April 23, 2012
| Game 37 | Milwaukee (16-20) vs. Northern Illinois (11-27)
|| April 24 (3 p.m.)
|| DeKalb, Ill. | Ralph McKenzie Field
|| GT link|
| Live Audio
|| Audio link|
| Games 38-40 | Milwaukee (16-20, 10-8) vs. Valparaiso (18-20, 12-6)
|| April 27 (3 pm) | April 28 (1 pm) | April 29 (12 pm)
|| Milwaukee, Wis. | Henry Aaron Field
|| Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3|
| Live Audio
|| Friday & Saturday only|
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team plays its second of three games in 2012 against Northern Illinois University Tuesday before heading back to Henry Aaron Field to welcome Valparaiso University for a key weekend league series. Tuesday's game is set for a first pitch of 3 p.m. Friday's action also gets underway at 3 p.m., with the Crusaders currently sitting in second place in the Horizon League standings. Of note, UWM and Valpo feature the top two pitching staffs in the conference.
UWM Game Notes
League play continues its new format this season, with teams playing once per day on the weekend instead of a single game Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday. Game two has a first pitch of 1 p.m. Saturday and the series wraps up Sunday with a 12 p.m. start. Each game will have live stats available on the UWM website via GameTracker while Tuesday's matchup with the Huskies will also feature a live blog. Friday and Saturday - as well as Tuesday - will have an audio broadcast available with Kevin Conway, Tim Prahl and Chris Zills on the call.
The 2012 campaign marks the 48th season of baseball at UWM. It is also the 43rd season of varsity play (the program was played at the club level from 1982-1986) and the 22nd in the Panthers NCAA Division I era.
LOOKING AT THE WILDCATS & PENGUINS
Northern Illinois is 11-27 on the season after dropping seven of its past 10 games. Alex Jones leads the offense with a .331 average, with Jordan Huffman (.317) the only other regular over .300 in 2012. Troy White paces NIU with three home runs and 30 RBI.
Head coach Tracy Woodson's squad returned 16 letterwinners from last year's team, which saw the Crusaders finish 25-32 overall and 14-10 in the Horizon League. The Crusaders finished runner-up in the Horizon League Tournament after posting a fourth place finish during the regular season. They are 18-20 (12-6 in Horizon League) overall after winning eight of their past nine and also play a midweek game at IPFW Tuesday.
The team has two of the top 10 batters in the league in Andrew Bain (seventh at .327) and Tanner Vavra (ninth at .322). The pitching has also been great, leading the conference at 3.58. The Crusaders weekend starters rank second (Kevin Wild at 2.57), third (Tyler Deetjen at 3.48) and fifth (Kyle Wormington at 3.72) in the league in ERA.
Milwaukee now trails NIU in the all-time series, 23-21, after dropping a 5-4 decision at DeKalb earlier this season. The Huskies have won five of the past six meetings.
Milwaukee holds a 24-13 all-time lead in the series with Valpo at the NCAA Division I level and had the upper hand prior to the first series of 2012. UWM had gone 8-1 in the past nine meetings between the two teams, with Valpo's victory in the 2011 season finale snapping an eight-game winning streak. The Crusaders swept UWM at home in March, winning 7-0, 1-0 (in 10 innings) and 3-2.
STAYING HOT AT HOME
The Panthers went 3-1 in four games last week, including a perfect 3-0 mark at Henry Aaron Field with a sweep of Youngstown State. The offense was led by senior Paul Hoenecke, who ended the week with a .500 average (8-for-16). Senior Phil Striggow was at .375 (6-for-16) and freshman Luke Meeteer was close behind at .353 (6-for-17).
The pitching was impressive, especially on the weekend. Overall, the 1.46 ERA in four games was highlighted by the weekend starters. Juniors Eric Semmelhack (8.0 IP, 11 K's) and Cale Tassi (7.0 IP, 10 K's) and sophomore Mike Schneider (6.0 scoreless IP) all earned victories and combined to give up just two earned runs in 21.0 combined frames.
The efforts of Hoenecke and Tassi were recognized by the Horizon League on Monday, as Hoenecke was named league batter of the week and Tassi shared the league pitcher of the week award.
YEP, THAT'S A RECORD
Junior Eric Semmelhack pitched about as well as you could for not getting a victory April 31 against UIC. He dominated the Flames all day, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. In fact, he walked just one and allowed two hits in his 8.0 innings, while tying the school record with a career-high 13 strikeouts. Those 13 K's have been recorded four times, most recently by Aaron Sorenson in May of 2006 - which also happened to be the last time a UWM pitcher struck out at least 10 in a game. In addition to the individual record, Milwaukee finished with 15 K's on the day to also equal the team record in a game (set four times, most recently against Cleveland State in April of 2011).
In addition, with the 11 K's he recorded against Youngstown State April 21, he became the first UWM pitcher to record at least two starts with 10 or more strikeouts since Ben Stanczyk in 2004. Of note that day in the strikeout department - junior Cale Tassi had 10 punchouts in the second game of the doubleheader against YSU, marking the first time in school history that the Panthers had both starters in a twinbill record 10 or more.
BATS WARMING UP IN APRIL
The UWM offense as a whole has been much improved in April, batting .316 so far in the month and has scored 100 runs in 13 games. Heading the list has been sophomore Sam Koenig and freshman Michael Porcaro. Koenig has been dominant, batting .523 (23-for-44) in 10 games, scoring 12 runs and driving in 10. In fact, seven of his eight extra-base hits on the season have been recorded in April. Porcaro is hitting at a .455 clip this month (15-for-33), scoring eight runs and driving in eight in the 11 games he has appeared, making nine starts.
In the Panthers 9-7 victory April 15 at Wright State, the team hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the third inning with seniors Paul Hoenecke and Phil Striggow and junior Nick Lingvay accounting for the three long balls. The last time the Panthers even had back-to-back home runs was 2006, when Zak Rivera and Ross McCoy accomplished the feat against Chicago State April 12 in the seventh inning. More research is being done, but at this point it appears that the three-consecutive HR's was a program first.
THE 200 CLUB
Senior Paul Hoenecke became the eighth player to record more than 200 hits in a career when he singled to center field against Butler April 5.
Below is the current list of the "200 Club".
1. Jesse Hart (2005-08): 267 career hits
2. Doug Dekoning (2008-11): 260
3. Cole Kraft (2008-11): 250
4. Darin Haugom (1997-2001): 245
5. Ross McCoy (2004-07): 220
6. Hoenecke (2009-12): 214 (176 entering 2012)
7. Charlie Reschke (2002-05): 213
8. Nick Wichser (2004-08): 206
WEEKEND STARTERS ALL OVER LEADER LISTS
The three Milwaukee weekend starters are making a strong case to be the best the Horizon League has to offer. Juniors Eric Semmelhack and Cale Tassi and sophomore Mike Schneider dominate the league leaders at this point in the season. Tassi leads in ERA (2.55), with Semmelhack seventh (3.88) and Schneider eighth (4.25). Semmelhack leads the league in strikeouts at 54, with Tassi second at 49. Schneider is just a few K's behind in fifth (39). Tassi is fourth in innings (67.0), while Semmelhack is sixth (62.2) and Schneider eighth (55.0). Lastly, Tassi is third in opponent batting average (.236), Semmelhack is fifth (.246) and Schneider is sixth (.256).
After setting the program record for lowest ERA in 2011, the pitching has once again been a strong part of the UWM arsenal this season. In fact, the team ERA of 3.81 is the lowest through 36 games since Scott Doffek took over in 2007. The numbers from previous seasons prove this year's pitchers are on a tremendous pace (through 36 games). 2011: 4.42 ERA, 2010: 4.92, 2009: 6.82, 2008: 6.35, 2007: 6.19.
So far in 2012, the Panthers are second in the Horizon League in ERA with that 3.81 mark, trailing Valparaiso (3.58) by just a small margin. In league-only games, it's flip-flopped: UWM leads at 2.77, Valpo is second at 3.04.
COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
The Panthers amazing comeback against San Francisco March 1 was one for the record book of head coach Scott Doffek's career at UWM (2007-present). Since he took over the squad, the four-run deficit (had been trailing 5-1 before winning, 6-5, on junior Jonathan Capasso's bases-loaded double) was the largest that the Panthers have ever overcome in the ninth (or final) inning. Previously, the most runs UWM had ever trailed entering its final at bat was two, and it happened on a pair of occasions in 2010 in a span of just eight days. On May 14, UWM trailed Butler, 4-2, in the ninth but won on a two-RBI double by Dan Buchholz and a walkoff single from Ben Long. Just over a week later, Buchholz's three-run home run in the bottom of the 14th inning helped the team eliminate a 7-5 hole and win, 8-7, against Youngstown State on the final pitch of the game.
Looking back further, the four-run hole was actually the largest ever overcome in UWM's NCAA Division I history (since 1991). The only result that comes close was April 13, 2002 against Wright State. That day, UWM trailed, 5-2, in the ninth before winning, 6-5. The five-run outburst against USF in the final at bat was also the second-highest ever - only an eight-run frame against Western Kentucky Feb. 27, 1998, was higher. But in that game, UWM never trailed and was tied, 4-4, heading into its last at bat.
NO EASY EARLY TASK
The Panthers went 4-10 in their first 14 non-conference games of the season, but the schedule was anything but forgiving. UWM played two ranked opponents and two others who made it to the NCAA Tournament just last season. When you add up the win-loss records of Milwaukee's first seven opponents (as of start of league play March 16), the total amounted to an impressive .643 winning percentage at 72-40 (East Carolina 11-3; Minnesota 7-8; USF 9-8; SDSU 9-8; Cal Poly 11-5; San Diego 13-4; UALR 12-4).
PRESEASON NATIONAL RECOGNITION
Various publications and websites came out with their college baseball previews and players from the Milwaukee roster earned mentions.
Baseball America lists a trio of Panthers among its top prospects, tabbing junior Jordan Guth and sophomore Sam Koenig in its "Quick Hits" section in addition to giving redshirt freshmen Joshua Uhen the title of the "Horizon League's top pro prospect". It goes on to list Uhen as No. 1 and Koenig No. 2 in its "Top Prospects" section. In addition, the publication predicts a third-place finish for UWM and junior Will Fadness to be among the "Top Newcomers".
The website collegebaseballinsider.com polled the league coaches for its preview, with Wright State coming in as the team to beat. Senior Paul Hoenecke was named one of the "Best Three Pure Hitters" in addition to being named the "Most Underrated Hitter" in the conference.
The website collegesportsmadness.com came out with its Horizon League preview last month and selected junior Jonathan Capasso and sophomore Tell Taylor to its Preseason All-Conference Team.
LET'S HIT THE ROAD...
The Panthers were busy waiting for the snow to melt and Henry Aaron Field to be ready for them to play in Milwaukee. While that happened, they played 21 straight road games to open 2012. That seemed easier compared to other seasons, as the record for longest season-opening road trip was set at 30 games in 2008 and was a comparable 22 a year ago.
The Panthers traveled over 10,000 (10,098) miles over the course of the first six weeks of the season via plane or bus, visiting seven different states (North Carolina, Minnesota, California, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois) before playing their home opener March 31 against UIC. To put that in perspective, that equates to circling the bases 147,263 times.
BASEBALL SEASON ALREADY?
The February 17th opener to the 2012 campaign marked one of the earliest in program history. In fact, four of the top five all-time earliest starts to the season have taken place in the past six years.
1. 2006: February 10
2. 1999: February 13
3. 2007: February 16
4. 2012: February 17
5. 2011: February 18
Milwaukee was picked fourth in the 2012 Horizon League preseason baseball poll after going 15-10 in league play a season ago, finishing just two games back of regular season champ Wright State. WSU (16-7 in 2011), the regular-season champion and NCAA Tournament participant, recorded five first-place votes and 25 points to lead the way. UIC (also 16-7) received the other first-place vote and was second with 19 points.
Valparaiso (14-10 a year ago) edged UWM by a point, finishing with 16 points. The Panthers were in fourth with 15 points. Rounding out the poll was Butler in fifth (10 points) and Youngstown State (5) in sixth place.
2012 Horizon League Preseason Baseball Poll
1. Wright State (5 first place votes) - 25 points
2. UIC (1 first place vote) - 19
3. Valparaiso - 16
4. Milwaukee - 15
5. Butler - 10
6. Youngstown State - 5
WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE
The Panthers now carry an 18-4 all-time record in home openers at the NCAA Division-I level after suffering a tough 1-0 loss to UIC March 31. A year ago, Milwaukee topped Butler, 4-0, and also had a streak of 12-straight victories in such contests snapped in 2007 with a 5-2 loss at the hands of those same Bulldogs. The last defeat in a home opener prior to that was a 3-0 loss to Eastern Illinois in 1994. Furthermore, the Panthers are averaging close to 10 runs a game in the past 17 openers, while allowing under four runs on average in that span.
PITCHING MAKES ITS MARK
The Panthers have always had a strong offense and last season was no different. However, the impressive story came from the mound a year ago, where the pitching staff had a record-breaking campaign.
First and foremost, the team ERA of 4.16 was the lowest in program history, breaking the mark of 4.18 set in 2002. The strikeout total of 389 broke the school record of 376 established in 1999 and the six shutouts that were thrown in 2011 eclipsed the old mark of five set in 2002. In addition, the .258 opponent average was the second-lowest in team history, just off the program record of .256 set in 2002.
The staff was good all season from starters to the bullpen. In fact, the team went 21-3 when leading after six innings and was 21-1 when leading after eight. The staff ERA in the ninth inning was 1.38 on the season.
CHECKING THE CAREER "WATCH LISTS"
As a regular starter his entire UWM career, senior Paul Hoenecke has an opportunity to leave his stamp on the all-time record book. Here is where he stands in top offensive categories in career marks.
GAMES: 1. Doug Dekoning 222
Hoenecke: 193 (157 entering 2012)
AT BATS: 1. Dekoning 793
Hoenecke: 734 (587 entering 2012)
DOUBLES: Jesse Hart 66
Hoenecke: 54 (45 entering 2012)
RUNS BATTED IN: 1. Chad Sadowski 150
Hoenecke: 116 (92 entering 2012)
TOTAL BASES: 1. Darin Haugom 392
Hoenecke: 309 (256 entering 2012)
ANOTHER SHORT LIST
Doug Dekoning also added his name to another list in the Milwaukee record book in 2011: players to hit .300 or better in all four seasons in a Panther uniform. That list is now two entries long, as only Jesse Hart (.371/.315/.360/.346 from 2005-08) and Dekoning (.305/.338/.300/.362 from 2008-11) have achieved that milestone. Junior Jonathan Capasso (.310 freshman/.313 sophomore) has the potential to be next.
PANTHERS IN THE PROS
After being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011, Chad Pierce spent the summer with the Helena Brewers, the team's rookie affiliate in Montana. He went 2-4 in 15 games, making five starts. In 39.1 innings, Pierce recorded 33 strikeouts. Cole Kraft spent all season in Pomona, New York, with the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League. He batted .281 in 49 games despite playing through injury. He ended the season hitting safely in 10 of the final 13 games, going 10-for-19 (.526) over the last five contests. He scored 22 runs and had 45 hits (11 for extra bases) and drove in 26.
Senior Greg Blohowiak is back for his third season of putting together the baseball blog, chronicling the exploits of the team in detail once again. This year, he is joined by redshirt freshman Michael Porcaro. Find the link to "Diamond Chronicles" off the baseball page or go to:
You can also follow the baseball team on Twitter @UWM_Baseball. In addition, assistant SID Chris Zills will be updating game scores and highlights all season long on his Twitter account at @sidzills.
20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY TEAM
The Milwaukee Panthers completed their 20th season of baseball at the NCAA Division I level in 2010. To commemorate the occasion, the program selected a 20-Year Anniversary Team last season, honoring the best players to wear a Milwaukee uniform over the past two decades in a ceremony at Miller Park April 29, 2011.
The infield consisted of Chad Sadowski (1997-2000) at first base, Jesse Hart (2005-08) at second base, Matt Houk (2000-01) at shortstop and Jak Kraus (1992-96) at third base. The three outfielders to secure spots on the team were Eric Goerdt (2000-01), Mike Goetz (2005-06) and Darin Haugom (1997-2001). The catcher was John Vanden Berg (2001-02). Ben Long (2008-10) was the choice at designated hitter and Charlie Reschke (2002-05) the utility player selection.
Two starting pitchers and two relief pitchers were also honored to round out the squad. Quintin Oldenburg (1998-2002) and Ben Stanczyk (2002-04) were selected as starting pitchers and Jed Dolske (2002-06) and Matt Freisleben (1999-2002) were honored as the relievers.
The Panthers open May with four games on the road, beginning with a non-conference matchup at Iowa on May 1. Then, it's off to Chicago for a three-game series at UIC.