this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
L, 0-3 (22-25, 17-25, 16,25)
The volleyball team was swept in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last night at the hands of #11 Washington. The #23 Wolverines were missing Alex Hunt due to an injury, and adding more youth to an already young lineup didn't help Michigan's cause.
Yes, it's that time of year, when baseball rules supreme. The World Series is coming up in short order, and while Michigan doesn't have any horses in the playoffs, that doesn't mean that the Wolverine baseball team isn't making news. That news, at least for today, is the announcement of Michigan's 2011 schedule.
The University of Michigan baseball program and head coach Rich Maloney announced on Tuesday (Oct. 12) the 2011 schedule, which features games against at least four teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, a mid-week home series against Texas Tech, and the full 27-game Big Ten slate.
Looking over the schedule, this year seems a little bit harder than in years past, and that's saying quite a bit. The big weekend series of the non-conference, at Stanford March 18-20, will be a giant test for the Wolverines; we've known about it since last year's season opening podcast.
Michigan did upgrade some of their other series as well, particularly in the mid week. Along with the annual home and home with Notre Dame (May 3-4), the Wolverines will play host to Texas Tech (May 10-11), marking the first time Michigan has hosted a Big XII opponent.
Coach Rich Maloney on bringing on the tougher schedules:
"I think you want to play a challenging schedule so that when you're coming to Big Ten play, you're ready to challenge yourself," Maloney continued. "Hopefully, you have worked on some things that maybe you hadn't worked on as much. But you've had experience against quality teams so you've been challenged. […] We felt it was a benefit to our kids because you learn about your team and yourself when you battle through the rigors of a tough non-conference schedule and this will be no different. We're going to have to play well to win those games early in the schedule, but ultimately it will prepare us for the Big Ten season."
Other non-conference opponents include a three-game series with a Rutgers (February 25-26) team that just missed the NCAA tournament last year, a weekend at Winthrop (2 games vs Winthrop, 2 against Stony Brook), a four-game weekend in at Sam Houston State (March 4-6, which I undoubtedly will be attending at least Saturday and maybe Sunday), and the season-opening Big Ten/Big East Challenge, with matchups yet to be determined. Michigan is also continuing their series with Florida Gulf Coast, who had a great Michigan alumni showing last season.
As for the conference season, Michigan misses Michigan State during the official Big Ten season, but like last year, the two schools have managed to secure a series against each other. Unlike last year, the schools will play a three-game weekend series (March 25-27) in place of the tomato cans both would usually face in their respective home openers. The Wolverines will host Friday and Sunday, with the Saturday game in East Lansing. I love this scheduling tactic as it eliminates the annual RPI vacuum surrounding IPFW, Oakland, or worse.
In the REAL conference season, Michigan does get two of the toughest series at home, with Indiana in week one of conference play (April 1-3) and Minnesota near the end of the season (May 6-8). They will also host Illinois and Penn State. That leaves road series at Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State, and Northwestern. That's a pretty tough road schedule, with Purdue and Iowa returning plenty of talent and Ohio State having a new, aggressive coach.
Unlike last year's schedule, I'm not sure I can even get close to predicting a win goal for Michigan right now. Questions are a plenty in the starting rotation and in the outfield. I want to put out a guess around 36-19 overall and 15-9 in conference, but that's a lot of guessing. If that were to come true, Michigan would almost have to win the Big Ten Tournament to make the NCAA. Right now, until I see our starting rotation prove themselves, I think that's probably a reasonable baseline -- neither too high nor too low, but also not a concrete floor.
UPDATE: According to Chris Webb of Buckeye State Baseball, Michigan's Big East opponents in the challenge are UCONN, St. John's, and Louisville. That's three tournament teams from last year added to the schedule and one tough weekend to open the season.
Cam Wysocki, picture from fhnbaseball
[Ed.- Yeah, two baseball posts in one day in September. I love it.]
Michigan received their first verbal commitment from the freshman class of 2012-2013(!) in Cam Wysocki of Forest Hills Northern. Wysocki is a 6'3" right handed pitcher and son of Dane Wysocki, a former UM player and his current high school coach. That UM connection through his parents has had him sold on the Wolverines since birth:
"Since I was about 5 years old, my parents and grandparents have been taking me to Michigan to see games," Wysocki said. "Football at 'The Big House' is one of the best experiences you can have. And Ann Arbor is such a great college town."
The article goes on to list his offers (MSU, OSU, ND, Alabama, Stanford, and Kentucky), as well as his fastball at 88mph. Wysocki is also the starting quarterback and a small forward in the off season, but baseball is his future sport.
Outside of pitching, Cam also is the starting short stop for the Huskies, as well as taking some time at second and first. I've yet to find much in the way of pitching stats, but he was 3-1 last season.
It's too early to project where Wysocki will be by the time he comes to Michigan, so I'll hold off on any input there. Pitchers are hard enough to figure out, but add that it's 2 years before he'll be on the field and that he's a multisport athlete who could get injured in next week's football game, and I've got nothing.
What's crazy about this commitment is that I've heard very little about the rest of Michigan's freshman class of 2011-2012. Will Drake is the only commit I've seen stories on. I'm sure there are probably a few others, but with the early signing period not until November, there isn't a whole lot out there to look at. Such is college baseball, though.
Michigan's baseball team is in the midst of fall practice this week, and like spring ball for football, there are some vague outlooks of next season hinted at even in meaningless exhibitions against Canadian teams. Yesterday, for the second year in a row, Michigan took on the Ontario Blue Jays, a high-level summer ball squad from north of the border. For the second year in a row, Michigan crushed the Jays.
While the 24-1 score over the 14 inning scrimmage means nothing, how innings were allotted to pitchers is something of quite a bit more interest. Heading into next season, Michigan will be replacing two weekend starters. Lefty Bobby Brosnahan seems to be a lock to return to the rotation, and junior Brandon Sinnery is poised to be the second after spending the summer in Ann Arbor bulking up for the workload, but the third spot has been somewhat vague. Enter the exhibition;
Judging by the innings, it looks like the early front runner for the last spot is Kolby Wood (right, by MGoBlue). Wood has been a jack of all trades on the pitching staff for quite some time now. Early on, there were several experiments to move him to the rotation, but between his own struggles starting, and his value as a late inning reliever, Wood never could secure a starting spot. Kolby does have a pretty good fastball, a solid slider, changeup, and has worked with developing a splitter.
As far as the other relievers and potential starters, I have to be impressed with Gerbe and Ballantine. Gerbe could very well end up as this year's closer if he doesn't get groomed into a starter as well. I'm starting to get excited about the future of Ben Ballantine as well. His freshman season wasn't great, but with his height and size, I think we'll see a big break through for him this year.
The last note on the pitching staff, why do lefty relievers always bother me? Be it Katzman's bipolar "OMG I'M GREAT" to "OMG I JUST HIT TWO BATTERS AND GAVE UP 4 HITS THIS INNING" or Jeff DeCarlo, Academic All-American, I've just never felt comfortable with our "specialists." This year appears to be more of the same. Tyler Mills is cut from the same sporadic lefty mold where he'll walk a few batters per innings to raise the blood pressure, then it's anyone's guess on how the inning will end.
Here's where things get interesting. While the first two slots of Biondi and Toth is no surprise, John Lorenz (bottom right, by MGoBlue) in the 3-hole isn't something I really expected. Lorenz really came along to end last season, but his power has been streaky at best and his strikeout rate is generally pretty high. The more I think about it though, the more it makes sense. The only other power options are Crank and Stephens, but their K-rate is probably twice that of Lorenz.
The other option was moving Derek Dennis into the 3, but judging just on the regular season, Dennis didn't appear to be ready for that load yet. It's not to say he won't be ready by February, but I just haven't seen reason to move him that high in the order just yet. Dennis should fit in well to the 6-hole. He'll act as a clean up hitter for Crank and Stephens above him, who should provide Dennis with plenty of RBI opportunities.
The bottom three in the order are of more interest to me than anything else. With two outfield spots open, all three of those guys are competing for two spots on the field. And with Michael O'Neill due back from labrum surgery in the next month or two, that's just one more guy in the mix – one that some close to the baseball program think is already the favorite to start in left. I'm personally leaning towards Krantz as the other outfielder, but that's without seeing him play since the broken thumb. Kevin looked good while replacing Ryan LaMarre last season, and I'd love to see him continue to produce like that at the bottom of the order.
As for the DH, I wasn't really expecting Alex Lakatos to make an appearance, especially given his pitching potential. Lakatos was one of the state of Michigan's top high school pitching prospects last season. I didn't know Maloney also was looking at his bat. I'm also somewhat surprised with the lack of Cam Luther. Luther was the big bat brought in the recruiting class of 2009. He made it into just a handful of games last year before contracting mono, but it appears the projection that he would challenge Stephens for 1st base or designated hitter might be pushed back a little later.
What it Means
Like spring football, everything in this game is all to be taken with a grain of salt. Players still have a few months to get into baseball shape, and anything could happen between now and then, especially on the mound.
If there is one thing I take out of this though, it's pleasure in the AD finally giving the fall exhibitions some publicity. In several southern baseball schools, fall ball is a big deal. Last year, we were given a score, no box, no write up, nothing. As Michigan continues to build it's baseball program, this is a small step forward. So is their recent hire of the new assistant SID, Kent Reichert, formerly of Coastal Carolina (a big time baseball school). I'm really encouraged to see the program moving forward like this.
It's August and that means the return of my favorite fall sport. That's right, volleyball. While I haven't quite gotten to my season preview (should be one for volleyball and the soccers coming if next week goes as planned), stories are already hitting the news wire.
Today, the Big Ten released the Preseason Conference Poll and Preseason All Big Ten teams. Michigan, coming off a 27-10 regular season and #9 final national ranking, has been picked to finish 5th in the Big Ten (pdf) behind perennial favorite Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio State. This is pretty much on par with the final standings last year, where Michigan finished tied with Ohio State in 4th place.
Coach Rosen via MGoBlue:
"Preseason polls do not mean much," 12th-year head coach Mark Rosen said. "The conference is good enough right now that one through 11 is up for grabs. I really think that the Big Ten is the deepest it has ever been this year. We have a lot of work to do to live up to that finish, but I think that our team is up for it."
Along with the standings, Michigan also had two players named to the Preseason All Big Ten Team. Senior setter Lexi Zimmerman makes her 3rd consecutive Preseason All Big Ten Team, this time as a unanimous pick.
Joining Zimmerman on the Preseason All Big Ten Team is junior left side hitter Alex Hunt. Hunt makes her first appearance on the Preseason Team, and looks to be Michigan's biggest returning weapon after the graduation of Juliana Paz and Veronica Rood.
(Photos via MGoBlue)
In the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the eleventh canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dante walks through each region of hell to learn the sins and punishment by talking to those souls trapped. In this circle of Dante's version, those who would commit fraud are punished. In each of the 10 bolgie (subsections), a different type of sin is punished, be it pimpin', flattering, simony (paying the church for blessing), magic, corrupt politicians, hypocrites, thieves, advisors who would promote fraud, "schismatics" (those that would schism religion), or counterfeiters.
As we reached the edge of the 7th circle, we encountered a cliff so steep, it would be impossible to climb down. The abyss seemed to be an endless drop down into darkness. Naturally, we needed a Geryon. Unfortunately, none was to be found.
"So what now?" I asked Crockett.
"Say something bad about America."
"What?" I inquire.
"Say something bad about America. Anything. I'm not going to do it, I'm Davy Crockett for goodness sake."
"Umm… okay? America smells funny?"
Without a second passing, a great "CAW!" came bellowing from the depths. In a flash of fireworks and with the Star Spangled Banner blaring from nowhere, a giant creature came screaming from the deep.
"Who dares defile the name of America! In the name of Ricky Stanzi and J Leman, this aggression will not stand!" proclaimed the great bird.
Cowering on my side, and pointing at Crockett, I yell, "This guy made me do it! He tricked me! Hey wait, why can you talk normally?"
"ENOUGH! I am the great Hawkeye, devourer of corn, strangely named after only my eye, and defender of patriotism!"
Crockett stepped forward, "That'll be enough Hawkeye. The boy didn't mean any harm. We just need your services. We need a ride to the bottom of this here cliff."
"Well, honorable Davy Crockett, I shall grant your request on one stipulation," said the Hawkeye. "You must sing me my favorite song."
"You've got to be kidding me," I reply as I gather my wits.
"Well, Hawkeye, are we talking the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, or what?" asked Crockett.
"No. Better. I want you to sing Oh! by Girls Generation!"
Crockett and I simultaneously, "You've got to be kidding me."
"No! You will not fly without you singing my favorite song!"
"You obviously didn't see me in Riders of Destiny did you?" asked Crockett.
"There weren't movies in your time Crockett," said the beast.
"Dammit, you've got me there." After a short pause, "Alright, I've got an idea."
In a whirl, John Wayne magically transformed into a 16 year old Korean Girl!
오!Hawkeyes 너무 멋져! 지금은 그들에 대해 노래 것입니다!
After the song was completed, with a tear in his eye, the Hawkeye proclaims, "By Leman, that was beautiful. I shall take you down this cliff. Climb on to my back, and we shall fly like a Ricky Stanzi pass to the endzone!"
With a look of confusion, I ask, "Does this mean we're going to be intercepted and go backwards?"
"Blasphemy! You want a ride or not?!" shouted the Hawkeye.
"Just sayin'. But yes."
Crockett and I climbed aboard. During the flight, I had to ask Crockett just what the hell happened up above. His reply, "you'd be amazed what you learn on the set of Rio Bravo with that slut Angie Dickinson.".
Stunned, I decided to just let things go, finishing the flight in silence.
After landing, we walked down the path, and came up to two cave entrances. To the left, a purple sign reads Chicago; to the right a red sign reads Indiana. "Interesting that Chicago has their own place in hell. They're always the forgotten team," I state.
"Actually, that bolgie is Chicago and Northwestern. Chicago didn't provide enough space to fill the entire realm, so they started putting Northwestern fans in their, too. It really pisses off the Wildcat faithful, being called in Chicago instead of Evanston."
"So this is where fans from opposing schools are kept?"
"Indeed. Each is subjected to a punishment deserving of their respective bases. If you look into the Chicago bolgie, you'll see that Northwestern fans are whipped into pumping gas for eternity. This is punishment for jingling their keys at football games. The Chicago fans are just whipped into submission, as they're just quitters anyway."
"Huh, gas pumpers, huh? I like the irony. It's like rain on a wedding day."
"That's not ironic."
"Nevermind. Anyway, what happens to the Indiana fans?"
"Their heads are turned backwards and they are forced to play basketball without seeing what their doing. They suck horribly and couldn't beat even the lowliest of teams. To complicate it, they're shown clips of the current Hoosiers under Tom Crean. The tears they cry from this freeze right to their face."
"That's so cruel."
"Oh just wait. You see the next two caves, to the left is Illinois. There the fans are subjected to carry lead coats to weigh them down, while being forced to watch the entire history of Illinois football as if Ron Zook had been their coach since the team was started. They're amazingly worse. And to the right, you'll see Penn State's bolgie. There, the Nittany Lion fans are afflicted with a disease that turns them into zombies. They march around hungering for brains."
"I think I'd prefer being a zombie over watching Ron Zook coach a 1920s Illini football team into crap."
"You and me both, son. The next set of bolgies feature Iowa and Purdue. The Hawkeye fans are destined to a life as a stalk of corn. They start as a seedling, grow into a 6 foot tall crop, and then are reaped, feeling the blade tear them into bits, before they return to a seedling."
"As if living in Iowa City isn't boring enough, eh?" I ask as a loud drumming became audible in the distance."
"Purdue on the right here, they've got it about as bad. They spend the after life being dunked into a vat of boiling tar, a victim of their own vats. On top of that, their stupid drum beats in their bolgie, but the demon Purdue Pete has no rhythm, so it's not even a constant beat."
"That's awful, let's move faster."
"That can be done, partner."
"Who's next?" I ask.
"Next is Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Badger fans are placed over a bed of hot coals and forced to jump around."
"The more I hear these, the more I go back to that whole cliché thing we discussed back at the gates to Columbus."
"Noted. But quit interrupting me, boy," Crockett started. "On the left, you can see the Gopher fans crucified to the ground so that people can walk all over them. As you can see, the roof and walls mimic the Metrodome, a place I'm sure all Michigan fans can appreciate."
"Getting walked all over in the Metrodome? Sounds like a familiar Gopher story."
"That it is. The next bolgie coming up is Michigan State's. Before I even tell you what happens there, I'll remind you how cliché everything has been so far, then let you guess. Any ideas?"
"They're subjected to Gerard Butler prance around in a skirt for eternity kicking them into wells, yelling 'this is Sparta?' "
"No, but close! They're made to believe they've been reincarnated into Spartan boys, but as the youngest son, they are to be forever tormented by their stronger, smarter, better looking big brother. And once they've reached a certain age, they're sent to war against the Persians who kill them and start the process over again."
"We've got to get more creative people down here."
"Yeah, you've got to remember, most of the people that run this place are basically the blue hairs from Michigan stadium circa 1927. In life, they were entertained by playing with a stick."
"Indeed. Now, on past the last bolgie."
"Sweet, I'm interested to see how those idiots from Ohio are tormented. Please tell me that they get their nuts busted by continuous kicks to the groins?"
"Actually, the next bolgie belongs to Notre Dame. They may not be a conference member, but to hell with the Irish. The Buckeyes go somewhere else, deeper in hell. We'll get to them later."
"Huh, fair enough. So what happens to the Irish?" I ask.
"Well, you see, they have to plug their head into the ground like emus while their feet are scorched on hot rocks. They're told the strategy of putting their head in the ground is a schematic advantage to lessen the burn. It doesn't really do anything but make them look funny."
Disappointed by such a weak punishment, I reply, "It'd been funnier if punch drunk leprechauns came up and kicked them in the shins at the same time, maybe beat the crap out of them."
"I'll make note and pass that along to Ufer. He's never been much on trusting leprechauns. They look too much like gingers. We're still unclear if gingers have souls, and if they ain't got a soul, then they ain't coming to hell."
"It may suck, but not as bad as Michigan is playing right now. They just lost three straight to Penn State, Illinois, and Purdue. Bad things are happening in your world. Fans are growing restless. We must escape hell quickly, before we lose our chance."
And with that, we quickly made our way toward the final circle of hell.
(Special gif thanks to chunkums)