Unverified Voracity Drops The Hammer?

Unverified Voracity Drops The Hammer? Comment Count

Brian June 4th, 2015 at 1:32 PM

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[Patrick Barron]

Max out. Max Bielfeldt heads to Indiana unless he gets cut before the season starts, which is about 50/50 given Tom Crean's roster ADHD.

It'll be interesting to see how that works out for both teams: Michigan knows exactly what went down in practice and did not ask Bielfeldt back even after it became clear they had an open scholarship slot. Since Bielfeldt was out-performing Donnal late last year (Doyle was almost always the first option when he was not sick as a dog), the confidence expressed by that decision seems to be about newly-strapping DJ Wilson. Wilson is certainly going to be more of a defensive presence than the ground-bound Bielfeldt.

Rebounding? Eh… leave it to Walton. I may actually be serious about that. In any case, rebounding is the most replaceable skill.

Why Michigan was willing to let him go. UMHoops has an item on Michigan's pick and roll offense that highlights the production of their big men when they get the ball on the roll:

image2[1]

That is a frequently-injured, pre-Sanderson, freshman Doyle outperforming everything with reasonable sample size except senior Jordan Morgan. (Donnal's numbers should be taken in context: there were a half-dozen roll attempts last year that looked good on which Donnal didn't even attempt a shot, kicking back to the perimeter instead of opting for what should be one of the most efficient shots in basketball.) Bielfeld had 12 pick-and-pop possessions, FWIW—on actual rolls to the basket he was at 23 points on 21 buckets. That's 1.09 PPP.

Doyle was on par or better than Bielfeldt at just about everything you can do on a court other than grab defensive rebounds. He should improve a great deal as he ages, and then you've got Wilson and Donnal… minutes are going to be scarce.

Speaking of Walton. Any fears you may have had that his foot thing was going to be a problem this fall should be put to rest:

Walton joins a Camp Sanderson field that includes almost the entire team plus guys like Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. Word is that one of the most impressive guys there is… Aubrey Dawkins. Going to be a good year.

Meanwhile, Spike's projected return:

Beilein also offered an update on Albrecht on Monday, saying that both of the guard's offseason hip surgeries were successful. Albrecht is still on crutches, but projects to a having a full return by the fall.

"In September, yeah, there's no question," Beilein said.

He should be ready for the season no problem.

A smart guy. Beilein on what the rules changes might mean:

Most focus on the offensive impact of the shot clock change, but the reverberation will reach the other end of the floor. Beilein noted that defenses will likely be more prone to shift from man-to-man to zone defense late in shot clocks.

"I think you'll see more teams flipping stuff and going zone later on because the ballscreen becomes so prevalent at that time," he said.

That would be interesting.

A litmus test. The NCAA just about gave up on serious punishments for anything short of child rape negligence after they threw the book at USC. OSU took a bowl ban and had to get rid of Jim Tressel after Tressel repeatedly lied to the NCAA, but they were spared the kind of scholarship restrictions that put a serious long-term dent in a program. Other than that it's been a series of wrist-slaps.

If anything is going to upset the current "do whatever it's fine" state of affairs, it is the situation at North Carolina. The NCAA at first decided to ignore it, but when forced to revisit the issue they seem to have done so with force. The notice of allegations has just been released, and it contains five separate "severe" violations, most of which are backed up by assertions of dozens of different incidents they encompass.

This will be the first truly major case since the NCAA moved away from calling everything from SMU to stretchgate "major" violations and implemented a four-level system. North Carolina is likely to admit lots and lots of "severe breach of conduct." The penalty guidelines for level 1 violations include:

  • 1-2 years of postseason ban
  • loss of 12.5% to 25% of scholarships
  • up to a half-year ban on a head coach

If the violations are deemed to have induced "aggravation" those penalties can double, and if they stack… hoo boy. The NCAA would be well within its rights to bomb UNC's major sports into the stone age.

Will they? I doubt it.

I'm not really paying attention to this any more. Phil Steele's All Big Ten teams are… well, there's a lot of them. They don't seem that accurate:

The Wolverines did have a few All-Big Ten honorees, however, led by senior linebacker Joe Bolden. Bolden, who broke the 100-tackle mark last season, is a second-team All-Big Ten pick, per Steele.

Linebacker Desmond Morgan (third), offensive guard Kyle Kalis (third), wide receiver Amara Darboh (fourth), defensive back Jabrill Peppers (fourth) and punter Blake O'Neill (fourth) also received mention.

Just from a Michigan perspective, no Jourdan Lewis, no Jarrod Wilson, and Kalis over Glasgow make me wonder if Steele does much more than look at stats and recruiting rankings and guess. (He also does the irritating thing where he throws corners and safeties into the same bucket of defensive backs.)

Ratings up. If softball seems like a bigger deal than it did a few years ago, you aren't alone:

ESPN saw record viewership for the 2015 Women’s College World Series, notching its top two most-viewed Women’s College World Series bracket round games ever this past weekend. LSU/Michigan on Sunday averaged 1,950,000 viewers for the company while UCLA/Auburn on Saturday drew 1,612,000 viewers. Overall, the 2015 Women’s College World Series bracket round (May 28-31) averaged 1,055,000 viewers. Meanwhile, the 2015 Women’s College World Series Championship Finals Game 1 on Monday drew a 1.0 overnight rating, which is tied for the highest-rated WCWS Championship Finals Game 1 on record (since 2007) and a 43% increase (0.7 overnight) from 2014 WCWS Championship Finals Game 1.

The final two games may have beat that admittedly short-lived record.

Bracing? ISS has its final draft rankings out:

Hopefully neither of those guys ends up in the wrong place. IE: The Kings or a like organization that doesn't want their guys to play college.

Etc.: In expected news, JT Compher is your hockey captain. Incoming forward Brendan Warren profiled. I could describe a great deal of commentators as "continual boofheads." AFC Ann Arbor origin story. You can chat with Stauskas and Beilein, get autographs and the like, for #chadtough.

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Still Alive

Still Alive Comment Count

Seth June 3rd, 2015 at 1:00 PM

6/2/2015 – Michigan 1, Florida 0 – 60-7, Championship Series tied 1-1 (best of 3) 

I will get to what the ump called this later; it is up top for the visual: One of the two greatest Michigan softball teams in the history of a very good program is an inch away from something, and Florida, themselves one of the best teams ever assembled, huge, athletic, merciless, focused, defensive, is literally blocking Michigan's path.

Bullets

This was a triumph. Everyone knew after Florida in the first game used Aleshia Ocasio, and relieved her with Delanie Gourley, that Player of the Year Lauren Haeger would get the melon—which looks more like an apple in her hands—in Game 2. Haeger throws as hard as anyone and has a kind of curve-change that complements it, but her primary weapon is that fastball has so much late life it's impossible to square, and even solidly hit balls die from that spin. It doesn't help that Florida's mechanical infielders are the best in the game at turning those goofy grounders into outs.

I'm making a note here: Huge Success. Sierra Lawrence welcomed Haeger by slapping a leadoff single through a left side playing tight on an 0-2 count, then beat out Florida's double-play attempt on Romero's grounder. Michigan then scored her on a single by Susalla. The rest of the night would be an all-out assault on that run. Sierra's nickname is "The Silent Assassin" because she steals third; last night her speed squeezed out a run when it seemed neither pitcher was going to give up any.

It's hard to overstate my satisfaction. Haylie Wagner staged her own assault. In the course of this season, which early on suffered the loss of fellow senior Sara Driesenga, the younger Megan Betsa has been Ace A and Wagner Ace B. Both have shone most brilliantly in relief of one another. Betsa pitched Game 1 of this series and as Ace mentioned yesterday, she was tentative. All day the Florida hitters (who drew over 100 hit-by-pitches this season) crowded the plate and Betsa threw away from them.

As she had in relief in Game 1, Wagner went right after them. Every once in awhile, usually whenever Haeger got to bat again, Florida would put a runner in scoring position and Haylie would pitch out of the jam.

Capture
Untouchable.

These points of data make a beautiful line. The last such came in the 6th, when Florida got on with a bunt single with 1 out and Haeger coming up to bat. After two fouls (one to deep left, the other behind the catcher) fell just out of reach, Haeger connected and off the bat there was a sickening moment when you thought this was going to bloop over the infield. Instead it floated harmlessly into Romero's glove.

One more inning and two strikeouts later, Wagner had bought the Wolverines another 7 innings by adding 7 shutout frames to a current total of 0.00 runs in 20 innings in these WCWS.

That stat is downright insane considering over half of those innings have come against this lineup—Florida averaged 6 runs per game this year in the ur-pitcher conference, and was never shut out until Wagner did so last night. The rest of those innings were against the just-as-scary LSU, and UCLA. To put this in perspective, the football equivalent would be a defense going up against Oregon, Baylor, Ohio State, then Ohio State again, and giving up just a handful of missed field goals. If there's a better offense the lefty hasn't mowed down the last two weeks, it's only because it's on her side.

[Highlights from MGoBlue's janky video.]

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We do what we must because we can. It was the third time these two teams played a dramatic 1-run game this year, and the first bears mention. It was Michigan's first game, Florida's second. Ocasio struck out 10 in that game, but Wagner kept #1 Florida to one run—off the bat of Lauren Haeger of course.

In the top half of the final inning, down to their last strike, Michigan tied it on a Christner double into right-centerfield gap. Wagner pinch-hit and, eerily similar to game 1 of this series, hit a deep fly ball that missed the foul pole by inches before getting out. In the bottom, Wagner walked the first two batters, and Florida bunted them over. Florida brought in a pinch-hitter who knocked what appeared to be a game-winning 3-run homer, except the Gators didn't properly inform the umpires she was being reinserted (they'd taken her out for a  defensive replacement in the 6th). The home run was removed on the technicality. Then Wagner threw a wild pitch that ended both the game and the controversy.

At the time the Florida loss was the reason Michigan couldn't claim #1 even after romping through the rest of that month. A softball season at Michigan is kind of like a Wichita State basketball or Boise State football one: they play the first six weeks on the road in tournaments the southern teams schedule earlier and earlier (this game was on February 7th) because they can. Michigan tries to cram as many big wins as possible into that because the Big Ten season is mostly a "don't screw this up" marathon before the postseason.

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For the good of all of us (except the ones who are dead). Was everybody kind of annoyed that Florida's players got a cut-video on ESPN doing a Gator chompy version of our "It's great… to be…" cheer? On one hand and 4/5 of the remaining fingers, the cheer doesn't have anything particularly applicable to Michigan except an arrogant tone, and the meter's just a liiiiitle not quite right for the lyrics, and we apparently stole it from Auburn in the 1980s, and certainly lately even when it's correct it's really not:

As long as we keep screaming we don't have to talk about how we nearly botched that two-minute drill.

On the last finger, they played that cheer with zero acknowledgement that Florida was appropriating the other team's thing. I guess anyone who would get the joke got it, and anyone who wouldn't probably thinks the Florida Gators have an arrogant cheer they're a syllable too short to be using.

[UPDATE: A guy in the comments claims Florida has been doing it since the 1960s. I'm not sure I'd trust half of what any Gator says,  but the hand in favor of this cheer is down to a pinky nub].

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I'm not even angry. On the blown call, I think John U. Bacon nailed the problem:

Other than some Florida/SEC partisans who'd believe in whatever cake serves their interests, the public was in pretty strong agreement that obstruction call, the difference between a runner on 3rd with Christner coming to bat and going into the 6th up 1-0 with Haeger due up, was blown.

I was a softball IM umpire, which is about as relevant to the Championship Series as a little league ump's experience would be to MLB, but two things I'm pretty certain are universal across the sport are 1) how obstruction is called, and 2) you never tell a fellow umpire they blew the call unless you're certain. If you're told you blew something you respect that—this is your chance to not look like a fool or become part of the game.

The umps were mic'ed so we got to hear the field umpire come in and advise the plate ump she had obstruction, and the plate umpire respond harshly "I didn't have obstruction." I bet you a delicious chocolate cake if the country isn't listening in on the huddle that ump takes the get out of jail free card. Instead he sticks with his call so he's not the guy getting corrected on ESPN. Fortunately it didn't affect the outcome.

Other than that, and kind of a muddy outside corner both teams have been taking advantage of, the umpiring has been excellent so I'm willing to give him a mulligan on this.

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Anyway this cake is great; it's so delicious and moist. Florida didn't take a loss until 26 games after the close brush with Michigan; in that loss then-#2 LSU put up 9 runs in the 1st inning and the Gators came back to tie it 10-10 before losing 14-10.

As you've seen the last two evenings, Michigan and Florida are pretty evenly matched, which is incredible if you've spent the last several years hearing how Florida is the kind of softball team a scientific testing facility would assemble if given unlimited time and resources to manipulate human bodies for maximum softball output. The prevailing wisdom had them winning the national championship this year even before they did last year.

Michigan may be frustrating to them, but it's not plucky upset frustration so much as why do these teams both have to exist the same season!? As a fan you're terrified of everything but to the softball world Michigan is nearly as much a juggernaut, the Brady to their Manning, the Ali to their Frazier, the Nadal the world was crying for since the moment Federer ascended to the top of it. The season until now was hardly preliminary, but exactly nobody is surprised it will end in a game between the Gators and Wolverines.

And end it will. By the time the Earth has spun half-way around today Wagner's streak and Haeger being allowed to play against college students, and the careers of Wagner and Lauren Sweet (we'll wait and see if Driesenga gets a medshirt), and Romero's record-obliterating season will be something to remember instead of live. The expectation was for this year to come down to these colossi, and all promises were kept.

Next game:

What: Michigan vs. Florida Game 3 for the National Championship
When: Tonight, 8 ET
Where to watch: ESPN
Line: Florida –1.5
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(via MGoBlue.com)

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING
IN THIS
ENRICHMENT CENTER ACTIVITY!!

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Softball is Boring Muppets!

Softball is Boring Muppets! Comment Count

Seth June 2nd, 2015 at 10:08 PM

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[Fuller]

When Haylie Wagner was a freshman Brian and I met for a softball game and discussed how we're going to make an indie football preview book. At the time he said the problem with softball is the pitchers are so dominant that games end 1-0, and Exhibit A was this freshman pitcher before us, one of two such luxuries (Driesenga) on that team, mowing down overmatched hitters with her nasty lefty stuff.

Tonight, in a year hitting came back like it was 1920, facing the Babe Ruth of softball, Michigan plated its first batter and Haylie pitched seven shutout innings to put Michigan one win away from a national championship.

And you can't have one without the other…

See you tomorrow at 8.

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Softbullets: Backs Against The Wall

Softbullets: Backs Against The Wall Comment Count

Ace June 2nd, 2015 at 12:14 PM


It might be time for Haylie Wagner to start in the circle. [Fuller]

Until the gut punch, that felt familiar.

For the third straight game, Haylie Wagner pitched stellar scoreless ball in relief of a shaky Megan Betsa, and Michigan's powerful offense mounted a comeback. This time, however, the comeback stalled on third base; Sierra Romero didn't advance to home on a double-play attempt, and the final two Wolverine batters couldn't knock her in.

Now Michigan is left in the same position they were in 2005, facing consecutive must-win games against the defending national champs. We know it can be done, and while last night's loss stung, it was readily apparent this squad can hang with the Gators.

What: Michigan vs. Florida, Game 2 of Final Series (UF leads 1-0)
When: Tonight, 8 ET
Where to watch: ESPN or WatchESPN
Line: Chalk

Some scattered thoughts on last night's game and tonight's prospects, which is about the best I can muster at the moment:

ON ROMERO. One can only hope this series isn't defined by Romero's failure to break for home. It'd be a great injustice for a great player, especially because of the way Romero got to third base in the first place; she took a leadoff walk instead of trying to win the game on her own, then advanced to second with her usual heads-up baserunning on a passed ball before Kelly Christner's single.

When Kelsey Susalla hit the potential double-play ball, Romero hesitated, and that split-second of indecision gave her no choice but to stay at third. Yes, it cost Michigan a run on the play, but she still stood on third base with less than two outs. Michigan was still in a good position to tie the game; they just couldn't pull it off, and that's not all on Romero.

IT'S TIME. I'm not sure what else Wagner needs to do to show she deserves the start tonight. This should be enough:

Given the stakes, I don't think Michigan can afford to see if Betsa regains her confidence—and her ability to throw first-pitch strikes—before making a change, and it sounds like Carol Hutchins is thinking along those lines:

Hutchins confirmed what has been obvious, that Betsa is struggling with confidence, but wouldn't clearly indicate who might start Tuesday.

"She appears to have some confidence problems, I would say," Hutchins said. "We need our best confidence on the mound, I can tell you that. It's a long tournament hopefully, so we need to get her confidence back. There's no reason not to have confidence this point in the season. It's been a tough week so far."

I'd be surprised if Wagner isn't in the circle from the beginning tonight. There's little room for error, and even less so if Florida makes a pitching change of their own and starts national player of the year Lauren Haeger.

MICHIGAN ARGUABLY PLAYED BETTER. The Wolverines ended up with 11 baserunners, the Gators with six. Wagner nearly tied the game in the sixth when she cracked a ball just outside the left-field foul pole. Sierra Lawrence nearly did the same later that inning with a long fly that had the trajectory but not the distance, barely. After Betsa's struggles, Wagner shut down the Florida offense, and Michigan put up serious offensive threats in the final two innings.

While Michigan lost, they should still have confidence; this game swung on a few plays, and tonight those could easily go the other way.

THUMBS UP, ESPN. When ESPN announced they were adding Curt Schilling to the broadcast for the final series, I was worried the conversation would get bogged down in Softball 101 and how-can-we-compare-this-to-baseball. While there was a little of that, to be sure, I thought Schilling was a good addition to an already strong announcing crew. He showed a great appreciation for the game—which he's quite familiar with, thanks to his daughter—and his analysis was insightful while leaving room for his more experienced counterparts to lead the discussion and guide him when necessary.

The softball broadcasts have been all-around excellent, and it was nice to see Schilling fit right in. While he rubs some people the wrong way, he worked really well in this role.

I DIDN'T PLAN TO BE THIS EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED. At some point in the later innings last night, I realized I was more emotionally invested in the game than I had been for any Michigan sporting event since the Elite Eight game against Kentucky. It felt great, even without the desireable result. I'm no softball buff—like many of you, I started watching when the games hit national TV—but it's impossible to watch one of these games and not get hooked in by the skill, excitement, and emotion. These are world-class athletes hell-bent on making their games as fun as possible.

If it ends tonight, it's been a wonderful ride. I hope it doesn't end tonight.

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Run Field Throw Hit Pitch: Softball vs Florida, and Baseball vs the Future

Run Field Throw Hit Pitch: Softball vs Florida, and Baseball vs the Future Comment Count

Seth June 1st, 2015 at 6:12 PM

pizzasoftball

What: Softball in Game 1 of the Championship (best of 3) Series
When: Tonight, 8 ET
Where to watch: ESPN2 or WatchESPN
Line: There are two, one down each foul line. What?

Preview: Florida is good at softball. They won the national championship last year, beat Michigan 2-1 at the start of this season when Michigan was mercy-ing everyone else, and rolled through the rest. They were the #1 seed with gusto, and beat Tennessee and LSU by a combined 11-2 before having some difficulty dispatching rival-like-thing Auburn 3-2 in extra innings. Like Michigan they are mentally tough as nails.

Lauren Haeger is their pitcher and if you put her on any team they might be where Florida is. She beat out the greatest player in Michigan softball history for the player of the year award and might have deserved to. If Sierra Romero is Miguel Cabrera: softball edition, Haeger is Babe Ruth if Ruth pitched every day. She had a .678 slugging and a 1.24 ERA, averaging a strikeout per inning. I don't have to show you a photo; if you tune in your lizard instincts will immediately recognize the threat.

Ringing the Bell

We also say adieu to baseball. I have two fandoms that predate memory: Tigers and Michigan football. I got on the Red Wings bandwagon about the time Cheveldae was the hot backup we all wanted to start, and Michigan basketball with the '89 run, trading that in for hockey when I got to college because 1998-2002 duh. Pistons were and remain a team I'm into when they're good—other than that I keep myself conversant on Steph Curry etc. because America cares. I keep a peripheral knowledge of other things in case something beeps.

Last month Michigan Baseball beeped.

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An average team in a suddenly average league this year, Michigan was out of the bubble unless it could sweep its way into an auto-bid through the Big Ten tourney. This they did, taking out then #4 Illinois in the third of a four-game tournament.

If the alarm made an intelligible sound it was "Carmen Benedetti", Michigan's own Ruth-like object, though he only pitched 14 innings (and tallied 23 strikeouts in them). Benedetti hit .352 and led the team in power numbers from 1st base.

I'd like it if someone else wrote the epitaph on this team because I missed most of the fun; this week I watched the two Louisville games and missed the two against Bradley. L'ville was the host team so I got to see Michigan lose while getting boo'ed. They looked likely to steal the first one until the last inning when right fielder Johnny Slater dove to catch a foul ball with less than two outs and the game-winer ready to tag from 3rd. The second game was a blowout.

Bakich has them headed in the right direction and this year was certainly a step that way. It may have been the tourney taste that basketball got when they surprised Clemson then ran at Blake Griffin until Blake Griffin was like "you are Zak Novak!" If you look at the Wikipedia entry for Beilein's first team it's short and mentions Manny Harris. If you look at the second one there are individual game recaps and memes like "Queme los Barcos!" This team felt like that team.

Softball recap: You were alive for this.

I didn't get into Michigan softball until it was nearly too late—the summer after graduation while I was still hanging around Ann Arbor and umpiring the IM level of it. That was the Marissa Young team, with a young Jessica Merchant and Nicole Motycka on it. Young was the draw; you knew when watching her that you were seeing one of the greats. She'd do things like pitch a no-hitter in the first frame of a double-header, then hit two home runs in the second game.

It was so much fun. Unless you were around for the 19-teens or shortly thereafter (i.e you are Craig Ross) you have no idea how much of a blast it is to go to a ballpark and defy every somber convention baseball's built up since. They would sing at bat music for each other. They would hurl insults at the other bench. They had pepper cheers and everyone came out to greet home runs. Nobody knew what the limit could be so everyone showed up for the Big Ten championship game with MSU; they lost it.

Two years ago they adopted a kid. Not legal-adopted—they just had a little girl they adored so they put her on the team. That was the team with Wagner and Driesenga, and the more raw versions of this team's stars. It wasn't like they went away in the interim—Michigan softball has been an elite program for longer than I've followed it; Hutchins was an heir apparent assistant here when Harbaugh was the quarterback. But again you got that otherworldly talent vibe, especially from Wagner. Megan Betsa's commitment was a huge deal.

The Year of the Pizza

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Fuller

Like before, this team has been building over years and picked up fans in its swell. It has the pizza theme and Sierra Romero (and she has another year!) already puts Denard out of the conversation for greatest Michigan athlete of the decade. It marches to the beat, literally—she starts a beat and they all dance to it—of Lauren Sweet, the most catcher catcher in the history of the tools of ignorance.

I dunno do you really need to know how they beat up on UCLA (the Duke of the sport) and a bunch of SEC powerhouses, how this 'Ship series was ordained movie-style when Michigan opened the season against all-business, defending champion Florida and got thoroughly beat despite the closeness of the score? Do you really need a narrative, or unbelievable statistics, or any of the other accoutrements we pump into sports to keep them lively when they're not? Here's the softball update: they play incredible softball with incredible irreverence. Enjoy the game.

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Women's World Softball College Muppets World Series Championship Series Muppets!

Women's World Softball College Muppets World Series Championship Series Muppets! Comment Count

Seth May 31st, 2015 at 7:52 PM

LSU had Hoover, Michigan had Betsa. Each lineup had stars and superstars, and each scored three after four innings. When LSU got to three Michigan sat Betsa and brought in Ace #2 Haylie Wagner. When Michigan got to three in the bottom half of the inning, LSU... left in Hoover.

Michigan struck for three runs in the bottom of the sixth, the winning two off a single by Sierra Lawrence, and Wagner shut the door.

And you can't have one without the other...

It's now a best of three against the best team in softball for the national championship.

Oh and the last run? Sierra Lawrence stole home!

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Your Shirt Has Pizza On It

Your Shirt Has Pizza On It Comment Count

Seth May 29th, 2015 at 6:17 PM

In case you couldn't tell I'm pretty excited about this softball season you guys. When I get excited I make t-shirts.

Year of the Pizza - Navy

Quick refresher on The Pizza Rules:

Single: Roll out the dough.

Double: Sprinkle the cheese.

Triple: Rain pepperonis

Home run: Surrounded by a circle of cheese-sprinkling chefs she "CHOMP" eats the pizza.

(Also comes in cheese-coloredYear of the Pizza - Maize)

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Dear Diary With Sprinkles

Dear Diary With Sprinkles Comment Count

Seth May 29th, 2015 at 12:49 PM

WCWS Update: The SEC walked into the WCWS in full ESS-EEE-SEE mode. You saw the 6th seed Bama last night; there's an entire bracket of SEC teams (#1 Florida, #5 LSU, #4 Auburn, and #8 Tennessee) opposite us. Last year Bama lost to Florida in the national championship series, and Florida is a favorite to repeat. In a sport dominated by pitching the Gators have the best, Lauren Haeger, who just narrowly defeated Michigan's Sierra Romero for the college softball version of the Heisman.

The rest of Michigan's side of the bracket is UCLA, which owns a third of the national championships ever, not including the 1995 one that the NCAA vacated, demonstrating a dedication to the sport most D-I teams athletic departments can't afford for football.

This is the dispersal (bigger dot = more national championships) of softball titles since 1982:

dispersal of softball championships

Some of these things are only somewhat like the others; one is definitively not.

The last member of our bracket is fully owned Nike™ subsidiary the Oregon Nikes, who wear spacey backpacks everywhere they go so Nike™ can convince a demographic of schoolgirls who wear stupid-looking athletic gear to school to get Nike™ backpacks. The Oregon Nikes also have a great pitcher who finished third in the PoY running.

A distant third. Really the competition was between the senior pitcher with 194 K's who held a league that hits .330 to .183, and our own Sierra Romero.

Romero. Yes I am making this whole column about softball this week. ROMERO! Here's what a hitter who challenges for the PoY in a pitching sport looks like: Romero hit .472 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI, 55 walks, and set the NCAA career grand slam record. She also had 20 steals on 24 attempts. She plays shortstop with a Jeter smoothness (or second base because Abby Ramirez is such a good infielder).

The thing about Michigan is Romero isn't the only star. Kelly Christner hit .407 this year and matched Romero for home runs. Sierra Lawrence had a .484 OBP from the leadoff spot, plus 14 dingers. Kelsey Susalla matched Sierra2's power numbers while hitting .379. Lauren Sweet, the catcher, hit .324 with 12 homers. Michigan too has great pitchers—sophomore Megan Betsa and senior Haylie Wagner are Ace 1 and Ace 2, with senior Sara Driesenga (.078 ERA) still around as a luxury, and the future, freshman Tera Blanco, waiting over at 1st base.

Theory: Jim Harbaugh has spent all of his free time since he graduated pretending to be a softball coach. Michigan softball isn't a monster program from the heart of baseball country, isn't a golem assembled from overcharging for shoes made by underpaid slaves, and certainly is not from the conference that believes Pat Forde columns about its greatness should fulfill writing requirements.

The thing it's best known for across the softball world is it has a pinata-smashing softball Harbaugh if Harbaugh was more successful coaching it. Betsa said she gets her mental toughness from competitions like who can balance heavy logs on their hands while doing workouts. Last night Hutch literally fell over while trying to put the breaks on Romero at 3rd base; Romero ran through it but scampered back safely to leave the bases loaded for Sweet to turn a 1-0 game into the 5-0 game.

106532234131639gal-harbs-raidershutchinsnativehuth

Present                                       1999                                          1986

Harbuagh/Hutch through the years

It had a .461 on base percentage this year, and outscored its opponents by an average of 9 to 1.5. It made making pizza into a theme, complete with complicated hand gestures and fan signage. It won a map-contradicting national championship ten years ago, and dances more often than that one. It led the country with 171 homers this year, and sprinkled every one of them with cheese.

sweethomercheese

Etc. The South didn't like Michigan camping there—and couldn't do anything about it—in the mid-1860s either. SEC rules changes troll Tom Brady and Brady Hoke, plus Notre Dame's faces and Dantonio's favorite tackling strategy. What a blue shirt is. Terry Frei on the Rob Lytle book. Michigan Stadium Movie Night opted for Disney fantasy flick (Remember the Titans) over a documentary on Scandinavian economics (Frozen).

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Unverified Voracity Retires Books

Unverified Voracity Retires Books Comment Count

Brian May 28th, 2015 at 2:49 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

Let's get ready to softball. Michigan's part in the Women's College World Series kicks off tonight at 7, as they take on six-seed Alabama. Michigan swept Alabama 8-2 and 4-1 earlier this year, but that was before the Tide turned to freshman Alexis Osorio to do most of their pitching. The game is on ESPN2.

Meanwhile in Louisville. Baseball takes on Bradley tomorrow in the UL regional. Michael Baumann has an excellent and concise preview at D1Baseball. On Michigan's first-round opponent:

Bradley has become the poster child for the RPI robbing traditional power conferences of spots in the tournament, as the Braves’ No. 19 RPI — which peaked at 10 — never quite felt right. Going 10-11 in the MVC — which is a good conference, but not that good — is a bad look, and along with an 11-12 record against the RPI top 100, always gave off the impression that the Braves were a paper tiger.

Bradley will need a win out of No. 1 starter Elliot Ashbeck (11-4, 3.11) in the opener against Michigan, and from there, they can try to cobble together something that gets them from the start of the game to closer Matt Dennis (3-0, 1.59, 12 saves) until it’s time to start Ashbeck again.

That sounds as enticing as possible for a 2-vs-3 matchup in which you are the lower seed.

Should Michigan get past the Braves, Louisville (presumably) presents a formidable challenge in the next round. Michigan figures to draw a pitching matchup featuring a projected first-round pick against their #2 starter, who is… not going to be a first round pick.

MLive also has a Bradley preview.

Today in things we are glad no longer warrant a post. Remember the books and the birds?

apr-books apr-birds

Those were deployed in annual posts poring over the worrisome state of Michigan's APR after the Carr-Rodriguez transition year saw a huge crater that threatened to drag Michigan under the red line for penalties. Those posts have officially been retired.

Michigan football recorded a perfect single-year APR score (1,000) in 2013-14 for the first time since the NCAA began monitoring the metric in 2004-05. The program's four-year rolling APR average now sits at 990, third in the Big Ten. The NCAA released the updated figures Wednesday.

Well done, Hoke and academic staff.

Meanwhile I'm growing more and more skeptical of the validity of the APR. As a number of commenters pointed out in the post on freshman ineligibility, any metric that gives Crean-era Indiana basketball a perfect score is not particularly rigorous. But it's better to be at the top of a not particularly rigorous metric than towards the bottom.

Summer camp, 1992. I wish I could bottle old Michigan replay music and have it follow me around, en-jivening my day to day.

It's about that time. Michigan basketball refrains from offering recruits until June 1st of their junior year. June first is just a few days away… and nobody seems to know who is on the list. Or if there is even a list.

Michigan has just two certain spots in the class of 2017—those from the departures of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. They are aiming for a point guard in 2016. Assuming they get one that would fill their scholarship slots and push center commit Austin Davis to 2017 minus any attrition. That means they'd have one slot at most with almost no idea where they should use it.

For the first time in a while it seems like June 1st will pass without a solid definition of Michigan's top targets in a recruiting class. It is possible some offers will go out, and more possible still that Michigan finds some gentlemen at their annual summer camp, which is scheduled for June 6th. Here is a 2017 top 100 guy planning to attend from a long way way:

Having already landed its biggest 2016 recruit, Tyus Battle, Michigan is now setting up its wish list for 2017.

One name currently included is Greg Floyd Jr., a 6-foot-8 forward from Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Knicks, Floyd's AAU team, announced via Twitter that Floyd will visit Ann Arbor for Michigan's College Practice Camp on June 6.

Michigan may also offer NY combo guard Kevin Heurter, who is currently scheduled to be a member of the class of 2016 but has a 2017 offer from Syracuse and is very young for his class.

It's a kind of legacy. The SEC has added neutral observers to the press box to determine whether or not a player cannot continue because he has been hit very hard in the head. Get The Picture dubs this the

The Brady Hoke Rule

Woof. On the other hand, APR?

I wonder how Dantonio will get mad about this. This is clearly not trolling. It is the opposite of trolling.

"We know we're not the biggest guy on the block (right now)," Harbaugh said, per a live video stream recorded by The Wolverine. "Michigan State's the biggest guy on the block."

Harbaugh's comment was then met with a clap from someone in the back of the room. He acknowledged that clap, and followed it up by heaping praise on what Mark Dantonio and the Spartans have accomplished.

It is directed at Michigan State and Mark Dantonio, the man who's super power is generating offense from anything and everything. It is master trolling.

I heard you like team in your team in your team. There is a Michigan hype video narrated by the wonderfully scratchy Xzibit. Unfortunately it is not embeddable, which rather defeats the purpose of putting it on youtube. But at least it's on youtube instead of Michigan's terrible proprietary player?

(Woof on the writing, though. Lou Avery's generic organizational slogans of the week. You probably paid someone to do that. I will do this for free, Michigan. It is already my job.)

More like Steve Albrecht. Someone asked Steve Nash about Spike and comparisons made between the two during a reddit AMA:

"He's a good young player — flattered."

That's dang right.

Etc.: Journalism! Science! Maybe he just likes peeing in condoms. Hooray money, I guess. SEC complaining is the sweetest complaining. Matt Hinton is relevant to your interests: how to build an offensive line. Jabrill Peppers probably not staying five years. Quinn on Battle. Quinn on… Battle.

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