Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pick Six: Hitting For Contact

Full credit for several of these must be given to, just as valuable to the Michigan fan as MGoBlog is.

  1. Softball bows out. We would've seen more of the three-game series against Baylor if the CSTV app didn't collapse into buffering every 15 seconds, but maybe we're glad we didn't. Lorilyn Wilson and Nikki Nemitz got rocked 9-0 in the opening game, Wilson taking the start and the loss. The Wolverines clawed out a 3-0 win Saturday to stay alive, but went down 4-0 in the rubber match. Baylor's top pitcher is a beast, not allowing an earned run for the series, and 1B Ashley Monceaux had 5 RBI, more than Michigan as a team.

  2. Michigan gets at-large bid to NCAA baseball tourney. A season that began with a great deal of promise (and a Big Ten regular season title) fell apart down the stretch and into the Big Ten tournament. Getting swept out of the tournament when you're the #1 and hosting, well, it's a little embarrassing. That left the boys just shy of the magic number of 40 wins, but they still managed to get a #2 seed. But not all #2 seeds are created equal. Truth is that they're essentially the #32 seed nationally, playing in Nashville against the #33 seed in Memphis (which, you know, wouldn't have a small home crowd advantage), and even if they win, they then face national #1 seed Vanderbilt. We guess we're saying that if you're a Michigan baseball fan, don't build your weekend around breathless updates from Vandy. All of that said, Michigan is building something nice here, and with the facilities upgrades on schedule to be completed for next season thanks to the generosity of the Wilpon family, this could be, hopefully, the beginning of a return to baseball glory for Michigan.

  3. Kelly Baraka is gainfully employed with the Kalamazoo Xplosion of the Continental Indoor Football League (Mascot: Xplodey the Coyote. No, seriously). We're glad for Baraka that he's no longer literally working at McDonald's, like he was last year. The Xplosion play their last home game of the regular season this Saturday, 7:00PM at Wings Stadium. Fear not if you can't make it; the Xplosion's 8-1 record guarantees them at least one home playoff game (HT: MSC).

  4. Brian's Big Ten Network fisking is a must-read about something that, in the abstract, isn't a bad idea, but is lurching into existence in as disastrous a manner as possible, fueled by the hubris Jim Delaney's been dripping everywhere.

  5. Crisler could get minor updates for 2007-08 season. We could not be more excited. The reality is that Michigan was not going to quickly get a new basketball arena built quickly, or is there even, necessarily, the money or desire to do so. However, there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with Crisler Arena that could not be seriously improved with some TLC. The lighting thing is huge. Crisler Arena has always looked poorly lit on television and it's a dark and shadowy place when you go there to watch a game. We're not saying it has to be Florida bright in there, but bringing in some experts to make the changes needed to make Crisler look better on television could be a small but important step to improving recruiting. The sound system upgrades are just an additional need. We just hope it doesn't mean that additional speakers mean additional calls for NOISE! NOISE! LOUD NOISES! The band is there for a reason.

  6. Braylon Edwards pledging $1 million to fund scholarships. We realize that this is kind of old news, but we just wanted to take a moment to salute Braylon Edwards, one of our favorite Michigan players ever, for making a major financial commitment to improving the educational opportunities for deserving students. We realize that many athletes do good work like this and stories of them are put out there, but in an era where so many NFL players are being help up in the media as exemplars of bad behavior, it's nice to see stories like this. We're hopeful that this kind of thing can make a real difference in the lives of these young people.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

HSR Field Trip: NCAA Softball Regional

Jump for joy
Photos from, Chris Schwengler and Amir Gamzu

The softball postseason is upon us, with the team looking to repeat 2005's triumph at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. As the overall #9 seed in the tournament, the Wolverines earned the right to host a regional in Ann Arbor, which was held this weekend. Louisville, Oregon State, and Eastern Michigan filled out the four-team bracket of the double-elimination regional. I couldn't make it to Michigan's Friday night opener against Eastern (which they won 3-0), but I sat in with the Alumni Band for our other games.

Saturday opened with a rain delay, sending us into Oosterbaan to wait it out. What makes softball different from other sports I've played for is that starting pitcher Lorilyn Wilson was the one to tell us our new start time. To be fair, football, basketball, and hockey don't usually have rain delays, but softball seems to have a tighter relationship with the band.

Lorilyn Wilson: Pitcher/Meteorologist
Lorilyn almost takes flight

For the most part, Wilson had a good day against the Cardinals. In the first, she got her first pair of outs relatively easily, but then the Louisville shortstop managed to just turn on a pitch and drive it over the left field fence. She looked rattled after that, but a coach's visit to the circle settled her down and she imposed her will on Louisville for the next four innings.

Meanwhile, Michigan took back the lead on their next set of at-bats. Back-to-back singles and a Louisville error got the first run across and a Teddi Ewing base hit brought Maggie Viefhaus home. They then cracked the game open in the fourth with a big two-out rally. Rebekah Milian drew a walk, Samantha Findlay singled, then Angela Findlay (her sister) put an RBI single into center, bringing up Tiffany Worthy. Worthy took a nasty foul tip right on her thigh, walked it off, and then deposited the 2-2 pitch into the Louisville bullpen to clear the bases and score three.

Worthy's home run was the game-winner, but Louisville tried to make it interesting. Lorilyn was looking gassed in the 5th, allowing another solo home run to lead off the inning and then loading the bases on a walk and consecutive(!) hit batters. Freshman Nikki Nemitz came on to put out the fire, allowing one run on a sacrifice fly, but avoiding the big inning that had been brewing.

That was it as far as scoring went, and the Wolverines came away with the 6-3 victory. It wasn't the end of the second-guessing, though. Louisville elected to keep their best pitcher in the game even after it became 6-1, even though they must have suspected a loss might be in the cards, and thus would need to play the Oregon State/EMU winner for another shot at the Wolverines in the final. Instead of resting her for that game, they gambled that they'd either find a way to beat Michigan or that Pitcher #2 would be enough to handle the Beavers or Eagles. Things didn't work out that way, as the Beavers prevailed in both of their Saturday games to get their shot at the Wolverines.

In Sunday's game, the Michigan wasted no time in jumping on top of the Beavers to a tune of 5-0 after the first inning. Rebekah Milian hit a one-out single right through pitcher Brianne McGowan's five-hole, which really seemed to rattle her. Sam Findlay took her from an 0-2 count all the way to a walk, then she took Angela Findlay's hit and threw it to second base, where no one was covering, as the play was either at third to get the lead runner or first to get the hitter. She then walked Tiffany Worthy to load the bases, bringing up Maggie Viefhaus, who sent the 2-0 pitch deep to center. GRAND SLAM! The Oregon State centerfielder, Natalie Johnson, saw her playing career flashing before her eyes and leapt up the fence going after the ball, but she wasn't going to reach it without a ladder (Not that she didn't try her best. Her teammate in right had to rush over and grab her legs to keep her from tumbling down on the other side).

The Wolverines added a run in the second, with Viefhaus again coming through. Her base hit into right let Angela Findlay score from second and gave the band an easy music cue for "Hawaii 5-0." The third was a tough inning, as Michigan managed to load the bases with no outs, but let the Beavers get away, wasting the opportunity on infield grounders and a pop fly. However, they did tack on another run in the fourth when Molly Bausher's bloop single to left gave Michelle Weatherdon enough time to score from second.

And that was it. I haven't mentioned what Oregon State did at bat because they didn't really get anything going. Lorilyn Wilson had eight strikeouts, no Beavers made it past second all day, and only two made it that far. She just mowed them down all afternoon in a dominating performance.

The Victors
Singing 'The Victors'

The Wolverines are off to Waco, TX to take on the Baylor Bears in the NCAA Super Regional starting Friday, with a shot at making the Women's College World Series. The real question is whether they have a chance at repeating their awesome run through the 2005 tournament, and it's one I'll leave for an upcoming post, as this one is way too long already. For now I'll just say that college softball is a lot more fun than is commonly known, and that being part of the Alumni Band is the best way to experience it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pants Party! (Part 1)

Geoff:  On Friday (and well into Saturday), Craig and I represented the Michigan blogging community at the Deadspin Midwest Pants Party in Chicago. What follows is a horrifying tale of baseball and karaoke and goblins. OK, fine. Not goblins. Or "horrifying". Rather the opposite of that, in fact. But the other two stand.

Ducking out a little early from work, I managed to get to the traffic jams of the Dan Ryan by 4:30 CDT and I even made it to our pre-game destination, Schaller's Pump, by 5:00. I was ready to join the pants partiers inside, when...they all literally walked out the door as soon as I opened it. It was just like high school pep band when our director would finally cue up a song just in time for play to resume. Everyone fell into place for the obligatory group photo, and I snuck into the back row.

This is what people from the internet look like.

At least I was in time for the walk over to US Cellular Field, just a few blocks away. Lady Andrea (of Ladies... and DeadOn), because she is a sweet and nice person, noticed that I was not someone she'd met, so she came over to talk to me. Let me tell you, it's really weird introducing yourself by your internet pseudonym, especially when it relates in no way to your real name. "Hi, I'm Geoff, or 'The Bad One'" doesn't sound like anything normal people say. PS – Believe the hype:

Look! A girl!
Lady Andrea and yours truly

Our intrepid organizer, PeteJayhawk (who deserves massive, massive thanks for all of this) led us over to our gate. We had patio tickets, so in this big cafeteria-like space under the right field bleachers we had all the beer, wine, and food we could eat and/or drink, which meant I had more beer spilled on me than any time since I was an undergrad, but it was all good. Across the table from me, Tuffy and JB* kept finding orphaned beers, so we gave them good homes.

Eventually Craig (aka Yostal) showed up, released from the clutches of the AP test, and started making the rounds. The crowd at the table started thinning out, so the two of us figured everyone had gone up to our seats. We were a little surprised, then, to find our section almost completely empty on into the third inning. Silly us for focusing on the game when free beer was still at hand. Even when everyone showed up, we were kind of far away from a lot of the regular commentariat, but that gave us a chance to meet some other fine folks, like Rany Jazayerli of Baseball Prospectus and a Michigan State fan in a Tigers cap whose name may or may not be Joe. One of the benefits, though, of showing up early was that we saw our shout-out on the scoreboard (The message? "DEADSPIN").

The game itself wasn't bad (it ended 2-1, Sox), but it wasn't that exciting without a dog in the fight. A home run ball landed as close to me as any I've had in baseball – it came down about a section away from us – and we mocked the Royals for their two errors. Craig was heckled for his Tigers cap, and it was nice to be able to respond with "SCOREBOARD! SCOREBOARD!" to that. Craig would me like to mention, though, that the "LET'S GO BUCKEYES!" directed at me was out of line, since we were at a baseball game, after all.

After the game let out, the police seemed determined that I not go the way I wanted, and so I wound my way through the South Side up to our hotel at McCormick Place, where we dumped our bags and caught a cab. We'd been given a vague location for the bar we'd be post-gaming at of "Damen and Milwaukee" and the address of "1540", which we gave to our cabbie, a shriveled old white guy. He asked where we were from. To Craig's "Outside of Detroit," he replied, "Detroit? Hellhole." Your service industry employees, ladies and gentlemen! Even better? He dropped us NINE BLOCKS from Damen and Milwaukee, and left us with no idea where to go once we realized that. We did find it, but we took the looooooong way around.

The Greatest Generation makes for lousy cabbies
The route we actually walked

It was all worth it, though, when we found everyone at the Pontiac Cafe on the corner of Pierce and Damen, arriving just in time to watch Lady Andrea rock Scandal's "Goodbye to You" for live band karaoke. I recommend you just go over to Ladies... for her write-up and pictures, because there's no way I can do any better. I'll wait...

...Finished? Good.

I'd like to commend Craig for his performance of U2's "Desire", which was an inspired change from Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me." I signed up for the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.", but was skipped by the head karaoke dude, which is a terrible injustice, as my version was going to be PHENOMENAL**. We stayed at the Pontiac Cafe long enough to close the joint down. Some Deadspinners were in favor of finding a 4AM bar, but Craig and I had to be up and out of our hotel before 10:00, so we caught a cab back to our hotel (much better, though even this guy told us that Detroit was "full of gangs").

In the end, it was all over too soon, I barely got to talk to half the people I met, and I can't wait for the next edition. Deadspin commenters are remarkably cool people, and I hope to hang out with them more in the future.

* The "*" in "JB*" is part of his screenname
** By which I mean "somewhere between terrible and adequate"

Pants Party (Part 2)

It was 2:19 when the final bell rang and I could get out of work, but not before I changed out of my khaki pants and high school official polo shirt into a maroon number and some long khaki shorts. Getting on the road at 2:45 EDT, I began blasting towards Chicago as quickly as good sense and the legal limit would allow, and I was doing great until I hit Marshall and a huge construction backup that largely stemmed from people not understanding the concept of zippertooth merging. The entire drive to Chicago was just a race in my head between where I was on I-94, what time it was on the clock, and where and when I wanted to be. I made it, but not before the temperature had dropped nearly 35 degrees since I had left SE Michigan!

One of the stranger moments of sitting with a bunch of knowledgeable sports fan is the mini-conundrum that erupted from a random stat placed on the board, showing that between 2000 and 2007, the White Sox had the best overall record in the AL Central. Given where we were sitting in the outfield, our collective vision was blocked from seeing whom the bottom two teams were, and Geoff and I presumed that the Tigers were bringing up the rear of the AL Central, whereas the rest of the group presumed it was the Royals, only for us to collectively realize that no one was completely sure (some research upon my return to SE Michigan indicated that it was in fact the Royals bringing up the rear)

A note on my karaoke performance: I am not at all musically gifted, and I know this, so that is why song choice was so critical in this regard. "I Want You To Want Me", while a great song, is much more about the awesome interplay of the whole band as one in it, and has a really tricky fast word section "Feelingallalonewithoutafriendyouknowyoufeellikedyin..." whereas "Desire", well, no one is actually going to be able to sound like Bono, but you can try and hit the inflections and the nuances of the song and can pull off something reasonable. I was also aided by harmonica accompaniment for the last section, which was pretty cool as well. Sadly (or really, THANKFULLY), no video exists of my performance, so we cannot prove or disprove my thesis. I also want to say that Geoff would have rocked "Anarchy in the UK" hard, since so few songs are in his deep range, he knows where his bread is buttered. And it still would have been less terrifying for Geoff to sing "I am an Antichrist" than Will's entire performance.

Was it a perfect trip? No, but what is? In a world where GZ and I are both used to pinpoint planning and control over every aspect of what we're going to do in the collective, this was some minor chaos. But, minor chaos breeds stories to tell, memories to have, and things upon which perhaps to improve the next time. We met with a great group of people who didn't disappoint and who welcomed all comers in like a demented family reunion. Going in blind, it was much more than for what I could have hoped.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

WTI: Boermania

Geoff: So we're thinking that, for the offseason, WTI is going to be a bi-weekly affair.
Craig: And I think it's a good idea... May I make a quick note?
Craig: As Michigan alums who have a strong background in trivia, GZ and I would like to congratulate UM's own Pete for winning his Jeopardy! College Championship quarterfinal match yesterday and advancing to the semis. We're wishing him luck as he goes forward.
Geoff: Absolutely. We always support our own in any competition, and especially when it comes to Jeopardy!.
Craig: Even if he did go to CC
Geoff: Hey, we can't all be perfect.
Craig: Maize and blue trumps that. Anyway Geoff, let us begin.
Geoff: Like we reported earlier in the week, Scott Boerma will be taking over the reigns of the Michigan Marching Band.
Craig: From Novi, and then Eastern Michigan from what I have read
Geoff: Yep. And he's been arranging for the MMB since '95.
Craig: As I suggested, it's like promoting from with-side...
Geoff: I like this hire. I think it was definitely the safest of the three finalists, since Boerma's been floating around the program for 12 years.
Craig: And from what I have gathered, this is something that he sees as a destination job, which hopefully means long-term stability.
Craig: We should point out for our readers, of the three HSR primary authors, I am the only one without an MMB connection, beyond being a fan.
Geoff: Hopefully. At Michigan, we tend to get the ambitious ones. It's not a surprise when they head off to be Director of Bands somewhere else. I just want to see them stick around for about 5 years or so, to bring some stability to the program. It was a revolving door in the late '90's.
Craig: Geoff, that's crazy talk, wanting an incoming freshman to have the same director when they graduate. Crazy talk!
Geoff: Here's how it went for me: As a high schooler, I participated in Crisler Concert under Sedatole, had my freshman year under Tapia, and by my junior season Nix was my director.
Geoff: Musically is where Boerma's a known quantity for me. He dealt mostly with the pop classical/movie theme shows we did, and I always really liked his arrangements. The man knows his way around a third trumpet part, which is saying more than you'd think.
Craig: I'll trust you sir.
Geoff: Jeremy's worried he'll blink the bass trombone out of existence, but I hope the lack of parts for that section was just because he wanted to sell the arrangement to others later.
Craig: Well, as always, time will tell. I'm excited to see what he comes up with for the Notre Dame game. And will Living on a Prayer continue as one of the least explicable Michigan Stadium traditions?
Geoff: I hope Boerma keeps going with the rock shows that Nix always did. I am whole-heartedly in favor of blatant pandering to the student section.
Craig: Pandering to the student section is your only guarantee of getting a semi loud crowd.
Geoff: Hey, I've heard that the baseball team is kind of good.
Craig: I have heard similar rumors, and upon [ping] investigation, I have learned [ping] that the maize and blue are [ping] an offensive juggernaut.
Geoff: There's a joke in here with all those pings and a denial-of-service attack, but I can't quite reach it.
Geoff: Right now we're 31-8 overall and a staggering 15-1 in the Big Ten.
Craig: And the games against Minnesota, the only other really good team in the conference, are a washout.
Geoff: That's both good and bad, I suppose.
Craig: Yes, no real test until the tournament, but that may end up at Fisher because of it
Geoff: I might have to find my way to the Fish this weekend. We're feeling the Illinoise on Friday, Saturday (x2), and Sunday.
Craig: It was a great experience last weekend vs. Sparty, enhanced by the Michigan Alumni Band.
Craig: So, we hope that our diamond men can make some noise for northern baseball.
Geoff: Final item: Andrew Cogliano has gone pro. What the heck?
Craig: If by "pro" you mean "wallowing in the AHL."
Craig: Oh I'm sorry, did I write that aloud?
Geoff: He speaks for all of us! Cogs is two seasons from seeing significant PT at the next level. I have no idea why he leaves now.
Craig: I don't get it. OK, wait, I do get it, but I don't think it's a good idea.
Geoff: Does he really think Edmonton's bad enough that he'll break into their fourth line next year?
Craig: Maybe he figures Edmonton would promote him because he's young and cheap?
Craig: Oh wait, salary cap era, that doesn't work anymore
Craig: GZ, why is it that we're more frustrated by hockey defections than we are football ones? Though I wonder if Alan Branch maybe wishes he had stayed in school.
Geoff: Because football guys don't go unless they'll at least get drafted and make the squad.
Craig: Makes sense, you know you're going because you're ready to go.
Geoff: We've seen way too many hockey guys go up, wave hello, and spend two or more seasons in the AHL. Paging Al Montoya...
Craig: Wait, he's still in hockey?
Geoff: He plays for the glory that is the Hartford Wolfpack.
Craig: You're right, he was involved in an EPIC AHL goalie fight this year (it's on YouTube).
Geoff: This is all disheartening. Defections from hockey, arrests from football. Perfect offseason forever!
Craig: Don't forget the lawsuit
Geoff: Blergh.
Geoff: And that's how I'll leave all of this.
Craig: Well, let's hope that we have some better things to discuss the next time.
Craig: Until then, I'm CDB .
Geoff: And there are some who call me...GZ. We're out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's Boerma

This is the text of the e-mail sent out this morning introducing Scott Boerma as the new director of the MMB:
Date: May 1, 2007 10:20 AM
Subject: Message from Prof. Haithcock

Dear Elbel Club Board Members--

It is my pleasure to announce that Scott Boerma will be the new director of the Michigan Marching and Athletic Bands, pending approval by the Regents of the University. Mr. Boerma's engaging personality, proven talent, and considerable experience make him an ideal choice to lead the MMB and its related activities at this time. His familiarity with the program should help to minimize challenges presented in such a transition and allow the students to focus on maintaining the standard of excellence that is the legacy of the program. His work in Revelli Hall begins on June 4th.

I hope you will join me in welcoming Scott Boerma to UM!

Michael Haithcock
Director of University Bands

New MMB Director?

We've got a report that Professor Haithcock has announced a new director of the MMB. Can anyone out there confirm this? E-mail us at hooverstreet|at| if you have anything.