If coaching experience is any indication of a team’s
quality, the Michigan baseball team (5-3 Big Ten, 16-12 overall)
will have to watch its back this weekend when Illinois rolls into
town for a battle of Richards.
The Fighting Illini (3-5, 10-17) are lead by Richard
“Itch” Jones, who is one of the 20 all-time winningest
coaches in NCAA Division I history, boasting a .623 career win
average in 35 seasons.
Michigan coach Richard Maloney, who goes by Rich, has the utmost
respect for the coaching legend.
“Itch is just a great coach,” Maloney said.
“Last year he sent a guy when the ball slipped through the
gap. We threw the ball to second, and he kept sending the guy to
third, sent him home, and he got in. He’s a really good
coach, and I respect him very much, as well as the
But the last couple of seasons Jones’s squads have not
been as successful. The Fighting Illini have fallen short of making
it to the Big Ten Tournament during this time, but the coach has
still managed to turn out three All-Americans and the Big Ten Medal
of Honor winner, which is based on a combination of academic and
This year, Illinois boasts Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week Tim
Gorski. Last weekend, the righthander threw his first career
shutout and a four-hitter in seven innings en route to breaking
Michigan State’s 12-game winning streak.
This week, Maloney has tried to prepare the Wolverines for
Jones’s sometimes-unorthodox coaching style.
“They’re going to run a lot,” Maloney said.
“They’re not textbook. Quite frankly, we’ve just
got to play our game, and by that I mean solid defense in terms of
strikes. We didn’t do that (on Wednesday), and we got away
with it. But we’ve got to get back to doing that. If we do,
it could be a pretty good game.”
Michigan is coming off a 14-13 win over Central Michigan on
Wednesday, in which it had four errors.
“I certainly think (the win) is a positive, although we
found out where some of our deficiencies are in the field,”
But the Wolverines will also have plenty to bring to the table.
The other Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week is none other than
Michigan sophomore Derek Feldkamp.
Michigan will also have to deal with the tribulations of the end
of the school year. Illinois has a couple of weeks before
school’s out for the summer.
“I think there’s no doubt about it; the stress of
exams and things like that is huge for these
student-athletes,” Maloney said. “Our guys have done a
good job working really hard on both facets, and I’m really
proud of them for that. But definitely, your mind has to be in two
places, and rightfully so.”
Although the Wolverines will have quite a bit to deal with this
weekend, Maloney is confident that this weekend’s games
against Illinois will be something to see.
“It’s a big series for both clubs,” Maloney
said. “Illinois is going to want to get back into the hunt,
and we want to be a contender, so it’s going to be important
that we find a way to win the series. They’ve got a great
ball club. We’re going to have to play really well to win.
It’s going to be a challenge.”