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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Friday, May 28, 2010

U-M softball knocked out of NCAA tournament by Cinderella Tennessee

ANN ARBOR — Considering how infrequently Super Regional underdogs have been able to pull upsets in the NCAA softball tournament, historically speaking, most considered it just a matter of time before No. 2 seed Michigan sent 15th-seeded Tennessee packing.

The Wolverines did send the Volunteers packing, indeed — packing for an unexpected trip to the Women’s College World Series, after the Vols pulled off a stunning, two-game sweep of host U-M, clinching it with Friday’s 4-3 win.

After the game, the young Volunteers even joked about buying a new set of footwear for co-coach Ralph Weekly to pack: a pair of slippers.

“People were saying when we came up here, we were a Cinderella team, you know, and I told our kids today, if we’re a Cinderella team, let’s put on that gold slipper, or silver slipper, and let’s go to the dance,” said Weekly, whose team put Michigan on the edge of elimination with a 5-0 win in Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Thursday.

Now, the Volunteers (47-13) are the first of eight teams to punch their tickets for Oklahoma City, while the Wolverines (49-8) are just packing for home.

For the rest of the story, click here.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vols end Michigan softball's home winning streak with a thud

ANN ARBOR — A 35-game home winning streak came to a crashing end for the No. 2-ranked University of Michigan softball team, as Tennessee freshman Ivy Renfroe nearly no-hit the Wolverines in Thursday’s NCAA Super Regional opener.

The Wolverines (49-7) didn’t crack the hit column until the seventh inning, and were shut out for the first time all year, falling 5-0 to the Volunteers (45-13), who now control the best-of-three series.
Tennessee can get a knockout in Game 2 today at 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU), while Michigan would have to win two straight today to make its 10th appearance in the Women’s College World Series.

The Vols got three unearned runs in the top of the third, as an error on a grounder to Maggie Viefhaus at third opened the floodgates. U-M junior Jordan Taylor allowed just four hits and struck out 10, but was stuck with four unearned runs.

Dorian Shaw’s single down the left-field line broke up the no-hitter in the seventh. Amanda Chidester beat out an infield hit to put a pair of runners on, but Renfroe got a foul fly and a groundout to wrap up the shutout.

Michigan’s last loss at Wilpon Softball Complex was to Virginia Tech on the second day of the 2008 Super Regional.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

U-M Super Regional times announced

Even with the other game going to extra innings, No. 2-ranked Michigan (49-6) only had to wait mere minutes after its regional-clinching win over Notre Dame to find out who it would face in next weekend's Super Regional. No. 15 Tennessee (42-13) finished off Louisville in eight innings Sunday, earning a trip to Ann Arbor for the best-of-three series to contest one of eight spots in the Women's College World Series.

(For the full story of the Wolverines winning their seventh straight regional title, click here.)

In a rematch of the 2006 Super Regional — and in somewhat of a makeup for the rained out opener from this season — Michigan and Tennessee will play at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday (televised on ESPN) and at 4:30 p.m. on Friday (ESPNU), with the third game later Friday, if necessary.

Tickets go on sale at the U-M ticket office on Tuesday for season ticket holders and Wednesday for the general public.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Michigan leaves no doubts in Saturday's NCAA regional play

After a questionable start to play Friday at its own NCAA Division I softball regional, No. 2-ranked Michigan left no questions about anything when play resumed Saturday, closing out a pair of dominant wins that put the Wolverines (48-6) into today’s regional title game.

Michigan will face Notre Dame, the winner of Saturday’s finale in the loser’s bracket, again at 1 p.m., needing just one win to advance to the super regional round. A rematch would be played at 3:30 p.m., should U-M lose the first game.

The way the Wolverines played on Friday — when Wright State took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third — it might be possible. The way the Wolverines play from there on out, it appears unlikely that game will be necessary.

Michigan battered the Raiders for eight runs in the bottom of the third — sandwiched around a pair of weather delays — then finished off the win in just six innings, by tacking on three runs in the resumption on Saturday. Nikki Nemitz (21-3) finished what she’d started, not allowing a hit in three innings Saturday morning.

Jordan Taylor (25-3) picked up where Nemitz left off, striking out 11 in a three-hit, five-inning shutout of a Notre Dame squad that came into the tournament leading the nation in batting average. Nemitz and Maggie Viefhaus both had three-run home runs in the win.

Tournament bracket
Division I softball regional at Ann Arbor
Friday’s games

G1: Notre Dame 1, Illinois St. 0 (8 inn.)
G2: Michigan vs. Wright State (suspended, rain)
Saturday’s games
G2: Michigan 11, Wright State 2 (6 inn.)
G3: Michigan 8, Notre Dame 0 (5 inn.)
G4: Wright State 10, Illinois State 8
G5: Notre Dame 6, Wright State 5
Sunday’s games
G6: Michigan vs. Notre Dame, 1 p.m.
G7: G6 winner vs. G6 loser, 3:30 p.m.*
* — if necessary

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Times changing at Michigan's softball regional

In an attempt to beat the rain predicted for Friday evening, organizers at the NCAA softball regional in Ann Arbor (hosted by the University of Michigan) decided to move up Friday's game schedule by two hours.

The top-seeded Wolverines will now play Wright State at 5 p.m., following the regional opener between second-seeded Notre Dame and Illinois State at 2:30 p.m.

Follow all the results from the double-elimination tournament here and at

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Monday, May 17, 2010

U-M set to announce self-imposed sanctions for football

The NCAA gave the Michigan 90 days to respond to its notice of allegations against its football program sent out in late February and, with that time rapidly running out, new athletic director David Brandon said the school will send in its response next Monday (May 24), outlining its plan for self-imposed sanctions.

"We want there to be total transparency," Brandon told Monday at the Big Ten spring meetings of coaches and ADs. "Within 24 hours after the material has been delivered to the [Committee on Infractions], we're going to make them available to the general public. You'll have the responses, you'll have the self-imposed penalties, sanctions, that we believe are appropriate."

The NCAA alleged that the U-M program exceeded limits on practice time, as well as stipulations on coaches involved in workouts. 

Tuesday's public revelation of the school's answer to those allegations will just be the next step in the process, but isn't necessarily the end of the road for U-M. Officials will have to appear in front of the Committee on Infractions in August, where further sanctions could be laid down.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

OLSM's Justin Siller reinstated to Purdue football team

Somewhere, a handful of Wolverine defenders just shuddered.

A full year after he was dismissed from Purdue University for violation of the school's academic policy (and a year and a half after his stunning debut at QB versus U-M), Orchard Lake St. Mary's grad Justin Siller has been reinstated to the program.

"We are thrilled that Justin is back in our football family," said Purdue coach Danny Hope in a release. "We said when he was dismissed from school that he would always be welcomed back. It is a credit to Justin that he did what he had to do to make himself eligible for reinstatement, and I am confident he learned from his mistake. He handled the entire situation with class and demonstrated a tremendous amount of maturity while he was away from Purdue. We are a better football team today because of Justin's character as well as his playing ability."

Siller's collegiate debut at quarterback came Nov. 1, 2008, against Michigan, when the 6-foot-4, 220-pound scrambler — who'd started that season on the depth chart at running back — torched the Wolverine defense for 266 yards passing, 77 more rushing, and four total touchdowns in Purdue's 48-42 win. Siller would make three starts at QB that season, and went into the next spring slightly ahead of eventual starter Joey Elliott. That was before his dismissal from the school last April for his transgression, which has been termed "academic dishonesty" in some quarters, but never fully explained by Purdue.

"It's a disappointing conclusion and, as a football team, we feel for Justin and his family," Hope said at the time. "Justin made a mistake — a bad decision — and deserved to be punished. Our hope was that he would not be punished to the extent he has been. Now it is our responsibility to accept the decision and move forward. Justin is a fine young man, and we wish him nothing but the best."

Siller took classes at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, and earned his second chance.

"It feels great to be back," said Siller, who will have to change uniform numbers, and possibly positions. "My goal all along was to come back. Even though I was away from the team, I always felt as though I was still part of the program. It was tough sitting out last season, but I learned a valuable lesson. I am proud of the way my teammates overcame some tough early losses last season and won some big games. I am so excited to get back on the field and learn the offense."

With the graduation of Elliott — who landed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent — Siller could enter the QB derby with Miami (Fla.) transfer Robert Marve, last year's backup in Caleb Tarbush, and freshmen Rob Henry and Najee Tyler. Siller could also move back to running back or wide receiver.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Locals lead GLIAC teams into NCAA softball, baseball postseason

Turns out the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals will get a postseason rematch with the team from Indianapolis University that cost them a shot at the Division II World Series last year.

It looked like the Cards, who lost to the Greyhounds in the 2009 super regional, weren't going to make the postseason this year, after a midseason swoon — brought on by an injury to their top pitcher — dropped them out of the rankings. Their chances were further limited when bad weather canceled the GLIAC tournament, which they'd won the previous two seasons.

On Monday, the Cardinals — led by local players Angela Kaiser (Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes), Kailah Happ (Waterford Kettering), Kalie Burdick (Milford), Katie Smith (Clarkston), Dana Velzy (Farmington) and 2008 Miss Softball Lauren Memmer of Lakeland (read her full story here) — found out they earned an at-large bid to the 2010 postseason.

The No. 4 seed in the Midwest Regional, hosted by GLIAC regular-season champ Wayne State, SVSU (27-14) will face Indianapolis in the first round Friday at 12:30 p.m.

As the regular-season champ, Wayne State (47-10) was given the league's automatic bid upon the cancellation of the GLIAC tourney. Led by GLIAC Player of the Year Allison Allen (Farmington Hills Mercy), the Warriors will play Quincy at 3 p.m. Friday. The other two GLIAC teams to make the NCAA tournament were Tiffin and Ashland, which will host the other side of the Midwest Regional bracket.

On the baseball side, three GLIAC teams — Grand Valley, Wayne State and Ashland — earned berths in the NCAA postseason, and all will be traveling to Southern Indiana for the Midwest Regional, which starts Thursday.

Wayne State (32-18) needed a come-from-behind win over Ashland in the tournament title game to gain the automatic bid. The Warriors are the No. 4 seed, and will face Northern Kentucky.

Led by the GLIAC's Pitcher of the Year, Justin Mazur (Warren De La Salle) and the player voted the Warriors' top defender two straight years, catcher Michael Wiseman (Lakeland), the squad also includes brothers J.J. and Andrew Ciennik (Waterford Mott), Chris Gebara (Troy), Justin DeFrancis (Stoney Creek), Eric Ramaekers (Lake Orion) and Sean Falvo (Novi Detroit Catholic Central).

Grand Valley is making its ninth straight postseason appearance, one of just three Division II teams in the nation to make the postseason every year since 2002. The Lakers (34-14) are the No. 2 seed, and will face Ashland.

Led by longtime coach Steve Lyon — once the coach at both Pontiac Catholic Central and Oakland University — the Lakers' roster includes Torre Aguirre (Troy), Brian Robinson (Troy), Max Elkins (West Bloomfield) and Brad Zambron (Birmingham Brother Rice).

In Division III, Adrian will be making its second straight postseason appearance after capturing the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title for the second straight year. The senior class for the Bulldogs (22-4), which includes Steve Vanderheyden (Clarkston), Andrew Anderson (Farmington) and Nick Sarkissian (South Lyon), was the most successful in school history, helping Adrian capture its fourth MIAA title in six years. The Bulldogs' roster also includes Garrett Green (Novi), James Englehart (Royal Oak), Jamey Sackett (Birmingham Groves) and Dan Welch (Lakeland).

The MIAA's regular-season softball champ, Alma College, and tourney champion, Trine University, both earned berths to the NCAA postseason, as well.

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U-M adds fourth recruit to 2010 men's basketball class

Michigan coach John Beilein got a fourth — and likely final — commitment for the 2010 class, adding Colton Christian, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound swingman from Hargrave Military Academy (Va.).

Both and reported that Christian and his father visited Ann Arbor last weekend, and Christian committed early this week. He joins Grand Ledge forward Jon Horford, who committed in March, and Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardway Jr., who both signed on last year.

"It was really good," Christian told of his weekend trip. "It's just a great atmosphere and a good bunch of players. They came up even though they were out of school — I had a chance to meet them and the whole staff, and it seemed like a really good fit. It was somewhere I can definitely see myself playing the next four years."

Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts told Christian averaged around 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The last player Beilein nabbed out of Hargrave was former West Virginia star Joe Alexander, who was drafted eighth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2008 draft.

But before you get visions of an instant replacement for Manny Harris (like Trey Zeigler would have been), it's worth noting that the Wolverines swiped Christian from Conference USA juggernaut Tulane, where he'd originally committed last fall, only to reopen his recruitment after coach Dave Dickerson and his staff were jettisoned after the season. And before he went to Hargrave, he was being recruited by Montana, St. Anselm and Sacred Heart — along with the Green Wave — out of Bellevue (Wash.) High School.

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Radio report: Big Ten set to offer invites

Citing sources close to the negotiations, a Missouri radio station — WHB (810-AM) in St. Louis — reports that the Big Ten is on the verge of extending invitations to four schools: Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame.

The Big Ten's intention to expand has been one of the top ongoing stories of the year in college sports and, given the depth and breadth of speculation on the topic, none of the schools named by the report's author, Kevin Kietzman, are remotely shocking. The timing is slightly curious, however, since the Big Ten's plans can't be finalized until the league's presidents and chancellors meet at the start of June.

While both Big 12 schools issued immediate responses, the dismissal from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman of the validity of the report ("None whatsoever," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.) was much stronger than the response from Missouri.

Rutgers issued a press release from AD Tim Pernetti, saying "We are a proud member of the Big East Conference. It is not our place to speculate on any reports on the expansion plans of any other conference."

As per usual, Notre Dame refused to comment at all.

Assuming Kietzman's sources are right, adding all four would put the Big Ten at 15 schools, well within the range set out as possible by commissioner Jim Delany. But it would still leave the conference with an odd number of schools, and likely seeking one more addition to even out the numbers.

Here have been my thoughts all along:

If indeed the expansion is driven by football only, it's likely that the additions won't include either Missouri or Rutgers, despite the fact that those two schools would give the conference a way into the TV markets in St. Louis and New York. Missouri has had a small taste of success under former Toledo coach Gary Pinkel, but nothing that's been sustained. It's the same for Rutgers under Greg Schiano, despite the life he's breathed into that moribund program in Piscataway. (Heck, it even got him an offer of the U-M job, which he turned down).

Nebraska makes sense, because the Cornhuskers are — well, Big Red. Every bit as tradition-laden as Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Despite its recent crash (thank you, Greg Robinson), the Syracuse program has a ton of tradition of its own — from Jim Brown and Ernie Davis to Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney. Then there's the bonus of the rock-solid basketball program.

The other three I'd keep an eye on are Pitt, Cincinnati and West Virginia. All three are competitive in the toughest conference in basketball, the Big East — arguably every bit as accomplished as Syracuse since Carmelo Anthony pulled his one-and-done act — and have been light years better on the gridiron lately.

While some have argued the Big Ten's intention to try to break into the New York market (and I'm not sure how Syracuse or Rutgers would pull that off, to be honest), maybe a more realistic plan would be to consolidate the conference's hold on the recruiting-rich states of Pennsylvania and Ohio — the closest thing the North has to the fertile recruiting grounds of southern states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

The addition of Penn State in the 1990s gave the Big Ten a foothold in Pennsylvania, and Pitt would not only finally give the Nittany Lions a natural in-conference rival, but would also lock up the western half of the state.

Follow that same logic with Cincinnati, which would give the Big Ten the top two programs in the state of Ohio, and a stranglehold on the BCS-level programs in the state (no offense to the MAC schools).

Sitting between those two additions — and mere miles from the borders of both Pennsylvania and Ohio — is West Virginia, the addition of which would cement the inclusion of its archrival, Pitt.

With the four additions from the Big East forming half of a new eight-team division, you could easily slide Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State in alongside. That would leave a western division of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana and Purdue.

None of the traditional rivalries (with the exception of the Little Brown Jug) would be severed, and there wouldn't be any weird geographic anomalies. It would also perfectly set up an east/west showdown in a conference title game (like that's not the ENTIRE reason behind expansion).

Those eight-team divisions could even be further subdivided, if you wanted to go with semifinal games, as well:
Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana
Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Cincinnati
Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse.

Obviously nothing's set in stone until the powers that be in the Big Ten agree on a plan, but that's just my idea for what they should do.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

OU women's club lacrosse team upset in first round of national tourney

The No. 2-seeded Oakland University women's club lacrosse team was the only higher seed to lose on the first day's play in the Division II bracket of the 2010 U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday.

Southern Methodist knocked off OU, 17-16, just the second loss of the season for the Grizzlies (16-2), who hadn't lost since March 28.

SMU built an 11-6 lead late in the first half, but the Grizzlies got back in it before halftime, taking a brief, 15-14 lead in the second half, when Pontiac Notre Dame grad Haley Noonan scored with 12:04 left.

For a full play-by-play account of the match, click here.

The Grizzlies will play again Friday morning in the consolation round, facing North Carolina at 8 a.m.

UPDATE: Despite three goals from Noonan, Oakland lost its consolation-round game Friday to UNC, 14-9. The Grizzlies will finish their season in the seventh round game at 8 a.m. Saturday.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

UDM Titans add to impressive 2010 men's hoops recruiting class

Adding to a recruiting class which already includes a pair of junior college All-Americans and a McDonald's All-American, the University of Detroit Mercy Titans signed Michigan's Class D Player of the Year, Evan Bruinsma to a National Letter of Intent on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 forward led Muskegon Western Michigan Christian High School to three straight boys basketball state titles in Class D, and a soccer championship as a sophomore. Bruinsma scored more than 1,000 points in his career, averaging 21.6 points per game as a senior.

“He is a winner and a great student-athlete and you are always looking to add that kind of talent to your team. He has improved every year and took his game to a new level as a senior,” U-D coach Ray McCallum Sr. said in a release. “He is very versatile and can fill a few different rolls on our team. He will need to learn to play a bit closer to the basket, but he can also do a lot of everything and we are excited to have him join us."

Bruinsma joins McCallum's son, Birmingham Detroit Country Day standout Ray McCallum Jr., as incoming freshmen, while the Titans also added Juco All-Americans Nick Minnerath (Jackson Community College) and Chris Blake (Trinity Valley Community College.)

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Izzo's Spartans get in-state commitment for 2011

Dwaun Anderson got to live his dream when the junior guided Suttons Bay to the Class C finals at Breslin Center in March.

"I knew as we got further into the tournament, I was going to have to step my game up," Anderson told the Traverse City Record Eagle after a 30-point, 13-rebound performance in a quarterfinal win over Rudyard. "I just tried to turn it on. It's been my goal (to play at the Breslin Center) since I was young and first started watching high school basketball."

Now, Anderson has figured out a way to be able to play at Breslin Center a lot more, as the high-flying, 6-foot-3 shooting guard committed to the Spartans on Wednesday, giving MSU a pair of top-rated shooting guards in the 2011 class. Detroit Southeastern's four-star guard, Brandan Kearney, has been committed since November.

Anderson averaged 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the final three games of the spring for the Norse, which culminated in a 59-43 loss to Melvindale ABT in the Class C championship game.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010 Live chat about Big Ten expansion, spring football's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will be chatting about the conference's hot topics from this spring at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. To join in, click here.


Monday, May 3, 2010

EMU football earns dubious distinction of starting first

At least Eastern Michigan's football program got to be first in something.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, who are coming off a winless season in coach Ron English's debut, their opportunity to be first came in Monday's kickoff of The Orlando Sentinel's project to preview every Division I football team, from No. 120 to No. 1. (Read the full story here.)

Unfortunately for the Eagles, being first means the Sentinel predicts them to be last — dead last, the worst team in Division I football. That's not entirely a stretch for a team that graduated its four-year starter at QB — Andy Schmitt who, despite being injured in the Michigan game a third of the way through the season, recently made an appearance at the Detroit Lions' rookie minicamp — and gave up a whopping 277 yards per game on the ground last year.

English has assembled an impressive staff, even tweaking it from Year 1 to Year 2, but it's going to be a long haul for the Eagles to get out of the basement. And the Sentinel won't be the last to say that — just the first.

Since this is one of those series that will continue through the start of fall camps for most of the teams — including all five D-I teams in Michigan — I'll keep you apprised here when one of the local teams makes an appearance.

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