Milwaukee Baseball Closes Out Regular Season At Home
Sophomore Sam Koenig

Sophomore Sam Koenig

May 14, 2012

 Game 48 | Milwaukee (23-24) vs. Northern Illinois (14-37)
 Date  May 15 (4 p.m.)
 Location  Milwaukee, Wis. | Henry Aaron Field
 GameTracker  GT link
 Live Audio  Audio link

 Games 49-51 | Milwaukee (23-24, 15-11) vs. Wright State (36-16, 20-7)
 Date  May 17 (4 pm - TWC Sports 32) | May 18 (2 pm) | May 19 (12 pm)
 Location  Milwaukee, Wis. | Henry Aaron Field
 GameTracker  Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Live Audio  All 3 games

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team concludes the 2012 regular season schedule with four games at home, beginning with a Tuesday matchup against Northern Illinois University. The schedule then wraps up with a three-game series hosting Wright State University, with game one set to get underway Thursday. Both Tuesday and Thursday will have a first pitch of 4 p.m. at Henry Aaron Field.

UWM Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

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. With the league tournament set for next week, game two has a first pitch of 2 p.m. Friday and the series wraps up Saturday with a 12 p.m. start. Each contest will have live stats available via GameTracker on the UWM website and all four will have a live audio stream, with Kevin Conway and Tim Prahl on the call. Lastly, Thursday will also be a Time Warner Cable Sports 32 production with Scott Warras and Matt Menzl on the broadcast.

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.

Northern Illinois is 14-37 on the season after dropping seven of its past eight games. Alex Jones leads the offense with a .318 average, with Jordan Huffman (.294) second and Troy White (.290) third. White paces NIU with three home runs and 36 RBI.

The Raiders enter play this week at 36-16 and 20-7 in Horizon League play after sweeping Youngstown State last weekend. The team has a wealth of experienced starters returning, including 2011 Horizon League Player of the Year Jake Hibberd, who is batting .341 with eight home runs and 43 runs batted in. Ryan Ashe leads the Raiders with a .382 average and has hit two home runs and driven in 45. The team leads the league with its .314 average and five regulars are above that mark.

Milwaukee now trails NIU in the all-time series, 23-22, after splitting a pair of games earlier this season. The Huskies have won five of the past seven meetings. The series against Wright State is also close; battling to a 42-39 lead after the Raiders took two out of three in Dayton earlier in 2012.

The Panthers will honor the seniors on the 2012 roster prior to Saturday's game against Wright State. Congratulations to: #0 Greg Blohowiak, #4 Kaleb Engelke, #8 Paul Hoenecke, #9 Mark Strey, #15 Jim Lundstrom, #17 Kyle Spurley and #32 Phil Striggow.

With just three games left on the schedule for all six teams in league play, a look at the Horizon League standings shows a few things have already been decided. Wright State (20-7) and Valparaiso (19-8) will be the top two seeds and get the first-round byes that go with it, but the league champ will still be sorted out this weekend. The Panthers (15-11) have the No. 3 seed wrapped up. UIC (10-16), Butler (9-18) and Youngstown State (7-20) will fill in spots four through six. At this point, UWM will play in the 4 p.m. game May 23 (against the #6 seed; YSU or Butler) at the 2012 Horizon League Baseball Championship, which is being hosted by UIC and held in Chicago, Ill. The games will go until Sunday to determine a winner, with the champion representing the Horizon League in the NCAA Tournament.

The Panthers went 4-0 last week, including a three-game sweep of Butler on the weekend to run its winning streak to a season-best six games. The offense was pounding the ball, finishing the week with a .380 average that included six players over the .400 mark. Senior Paul Hoenecke led the way at .588 (10-for-17), earning Horizon League Batter of the Week honors with nine runs scored and eight RBI's. He had a big home run in the game against Northwestern at Miller Park, scoring three runs and driving in the other three in a 6-4 win. Junior Will Fadness (.556), sophomore Ryan Solberg (.462), junior Jonathan Capasso (.438), senior Jim Lundstrom (.429) and junior Nick Lingvay (.429) all had solid performances as well. On the mound, junior Eric Semmelhack led the staff with 7.0 shutout frames, earning himself league pitcher of the week accolades with eight strikeouts and just three hits allowed.

The Milwaukee offense collected 20 or more hits against Butler in both games on Saturday and Sunday. Just how rare is that in back-to-back contests? Very. The last time UWM had 20 or more hits in two straught outings was May 4 of 2004. And that was the only other time it has happened since the start of the 2000 campaign.

Through a marketing agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Panthers have played at Miller Park every season since 2002. UWM has gone 14-8 in games at the major league park after a 6-4 victory over Northwestern May 9.

The UWM offense as a whole was improved in April, batting .312 in the month and scoring 118 runs in 17 games. Heading the list was sophomore Sam Koenig and freshman Michael Porcaro. Koenig was dominant, batting .475 (28-for-59) in 14 games, scoring 13 runs and driving in 12. In fact, all but one of his extra-base hits on the season was recorded in April. Porcaro hit at a .400 clip (18-for-45); scoring nine runs and driving in 10 in the 15 games he appeared.

Sophomore Sam Koenig has had a tale of two seasons so far in 2012. On March 31, his batting average was standing at .149 through the first 22 games with just one extra-base hit and four RBI. In the 21 games since, all he has done is bat a .416 (37-for-89), with 21 runs scored, 11 extra-base hits, 16 runs batted in and a .480 OBP.

A pair of Milwaukee weekend starters are making a strong case to be the best the Horizon League has to offer. Juniors Eric Semmelhack and Cale Tassi are having strong campaigns and a look through the current league leaders certainly backs that up. The duo is one-two in the league in strikeouts, with Semmelhack leading, 66-65. In ERA, Tassi is second (2.83), with Semmelhack fourth (3.50). Tassi is fourth in innings pitched (86.0), with Semmelhack seventh (79.2). Lastly, the pair is also among the elite in opponent batting average, with Tassi third (.238) and Semmelhack fifth (.251).

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 3.80 is the lowest through 47 games since Scott Doffek took over in 2007. The numbers from previous seasons prove this year's pitchers are on a tremendous pace (through 47 games). 2011: 4.07 ERA, 2010: 5.27, 2009: 6.10, 2008: 6.50, 2007: 5.70.

So far in 2012, the Panthers are second in the Horizon League in ERA with that 3.80 mark, trailing Valparaiso (3.50) by just a small margin. In league-only games, it's even closer, with Valpo first at 3.08 and UWM right behind at 3.11.

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.

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.

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. Hoenecke (2009-12): 231 (176 entering 2012)
6. Ross McCoy (2004-07): 220
7. Charlie Reschke (2002-05): 213
8. Nick Wichser (2004-08): 206

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.

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).

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 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 came out with its Horizon League preview last month and selected junior Jonathan Capasso and sophomore Tell Taylor to its Preseason All-Conference Team.

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.

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

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.

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: 204 (157 entering 2012)
AT BATS: 1. Dekoning 793
Hoenecke: 777 (587 entering 2012)
DOUBLES: Jesse Hart 66
Hoenecke: 60 (45 entering 2012)
RUNS BATTED IN: 1. Chad Sadowski 150
Hoenecke: 127 (92 entering 2012)
TOTAL BASES: 1. Darin Haugom 392
Hoenecke: 335 (256 entering 2012)

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.

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.

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 up play in the 2012 Horizon League Tournament on May 23. As the No. 3 seed, they know they will play the 4 p.m. game that day against an opponent yet to be determined.



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