UWM Baseball Team Advances To Horizon League Championship
May 24, 2008
NILES, Ohio - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team scored five unanswered runs to break open a 3-3 deadlock and defeat Valparaiso University, 8-3, in an elimination game at the Horizon League Tournament Saturday at Eastwood Field. The Panthers (24-35) ended the Cinderella run of the Crusaders (21-35), who entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed and were playing their fifth game of the week. UWM will now take on the UIC Flames at 2 p.m. CST in the tournament championship.
The Panthers broke it open in the seventh. A single, walk and sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Freshman Doug Dekoning then came through with a double to left center that brought in both runners. After a hit batter, Dekoning scored on senior Jesse Hart's single through the left side to push UWM's advantage to five runs.
Milwaukee had to deal with quite a bit of adversity, losing three starters in the span of one complete inning of play. Junior Andy Gerhartz was ejected and juniors Shawn Wozniak and Ben Long both came up injured before taking the field in the top of the sixth inning.
"Craig Meier was outstanding - I think those were the best innings he has thrown all season - and we got a couple of clutch hits towards the end of the game," Doffek said. "Unfortunately, I think we lost a couple of players, but it's a team so we are going to deal with adversity and need more than nine players."
UWM initially took the lead with a two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore Wes Munson singled up the middle to start it and was driven in on Hart's 27th double of the season down the left field line. After senior Nick Wichser drew a four-pitch walk, freshman Cole Kraft came up with another clutch hit through the left side that plated Hart and made it 5-3.
Lusti (4-4) got the win, going 6.0 innings in allowing three runs, all earned. He walked two and struck out three and left with a 5-3 lead. Meier slammed the door, allowing just one hit and striking out four in 3.0 innings to record his second save of the year.
The Panthers regrouped quickly after Valpo scored a run in the first, getting two back in their half of the frame on RBI-singles from Wozniak and Long. Milwaukee had plenty of base runners in the first two innings but was unable to do much damage, stranding five in the first two innings.
The Crusaders went ahead in the top of the fourth on a Jon Gulbransen single that plated two runs and made it 3-2 at the time.
UWM made it a new game in the bottom of the fifth when Long drove in Wozniak, who registered his 26th double of the season to get on base ahead of Long.
The offense had 14 more hits today, marking the 12th-consecutive contest it has recorded 10 or more. Long ended the day a perfect 3-for-3 and drove in two. Hart, Wozniak and senior Troy Vesling all had two a piece. The team was also hit by a pitch on six different occasions to tie the school record.
The Panthers will play immediately at 2 p.m. CST, taking on the UIC Flames in the Horizon League Championship. Milwaukee will need to win this afternoon to force a winner-take-all contest in the double-elimination event tomorrow, slated for an 11 a.m. start if necessary.