Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Day At The Fish

I did make it out to Ray Fisher Stadium for today's doubleheader between Oakland University and the University of Michigan. It was a great day at the yard. Of course, nearly any time spent at the ballpark is quality time. Today's doubleheader began under clouds and a breeze that made it feel colder than the scoreboard's suggested temperature of sixty-two. However, by the finale of the twinbill, the clouds departed and we had a near perfect March day for baseball.

Now, I mentioned the scoreboard. Last year, the scoreboard at The Fish became a joke to the Fisher Stadium regulars. It didn't exactly work properly and there were whispers that they didn't even make replacement parts for the old board any longer. I have no idea if that was true, but for 2007, Michigan baseball has a new scoreboard.

There will be plenty of other new things at Ray Fisher Stadium over the next year or two. Construction is most definitely underway. I do wonder why the work didn't begin sooner, like at the close of last season, but improvements are improvements. It may just be nit-picking on my part to complain about the start date.

Onto the action. In the first game, Oakland probably deserved to win. Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm the OU slappy in the crowd. Well, forgive me for showing them love because they had the audacity (misfortune?) to admit me. However, the Grizzlies left ten runners on base and hung with the Wolverines for five innings mostly due to the pitching of Matt Trausch.

Michigan opened it up some in the bottom of the sixth, and forced Trausch to the bench, but both team's offense reflected the weather -- cloudy and colder than it looked. Oakland couldn't take advantage of their opportunities and Michigan won a the kind of game good teams win even when they aren't playing well. (More on that in a minute.)

Oh, I should pass along a warning to fans, writers and announcers alike. The fake-to-first, throw-to-third pick-off move worked in Game One. I kid you not. It worked. Hess faked a pick off toss to first, wheeled and threw a strike to third to nail the runner. This will only confirm it's potential for success and guarantee it's continued use. The next time you wonder when that move actually worked, you can remember this post.

In addition to Trausch, the players that caught my eye in the first game were Andrew Hess, Michigan's starter, and Justin Wilson, OU's centerfielder. I don't know what Hess topped his fastball out at, but he seemed to throw harder today then I remember him throwing before. In spite of not getting much run support until late, Hess was tough.

Wilson looked like the prototype leadoff hitter. He saw a ton of pitches and displayed great wheels. I can see why he's at the top of Coach Putnam's lineup.

In between games, I bumped into Sam who was busy taking photos. (You can get a look at her work from Friday's game here. Expect pictures from today to be uploaded soon. If she gets any coffee tonight, there's a good chance they'll be up before I finish this entry.) Sam quized me as to my rooting interest. The "Whoever wins" answer was appropriately labeled a cop-out.

Game Two saw Michigan win a one run game, 4-3. It was Michigan that wasted a number of scoring chances in the second game. The Wolverines left eight runners on base. Although, OU did play hard after the difficult opening loss. The Golden Grizzlies scored one in the first, another in the fourth and held a 2-0 lead.

U of M answered with a three run bottom of the fourth, started by Adam Abraham's first homer of '07, and you figured the game was over. Yet, Oakland managed another run, an Andrew Stafford homer, to tie the score at 3-3 in the sixth. Back-to-back doubles by Eric Rose and Jason Christian won it for Michigan.

Chris Fetter showed flashes of his first team All-Big Ten form in posting his first win of the year. Ben Jenzen came in to close out Michigan's sweep of Oakland.

After the finale Saturday, several of the Michigan players began doing grounds crew work. There are a handful of the Maize and Blue players raking the infield grass, while others are piling in a some kind of John Deere utility vehicle and moving stuff around. I've seen the players have to move the batting cage after BP. They often act as their own batpeople (boys or girls), as they don't have one. Now, after playing twelve innings they have to clean up the infield themselves? Priceless. It's no wonder I love college baseball.

Back to the team on the field. I just don't get the feeling that Michigan is running on all cylinders. Maybe it's just the slightly better than .500 mark brought on by a tough non-conference slate. Perhaps, it's knowing that they are about three outs and three runs away from being a Top 25 team instead of one not even getting votes in the polls. Did I have too great an expectation before the season started? Honestly, I think Coach Maloney expected more than I did.

Whatever the reason, Michigan has a full Big Ten schedule ahead of them, so there's plenty of time to right the ship. (Assuming one believes the ship is in need of righting.) I may head back out to Ann Arbor for the last game of the series tomorrow. Perhaps, I just need to see more of them in person. Following games on GameTracker isn't the same as being there. If I do head back to The Fish Sunday, I should look to see if I have any OU apparel I can wear should I run across Samara.

Next weekend, the plan is to be in Columbus for the Saturday's encounter between Iowa and Ohio State. Weather permitting, of course.