a fourth-quarter
comeback and send the game to
overtime, where it eventually scored
with just three seconds left to win,

The first quarter was evenly

matched, as each team notched three
goals. Thanks to strong defensive
efforts and excellent goaltending, it
was very difficult for either to create
separation on the scoreboard.

In the second quarter, Michigan

forced 11 turnovers compared to
Penn State’s two, which provided

defenseman Andrew Darby forced
a turnover late in the second quarter,

allowing the Wolverines to clear the
ball and to set up a scoring play.

The Wolverines led 7-6 at


Penn State switched goalkeepers

during the second half which initially
gave Michigan another opening. The
Wolverines proceeded to go on a 5-1
scoring run in the third quarter to
make it a 12-8 Wolverine lead.

“Penn State went with a different

direction for their goaltender, and
when you put a guy in who has not
played yet and it is cold, it is hard for
him to get into rhythm,” Michigan
coach Kevin Conry said. “We
exploited him with good shots in
good spots.”

The Wolverines, however, were

unable to keep up the momentum
heading into the fourth quarter, as
Penn State scored five unanswered
goals to take the lead with under
five minutes left in the game. The
Nittany Lions picked up the pace
defensively by playing in a tight zone,
which allowed for minimal shooting

“They dropped into a zone and

really packed it in which had our

guys take some outside shots, and
we were fortunate (sophomore
midfielder) Jacob (Jackson) scored
one at the end,” Conry said. “But
for a lot of them, Penn State was
able to get bodies on us, and we
were not putting them to the pipes
which allowed them to take a better
position which really cut down a lot
of our opportunities.”

Michigan scored with just under

three minutes left in regulation to
force overtime. While in overtime,
the Wolverines were in the offensive
zone twice and created many scoring
chances, but Penn State goalkeeper
Aleric Fyock made arguably two of
the best saves of the game, allowing
the team to clear the ball and set up
offensive plays.



sophomore attackman Josh Zawada,
who tallied a goal and three assists,
and freshman attackman Michael
Boehm who knotted a hat trick.

With just three seconds left in

overtime, Nittany Lions’ senior
attackman Mac O’Keefe scored the
game-winning goal, finishing with
six tallies on the day. O’Keefe was
able to create separation against the
Michigan defenders allowing him to
take an easy shot with no traffic in
front of the net. Penn State squeaked
out a one-point win, but even more
impressive was O’Keefe breaking the
NCAA’s all-time goal-scoring record
in this game against Michigan.

“Making good decisions down

the stretch is a part of our maturation
process,” Conry said. “So, every
time that we are out there, we are
learning and growing. It is certainly
disappointing to lose a lead, but at the
end of it, we had our opportunities to
win the game.”


Daily Sports Writer


Despite holding a three-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter, Michigan fell to
Penn State in overtime.

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