UWM Baseball Heads To Chicago For Start Of Postseason
Head coach Scott Doffek

Head coach Scott Doffek

May 22, 2012

 Game 52 | Milwaukee (26-25) vs. Youngstown State (9-42)
2012 Horizon League Tournament

 Date  May 23 (4 p.m.)
 Location  Chicago, Ill. | Les Miller Field
 GameTracker  GT link
 Watch on HLN  Horizon League Network link

With the regular season in the books, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team heads to Chicago this week for the 2012 Horizon League Tournament. Action gets underway at Les Miller Field Wednesday, with the third-seeded Panthers playing their first game at 4 p.m. against Youngstown State University that afternoon.

UWM Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

UWM went 5-1 against YSU in 2012, dropping the third game of the series in extra innings on the road and sweeping the three-game set in Milwaukee. Senior Paul Hoenecke led the offense against the Penguins this season, batting .440 (11-for-25) with seven RBI. Junior Cale Tassi went 2-0 in his starts against them, posting a 0.00 ERA in 14.1 innings. As a team, the staff posted a 1.46 ERA in the series, allowing nine earned runs in 55.2 innings.

The 2012 Horizon League Baseball Championship is scheduled for Wednesday through Sunday, May 23-27, at Les Miller Field in Chicago, Ill., and is hosted by UIC. Ticket prices include the following options: all-tournament passes ($25) and day passes ($10). Students from Horizon League institutions will be admitted free with student ID.

For additional Horizon League baseball information, including the championship bracket, GameTracker live statistics and game recaps, go to www.horizonleague.com. For free, live video webcasts of every contest from the Horizon League Baseball Championship (with UIC's Justin Weiner and SID's from league schools on the call), log on to the Horizon League Network (Note: Complete bracket also on page 10 of this release). UWM assistant SID Chris Zills will also be running an interactive live blog on the Milwaukee website each day and will post updates on Twitter (@sidzills).

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.

The Panthers have had great success in the Horizon League Tournament, winning league titles in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2010. They went 1-2 in 2011, falling in a 1-0 heartbreaker to UIC in an elimination contest. The team went 4-1 to win it all in 2010, topping Wright State twice in the championship and Valparaiso twice on the road to the title to head to the NCAA Tournament.

In 1999, UWM bounced back from a game-one loss to win four-straight contests and advance to the NCAA Regional. For the back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002, Milwaukee went a perfect 4-0 in the tournament each season. The first and last of the four crowns came as a No. 2 seed, while the middle pair were as the No. 1.

The Panthers will enter play as the No. 3 seed this year. A look back over the past three seasons shows the seniors on UWM's 2011 roster will have as much league tournament experience as any other team. Milwaukee has played in 12 league tournament games from 2009-11, tied with Wright State and Valparaiso. UIC is next with 11 league postseason games in that span.

The Panthers went 3-1 last week, making it nine wins in their final 10 games of the regular season and a three-game sweep of Wright State to also mark eight league victories in a row. The offense batted .346, led by senior Paul Hoenecke at .667 (10-for-15). Junior Will Fadness (.444) and sophomore Sam Koenig (.385) also had strong showings.

The Panthers closed the regular season as the hottest team in the Horizon League, having won nine of their last 10 games, including a sweep of Wright State who had entered the least weekend of the season in first place. After a loss to Iowa May 1, UWM has reeled off eight straight league wins and is batting .359 as a team in May. The offense has averaged 8.5 runs and close to 13 hits per game in that stretch, while the pitching has posted a 3.84 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 98.1 innings.

Speaking of May, no player in the league has been hotter than senior Paul Hoenecke, who carries an 11-game hitting streak into play this week. Since May 1, all he has done is collect 24 hits in 44 at bats - a .545 average - with 16 runs scored and 14 runs batted in. His on-base percentage in the streak is .531 and he is slugging .773, posting seven multi-hit games, including a pair of four-hit outings. The offensive spree has raised his season batting average 62 points, from .255 to .317. With his second official at bat of the tournament, he will also break the UWM all-time career at bats record of 793.

Freshman Luke Meeteer has put together a remarkable streak of his own and will carry a 17-game hitting streak into play this week. Not only is the streak the longest of any UWM player this season, it is also the longest active streak in the league (YSU's Jeremy Banks is next at 14 games). It also marks the longest for a Panther since Nick Wichser put together a 24-game stretch in 2008 and the longest ever for a freshman. In the 17 games, he has gone 28-for-67, with 17 runs scored and a .480 on-base percentage.

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 25 games since, he has batted .412 (42-for-102), with 25 runs scored, 14 extra-base hits, 20 runs batted in and a .478 OBP.

With the completion of the regular season, a look at the leaders in the Horizon League shows a handful of UWM players at the top. Junior Will Fadness paces the conference with 21 doubles, with senior Paul Hoenecke in second with 17 two-baggers. Freshman Luke Meeteer is in a three-way tie for the league lead with 15 stolen bases, while senior Phil Striggow is second in on-base percentage (.434) and fourth in slugging (.527). On the mound, seniors Kaleb Engelke (first with 30) and Greg Blohowiak (third with 28) rank highly in appearances.

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, 67-65. In ERA, Tassi is second (2.79), with Semmelhack sixth (3.47). Tassi is fifth in innings pitched (90.1), with Semmelhack seventh (83.0). Lastly, the pair is also among the elite in opponent batting average, with Tassi third (.241) and Semmelhack fifth (.256).

After setting the program record for lowest ERA in 2011 at 4.16, the pitching has once again been a strong part of the UWM arsenal this season. In fact, the team ERA of 3.77 is the lowest through 51 games since Scott Doffek took over in 2007. The numbers from previous seasons prove this year's pitchers have continued on their tremendous pace (through 51 games). 2011: 4.27 ERA, 2010: 5.45, 2009: 5.92, 2008: 6.24, 2007: 5.61.

So far in 2012, the Panthers are second in the Horizon League in ERA with that 3.77 mark, trailing Valparaiso (3.42) by just a small margin. In league-only games, it was even closer, with Valpo finishing first at 2.98 with UWM right behind at 3.13.

The Panthers honored the seniors on the 2012 roster prior to May 19th'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.

The Milwaukee offense collected 20 or more hits against Butler May 12 and 13th. Just how rare is that in back-to-back contests? Very. The last time UWM had 20 or more hits in two straight outings was May 4 of 2004. And that was the only other time it has happened since the start of the 2000 campaign.

Sometimes, it's all about the timing. Senior Kaleb Engelke recorded the victory against Wright State May 17 and he did it with just a single pitch. Engelke was called on with two runners on base in the top of the eighth inning in a 5-5 game. With his first pitch, he induced a ground ball to end the threat. UWM then scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame and junior Jake Long pitched the ninth for the save. One pitch, that was all.

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.

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): 241 (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 listed 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 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 as play begins in the postseason.
GAMES: 1. Doug Dekoning 222
Hoenecke: 208 (157 entering 2012)
AT BATS: 1. Dekoning 793
Hoenecke: 792 (587 entering 2012)
DOUBLES: Jesse Hart 66
Hoenecke: 62 (45 entering 2012)
RUNS BATTED IN: 1. Chad Sadowski 150
Hoenecke: 130 (92 entering 2012)
TOTAL BASES: 1. Darin Haugom 392
Hoenecke: 347 (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: uwmathletics5.blogspot.com.

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.

If the Panthers secure the Horizon League Tournament Championship, they will be heading to NCAA Regionals June 1-3, 2012.



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