Sunday, May 18, 2008

Softball Does It With The Long Ball

26 runs scored, 5 allowed, 4 grand slams, 3 wins, 2 shutouts, 1 regional title captured. Softball turned in a dominating performance over the weekend, slicing through Wright State, Notre Dame, and Kent State to advance to next weekend's super regional.

All weekend, the Wolverines found ways to create big innings to pull away from their competition. In the opener against Wright State, Michigan dug themselves a 4-0 going into the bottom of the 3rd and were still down 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth when the Wolverines' bats exploded. Angela Findlay led off with a single, her sister Sam walked. Maggie Viefhaus flied out to left field, but pitcher Nikki Niemitz drove Angela Findlay in with a single and then Dorian Shaw was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Roya St. Clair was lifted for pinch hitter Marley Powers. All she did was hit a grand slam to center. A note from "Powers is now batting .833 (5-for-6) in bases-loaded scenarios this season with three grand slams and 16 RBI." Holy crap.

Now, as awesome as a home run is, it can be a rally-killer. The bases are clear, so the defense doesn't have to account for that. No matter for the Wolverines. Teddi Ewing and Ali Giampaolo hit consecutive singles, while pinch hitter Angie Danis walked. Having batted around, Angela Findlay lined out to short. With two outs, Samantha Findlay drove in another run with a single. Maggie Viefhaus then stepped to the plate and drove Michigan's second grand slam of the inning over the wall in right center, putting Michigan up 13-5 and triggering softball's mercy rule. It was a ten-run inning.

Things were quiet for both teams through the first three innings of Saturday's contest against Notre Dame. With the Irish acting as the home team, Michigan got things going in the top of the fourth with a Samantha Findlay walk, a Viefhaus sac bunt, and a single by Nikki Nemitz, taking a break from pitching by acting as DH. Once again, Roya St. Clair was lifted for Marley Powers, and once again Powers homered. She's only a freshman, by the way, so Samantha Findlay should watch out for her home run records. Teddi Ewing then singled and was driven home when Ali Giampaolo tripled.

Michigan did it without the long ball in the fifth. They collected singles from both Findlay sisters, a double from Nikki Nemitz, and singles from Roya St. Clair and Teddi Ewing to put up a four-spot for the inning. Unlike Friday's game, it wasn't a walk-off, but a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning from the Irish gave Michigan the 8-0 victory in five.

Today's regional final against Kent State was another slow-starting affair. Neither team could get much of anything going. In the fourth, it took four walks issued by the Golden Flashes for Michigan to finally plate a run. Fortunately for the Maize and Blue, Jordan Taylor was throwing a one-hitter. Things finally broke open in the bottom of the sixth. Again, it was free passes to first coming back to bite Kent State. Both Findlay sisters and Nemitz walked, bringing up Dorian Shaw, who hit a grand slam to right field. Taylor finished her complete game shutout one-hitter without walking a single batter, facing only 22 on the day and collecting 11 strikeouts.

As the fourth overall seed in the tournament, the Wolverines have the luxury of staying at home this year for next weekend's super regional. They'll face the winner of the Knoxville regional. At the time of posting, the Lady Vols are up 1-0 on the Hokies after one, successfully executing a suicide squeeze (UPDATE: Virginia Tech used a four-run fourth to take down Tennessee 4-2. See you in Ann Arbor, Hokies).

Elsewhere at the Wilpon Complex, Michigan's baseball team took Northwestern down 11-2, setting a Big Ten record by winning 26 conference games this season. Ray Fisher Stadium will play host to the Big Ten tournament starting Wednesday, but Michigan won't see action until 7:05 PM on Thursday night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tournament Time For Softball

Last night, ESPN2 finally showed the Michigan softball team's exhibition game against Team USA from May 6. The Wolverines lost the game, but 5-1 is definitely a respectable mark to post against the best collection of softball players in the world. They even had runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth, but Cat Osterman managed to get herself out of the jam.

This is the first time I've had a chance to watch th softball team this year, and for the most part they looked solid. It's weird seeing Samantha Findlay out at second base, but I trust Hutch to know what she's doing. Our pitching looked good, but not dominant. To my eye, Jordan Taylor's wind-up looks weird.

Finally, the Alumni Field renovation looks excellent. The team now has the kind of facility that it deserves. And it was great to see a raucous sell-out crowd for an exhibition softball game. Hopefully we'll have the same great environment when the Wolverines host the NCAA regional this weekend. I went to the one back in '05 and it was a blast; I'm now debating whether to make the drive in again.

Schedule for the weekend:

Friday, May 16
Game 1 -- #2 seed Notre Dame vs. #3 seed Kent State, 4:30 p.m.
Game 2 -- #1 seed Michigan vs. #4 seed Wright State, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 17
Game 3 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, Noon
Game 4 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 18
Game 6 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary) -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 3:30 p.m. Michigan's games on Saturday and (we hope) Sunday will be carried on the Big Ten Network. Game 4 would be streamed for free at

Charity begins at EDSBS

This is a very simple call to arms:

1). Read this post from Every Day Should Be Saturday

2). See that Michigan is winning at the moment, but that Ohio State is hot on its heels.

3). Follow these five points:

I) Make a donation online to the American Red Cross, CARE, or the International Rescue Committee.

II) Email the donation confirmation to and state your team affiliation by 8pm EDT on Wednesday, May 14th. BE SURE TO STATE WHETHER YOUR DONATION GOES FOR YOUR TEAM OR AGAINST ANOTHER. Either way it counts, but we want you to have some fun with it, too. (Author's Note: I'd rather we go pro-Michigan than anti-Ohio State, but it's your donation.)

III) Results will be displayed at Every Day Should Be Saturday and Fanblogs throughout the week, with the final results shown by Thursday, May 15th.

IV) The winning school will have its colors displayed at EDSBS and logo/mascot shown on every page at Fanblogs.


4). Profit (mostly in the human spirit sense, but still, you know, profit.)

Let's do this thing gang!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

On Retired Numbers

This Joe Posnanski post got me thinking about retired numbers in other sports and the categories they fit into. College is a strange case, because I think you only have three or four years to evaluate a guy's contribution. I didn't even realize that we had any retired numbers for football until a few years ago.

11Francis Wistert,
Albert Wistert,
Alvin Wistert
47Bennie Oosterbaan
48Gerald Ford
87Ron Kramer
98Tom Harmon

Of our guys, I think Oosterbaan, Harmon, and Kramer are easy to identify under the Greatness category. Oosterbaan was a three-time All-American in a time when I don't think freshmen were allowed on the varsity squad. Kramer was a multi-sport beast whose number was retired after his senior season. Harmon was Harmon; our first Heisman winner and the #1 pick of the NFL draft. The Wisterts were collectively 9-time letter-winners and 4-time All-Americans. None probably get it on their own, so you might argue an emotional component there. I don't know where you file Gerald Ford. His number wasn't officially retired until 1994 and he was never an All-American and his number was in wide circulation until then. It's mostly a recognition for his post-Michigan achievements, which isn't its own category in Posnanski's system. In the pros, the situation rarely arises where a guy has three or four good years, then leaves the sport entirely to go to law school and later becomes a prominent politician.

We do have the interesting situation where no one who played after 1956 has a retired number, and I like it that way. I like what the #1 jersey has come to mean, the recent flap notwithstanding. I like that #7 has some meaning of its own. I want the next guy who puts on #20 to understand what he's taking over. Michigan is a team with a history that stretches back to 1879, and the numbers in circulation make it a living history. The numbers mean different things to different people (#3 is always Marlin Jackson to me), but they're all Michigan.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Off-Season Musing

So, I am stealing an idea from Sports Talk Radio, but it's a fun one and since there's not a whole lot to talk about during the off-season, I thought I would have some fun.

On WDFN, SportsRadio 1130 here in Detroit, the drive time hosts Stoney and Wojo were "celebrating" the Detroit Lions' resigning of Artose Pinner by asking the question "Which average to mediocre Detroit athlete would you most like see to come back?" So, I am going to tweak it a little, and ask the readership this question:

"Which average to middling Michigan athlete from the past would you count among your favorites?"

(College sort of precludes the whole "returning" part of the question.)

Now, obviously, this means no Heisman winners, no All-Americans, no superstars, but rather, a guy who you miss because of what he brought to the table, even if they were not the most athletically gifted.

My answer after the jump. Yours in the comments, please.

My selection for football is Scott Dreisbach. This is largely a sentimental pick for the fact that it was his pass to Mercury Hayes that beat Virginia in the Pigskin Classic, but I remember writing about him as a high school senior, about how he showed flashes of brilliance.

But, thanks to some injuries, he Brian Griese got the call for the latter part of 1995 and when Dreisbach struggled, Griese rode to the rescue against Ohio State in Columbus in 1996.

Griese never relinquished the job in 1997, and when Dreisbach was a senior, he couldn't beat out some guy named Tom Brady for the starting job. But I always liked Scott, and mostly wanted to send him some love.

(Thanks to WolverineHistorian for allowing me to illustrate those points a little more readily.)

For hockey, it's Scott Matzka. Wait, wait, don't hit me! Matzka's inability to finish on breakaways was maddening in part because we saw him do it a number of times. He had six shorthanded goals his junior year, so we know it could be done. His eight career shorties are Michigan's all-time mark. He hustled, he was quick, and even if he could be frustrating, I always liked him.

So, that's me, what about you?