College Football Live 50 State Tour

Visits Michigan for the “premiere” of the feature today. Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard are planned guests on the set. This entire deal seems to be little more than an attempt by ESPN to get their show shouted out on school-specific sites from every state, but there’s definitely some potential for it to be cool. To see when CFB Live airs near you, check out the ESPNTV website.

In other stories over the weekend…

Softball, Golf bow out. The Michigan softball team, after a stellar season, lost to Florida and Georgia in the double-elimination format of the Women’s College World Series, ending their season. The team returns a strong core next year, as Shortstop Teddi Ewing is the only gaduating senior. Pitchers Nikki Nemitz and Jordan Taylor will return for the 2010 season, with hitters like Dorian Shaw and Angela Findlay providing the offense. The team will probably never have a repeat of the 2005 campaign, when they ripped of 31 straight victories, but next year’s squad should be a fun one to watch.

The Men’s golf team made a dream run into the match-play finals in the NCAA, before falling to Texas A&M in the semifinals. Michigan hadn’t made the NCAA Championships themselves in 12 years, so to make it into the match play rounds, and even win their quarterfinal against Southern Cal, was special for this team. Like their softball counterparts, this team is returning some important pieces as well. Super sophomore Lion Kim headlines a group of returners that should be very strong in 2010. Exiting seniors Bill Rankin and Nick Pumford were the team’s leaders, but other will hopefully be able to step up, and Kim will lead the team to (hopefully) another great year in ’10.

Kelvin Grady, Come on down? Mark Snyder reports in the Detroit Free Press that Kelvin Grady, ex-Michigan point guard, may become Kelvin Grady, Michigan scat/slotback. Grady had discussed playing two sports with the coaching staff of Lloyd Carr, but nothing ever came of the football option. Now, with his departure from the Michigan basketball team, that optino may be back on the table. If such a thing does end up coming to fruition, it shall be interesting to see whether he decides to stick it out on the basketball court for at least one more year, since he’ll still be enrolled in the school.

Barbecuin’. Grills. Meat. Likin’ it. The Big House Barbecue recruiting event seems to have gone off without a hitch. There were no commitments at the time, which is probably slightly disheartening for some Michigan fans. However, the recruiting for a couple Michigan prospects may have hit overdrive, and there could be a decision or two in the coming days. More on that in this afternoon’s recruiting post. Stay tuned for it.

Posted under Basketball, Football, Other Sports, Personnel, Recruiting, Spring Coverage

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UMass and Bowling Green on 2010 Schedule

Yeah, I’m in Ohio (yes, this is unfortunate, and no, I don’t think they have such things as “driver education programs” here), so I might be a little behind on breaking news, what with internet uncertainty and such.

I encourage you to check out any of the plethora of other great Michigan blogs until I return on Sunday-ish. I’ll still be posting in the meantime, perhaps not so much with timeliness.

By the way, softball prevailed over Alabama 6-1 in the first round of the WCWS. They’ll take on the winner of Arizona and Florida at 9PM Eastern tomorrow on ESPN.

Posted under Football, Other Sports

Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

A softball preview? I’ve seriously gone off the deep end.

The Alabama Crimson Tide obviously is (are?) a good softball team. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in the Women’s College World Series, obviously. But what exactly should we know about the Tide before tonight’s game (7PM EDT on ESPN)? For starters, they finished the year second in both the SEC and the nation to the Florida Gators in terms of win percentage, and are the #4 overall seed in the tournament. Their head coach, in his 11th season (and 11th consecutive NCAA tournament berth), is Patrick Murphy.

Alabama Crimson Tide Softball Pitcher Kelsi DunnePitching
Alabama’s ace, who I assume the Wolverines are likely to see tonight, is sophomore Kelsi Dunne. She is tied for 16th in the nation (with the Wolverines’ Nikki Nemitz and 3 others) with 27 wins. However, Michigan might not see her for the entire game, as she’s one of 2 players in the top 30 nationally in wins with fewer than 200 innings pitched, clocking in at 194 2/3. The Tide’s other main pitcher is junior Charlotte Morgan (we’ll learn more about her momentarily, as well), who has thrown around 140 innings. Dunne is 20th in the nation in ERA, allowing 1.37 runs per 7 innings, and 27th in the country with 8.6 strikeouts per game. Morgan is not nationally ranked in any of these categories.

Though she’s not the Tide’s best pitcher, Morgan is certainly their best hitter. Last year, she was an All-American on the basis of her prowess at the plate. This year, she’s 33rd in the nation with a .414 batting average, and is 22nd in the country with just barely under 1 RBI per game. She’s the Tide’s main hitting weapon, as they don’t have anyone else nationally ranked (top 30) in either category. Of course, for comparison’s sake, Michigan doesn’t even have a single player ranked by those metrics – the Wolverines get it done with pitching. On top of Morgan’s hitting ability, the Crimson Tide really hurt teams with lots of stolen bases. Senior outfielder Brittany Rogers, the team’s second-best hitter, is tied for third in the country with 0.84 steals per game, and her freshman teammate Jennifer Fenton is #30 with 0.52 stolen bases in each contest. Fenton is third on the team in batting average, so being on-base more frequently allows for more stealing opportunities: it seems like Murphy really likes to get his players moving whenever they’re on the basepaths (the Tide are 1st nationally in SBs with nearly 5 per game). Put all that offense together, and you have the 5th-most prolific scoring team in the USA.

Going back to defense, the Tide are a good fielding team as well. Their fielding percentage is .975, good for 10th in the country. They’ve committed only 40 errors on the year, so getting cheap bases will probably not happen. If you’re looking for chinks in the armor, infielders Whitney Larsen and Kelli Eubanks are the only regular starters with fielding percentages below .950 – and they also happen to be the team’s weakest hitters. Another weak fielder is extraordinarily-named Jazlyn Lunceford, who is not a starter, but has seen time in 50 of ‘Bama’s 61 games.

Alabama Crimson Tide Softball

So, what have we learned about the Tide? They’re very strong on offense. And defense. They are very strong on offense and defense. Whereas Michigan gets it done mostly through pitching and defense (3rd in the nation in ERA, 16th in fielding percentage), Alabama gets it going on both ends, generating offense through not only hitting, but also stealing bases, all while relying on very good fielding and pitching to keep the score low for the opponents. Based on those two aspects, I would be surprised if they were anywhere other than 2nd nationally in scoring margin, though the NCAA doesn’t keep stats on that. They’re certainly a formidable first test in the WCWS, and Michigan will absolutely need to be on their game to pull out a ‘W’ tonight.

Posted under Other Sports

News Roundup

You have the offseason to thank for these essentially content-free posts.

The Rimington Award, given to the nation’s top center, has released its watch list for the 2009 season. At this point, it’s basically little more than a list of returning starters at teams of note, bu David Molk is on it, so pay attention we will. Molk is one of only 5 sophomores on the list, and if the offensive line makes the huge leap that most Michigan fans are expecting (more on that next week), he could stand a chance to make it through a couple rounds of cuts. (HT: DocSat)

Rivals gives a little fluffery on incoming freshman running back Teric Jones. Jones’s track exploits (10.99 100m) are discussed, along with his efforts to bulk up with past-and-future teammate Thomas Gordon, using workout techniques that they learned from Mike Barwis. Jones will be a slot/RB at Michigan.

As was expected, outgoing WR Toney Clemons will transfer to Colorado, where he is a better fit for the offensive system. Clemons was put in a really tough spot last year, forced to play a slot role that he didn’t really fit in. Best of luck to him in the future, and may he find other white rappers with whom to make dorm room videos.
D.Cone Goin In For Life.

I encourage all who can to make it out to the Softball Super Regional tomorrow at Alumni Field. The game takes place at 8PM, and tickets are available at the Michigan Ticket Office. If you’re unable to make it out, you can watch on ESPN.

Posted under Football, Other Sports, Personnel

That Other Sport at the Wilpon Complex

Via The Ann Arbor News – Softball earned another regional hosting gig this year for the NCAA tournament. They are the #5 overall seed and will host MAC auto-bid Miami (not-that-Miami). Notre Dame will be the 2 seed and Cleveland State the 3. ND could be tough. Games start Saturday, with Michigan playing the night cap, 7pm. ND and CSU start at 4:30. No word on if any of it will be televised.

If Michigan wins, they potentially go on to face Northwestern in the Super-Regional.

Posted under Other Sports

Rocking the Spring Sports

Most Michigan fans follow football in the fall and ice hockey (if you like watching a good team) or basketball (if you’re a masochist) in the winter. Many spring sports don’t seem to get the same attention that the other seasons do. It could be because there’s no revenue sport or, more likely, a large part of their seasons are played after students leave campus for the summer.

Well, I’ve been in Ann Arbor the past two summers and have noticed that the spring sports have been ridiculously good the past two years. Women’s track and field finished with a share of the Big Ten title last year and was runner up this year. The male runners won the title outright this year.

This year, women’s tennis made it to the second round NCAA tournament, while the men made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Both teams improved upon somewhat breakout seasons the year before.

Then there is baseball and softball. Both teams last year made it to the super regionals and gave the teams they played hell. I remember watching baseball’s first game against Oregon State in the Super Regional. Zach Putnam pitched a ridiculously good game. He only gave up one hit, but unfortunately that one hit brought in a run which was enough to earn Putnam the loss. It was one of the best baseball games I had seen.

As well as those teams did last year, the prospects are looking even better this year. One of the biggest reasons is the new Wilpon Baseball and Softball Palace Complex. Last year both teams played on the road in the Super Regional round. Michigan did not even put in a bid for either sport as the stands and press boxes were torn apart for the new construction. This year is different. Now Michigan has one of the nicer facilities, especially in the Midwest. Softball hosted and won its regional and will hope to do the same when it hopes the Super Regional this weekend. Baseball also has a very good chance of hosting it’s Super Regional series if it made it out of the regional round.

The new Ray Fisher Stadium will be getting it’s first test of a large baseball event when it hosts the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. In an e-mail from the media contact for baseball he said “With the new Press Box there is ample room, but I need to know who is coming so I can have Press Credentials waiting in your name.” which is a drastic change from last year when the media room was a tent behind Yost.

If you are in the area, check out baseball and softball this weekend. The schedule for the Big Ten tournament isn’t posted yet, but softball is set to play Virginia Tech at Noon this Saturday. Even if you’re not in town, you can catch the softball team on ESPN and I assume BTN will cover the tournament.

It could be a special year for both of these teams. They deserve all the support they can get.

UPDATE: Details about ticket prices and availability for baseball are here. Similar details for the softball super regional tickets are here. Take-home points: Baseball is $7 per game. Softball is $5 for general admission bleachers or $7-$8 for the nice, new grandstand.

Posted under Baseball

Softball: Early Season Prospectus

The Michigan softball team has raged out to a 17-2 start to begin the 2008 campaign. A Kickoff Classic loss to Maryland and an upset by Drake in the UCF tournament, both by scores of 0-2, account for the lone Wolverine losses so far this season. 10th-ranked Michigan is once again expected to achieve success in the Big Ten as well, projected to finish in the top two, along with the Wildcats of Northwestern.

So what has been the key to Michigan’s success this early in the season? “We have very strong pitching,” said head coach Carol Hutchins, “We have 2 great pitchers that are a true 1-2 punch.” Those two pitchers, Sophomore Nikki Nemitz and Freshman Jordan Taylor, have indeed excelled this early in the season. Combined, they sport a .57 Earned Run Average, and each only losing one game in which she has appeared.

The offense is not lacking, either. Samantha Findlay, known best for her 3-run game winning homer in the 2004 college World Series as a Freshman, has developed into one of Michigan’s most prolific hitters, and looks forward to her final season being the best. Findlay’s 6 home runs on the season has been enough to give her sole possession of #1 on Michigan’s all-time
chart, with a career total of 47.

Despite all of Michigan’s early-season successes, home fans have been unable to see the team in action this season. That will all change on April 5-7, as Michigan will host conference foes Iowa and Illinois. The Friday contest, one of two against Iowa, will also mark the unveiling of the $5.5 million renovation to Alumni Field. “We went from the 5th or 6th best facilities in the conference, to one of the best in the nation,” boasted Hutchins. Students are encouraged to support their classmates, as it will be student weekend at the Wilpon complex.

In the meantime, the Wolverines will travel to tournaments in Louisville, Kentucky and Fullerton, California for a pair of tournaments, prior to kicking of the Big Ten schedule in Bloomington, Indiana.

Posted under Baseball

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