May 25, 2008
Today In Milwaukee Baseball
HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP
UWM (25-25) vs. UIC (33-20)
Eastwood Field, Niles, Ohio
Sun., May 25 at 11 a.m. CST
UIC leads series, 47-36
Winner receives automatic bid to NCAA Tournament
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team looks to finish quite an amazing week, as it will take on top-seeded UIC for the Horizon League Tournament Championship Sunday. The Panthers, who entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, have pulled off three upsets among four victories this week, putting themselves in position for their first league tournament crown and trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 2002 season. The title game gets underway at Eastwood Field at 11 a.m. CST.
Complete Release in PDF Format
The UIC Flames will be their opponent for the third time this week. UIC won the first match-up, 7-5, by scoring the final seven runs after UWM had jumped out to an early lead. The Panthers earned some revenge Saturday, winning 7-2 behind senior Ben McClarey's complete-game six-hitter.
The 2008 Horizon League Baseball Championship, presented by U.S. Army, concludes Sunday, May 25, at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio. Single-day tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and youth. Students from all Horizon League institutions are free with a valid student identification card. Gates will open one hour prior to the title game.
For additional Horizon League baseball information, including the championship bracket, directions to Eastwood Field, GameTracker live statistics and game recaps, check out the official web site at www.horizonleague.org. For free, live video webcasts of all games of the Horizon League Baseball Championship, log onto the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv. Note: Bracket also on page 10 of this release.
The Flames lead the all-time series 47-36, taking four of six games played between the two squads a year ago and all three in one-run fashion when they played in late March of this year. These two teams also split a twinbill in Milwaukee May 9 of this season. Home-field advantage was nowhere to be found in 2007, as UWM took two of three at Les Miller Field and UIC swept the Panthers in three games at the "Hank".
The 2008 campaign marks the 44th season of baseball at UWM. It is also the 39th season of varsity play (the program was played at the club level from 1982-1986) and the 18th in the Panthers NCAA Division I era.
RECAP OF THE WEEK SO FAR
The Panthers have gone 4-1 as the No. 5 seed, upsetting fourth-seeded Cleveland State, second-seeded Wright State and top-seeded UIC along the way. The team is batting .358 and, most impressively, has a 3.12 team ERA. Senior Jesse Hart has been a one-man wrecking crew, batting .483 (14-for-29) with 13 runs batted in. Junior Shawn Wozniak is close behind, batting .458 (11-for-24) and knocking on seven. Senior Troy Vesling (.429) gives UWM three starters over the .400 mark.
GAME 1: Freshman Cole Kraft drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the fourteenth inning and sophomore Tim Patzman plated two insurance runs with a double to give UWM a 10-7 victory over Cleveland State in the opening game Wednesday afternoon. The Panthers (22-34) opened up a 5-0 lead but needed comeback in the ninth to send it to extra innings against the Vikings (21-30) in what ended as the longest game (14 innings) in the history of the program.
GAME 2: Senior Jesse Hart had four hits, scored five times and drove in a career-high and tournament league-record seven runs to pace the offense as UWM handed Wright State a 20-3 upset in the second round of the Horizon League Tournament Thursday. The Panthers (23-34), the fifth seed in the tournament will move on to the semifinals after tying their season-high with 20 runs and collecting 20 hits off six different pitchers for the Raiders (29-22), the second-seed in the event.
GAME 3: Milwaukee jumped out to a 5-0 lead in search of its third-straight upset at the Horizon League Tournament, only to see top-seeded UIC score the final seven runs of the game and hand UWM a stunning 7-5 defeat Friday night. The Flames (33-19) scored two unearned runs on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning for the final difference against the Panthers (23-35), who had built that five-run cushion in the sixth before UIC started its rally.
GAME 4: UWM scored five runs unanswered runs to break open a 3-3 deadlock and defeat Valparaiso, 8-3, in an elimination game Saturday. The Panthers (24-35) ended the Cinderella run of the Crusaders (21-35), who entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed.
GAME 5: Senior Ben McClarey's complete-game effort lifted UWM to a 7-2 victory over top-seeded UIC Saturday. McClarey came through with the best start of his UWM career, helping the team to its third upset win in five tournament games this week. The Panthers (25-35) live to see another day against the Flames (33-20), as the two teams will now play Sunday at 11 a.m. CST for the right to advance to the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
UWM LEAGUE TOURNAMENT HISTORY
The Panthers have had great success in the Horizon League Tournament, winning league titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002. In 1999, UWM bounced back from a game one loss to win four-straight games 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 of the three crowns came as a No. 2 seed, while the last two were as the No. 1. The Panthers are the No. 5 seed this year.
Last season, Milwaukee lost an extra-inning heartbreaker to Wright State, falling a game short of playing for the tournament championship after posting two victories in the event.
OFFENSE HEATING UP HEADING INTO TOURNAMENT
Milwaukee will continue to look to its offense to help the cause Sunday, as the team batting average is now up to .310 and numerous regulars carry batting averages above or near the .300 mark. The team will bring a 13-game streak of recording 10 or more hits into play Sunday, averaging close to 14 hits a contest in that stretch. The Panthers are hitting .337 as a team since the start of May and are averaging nearly eight runs a game. Junior Shawn Wozniak has led the way this month, batting .427 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in. Senior Jesse Hart (.400, 27 RBI in 17 games), junior Ben Long (.355), freshman Doug Dekoning (.316), junior Andy Gerhartz (.308) and senior Nick Wichser (.306) have all batted over .300 this month. On the mound, juniors Brad Lusti and Andy Hetebrueg have pitched very well this month. Lusti is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts, throwing 35.2 innings and striking out 24. Hetebrueg is 3-0 in four starts, adding a 3.76 ERA and 17 K's in 26.1 innings of work.
UWM'S NEW HIT KING
With a single up the middle in the eighth inning of game two versus Butler May 10, senior Jesse Hart took his place in program history by collecting career hit No. 246 to break the former mark of 245 held by Darin Haugom (1997-2001). Hart has been nothing but steady over the course of his career, collecting 33 hits as a freshman, 74 as a sophomore, 71 as a junior and 88 - and counting - as a senior this spring. He was honored as Horizon League Player of the Week for his efforts May 12.
DOFFEK OFFICIALLY ON TOP AFTER TWO YEARS
Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek established a baseball program record last year for wins by a first-year coach with 25 victories, breaking the former mark of 21. He made it 2-for-2 this year, as victory No. 20 on the season May 10 gave him 45 is his two seasons at the helm, topping the old mark of 44 set by former skipper Jerry Augustine, with 21 in 1995 and 23 in 1996.
DOUBLE THE FUN
Hitting doubles has been a hallmark of the UWM offense, as the team has broken the season record in two-baggers five times in the past eight seasons. This year is no different, as they reset the standard once again with its current league-leading total of 152, surpassing the old record of 143 in 2006. Senior Jesse Hart has been the biggest contributor, leading the team with 27 entering play Sunday. With a double in the fourth inning against Northwestern April 30, he also broke the career record for two-baggers with No. 59. That eclipsed the former mark of 58, held by Ross McCoy (2004-07) and he has now pushed that total to 65 entering play Sunday. As of this week's NCAA statistical release, Milwaukee ranked ninth as a team in doubles per game and fifth in overall doubles. Hart ranked tied for third in the NCAA in total doubles and is ninth in the NCAA in doubles per game. In addition to that, UWM has the top three accumulators of doubles in the Horizon League: Hart is first with 27, junior Shawn Wozniak is second with 26 and senior Nick Wichser is third with 20.
More doubles notes:
--UWM has three players with 20 or more doubles in the same season for the first time in school history.
--Hart (27) and Wozniak (26) have combined for more doubles than any other pair of teammates at the NCAA D-I level. One or the other will hold the school record for doubles at the end of the season.
--Hart already holds the UWM record for career doubles at 65, breaking the UWM mark of 59. Up next would be the 21-year old Horizon League record for two-baggers, currently held by Adam Casillas of Oral Roberts (1984-87) at 66.
HART IN THE 200 CLUB; WICHSER JOINS TOO
Senior Jesse Hart joined a select group with his base hit against NIU April 2: players to collect 200 or more hits in a Panther career. Hart sat at 199 in his illustrious career heading into the game at Northern Illinois before lacing a double in his first at-bat. Senior Nick Wichser then joined the club in his first at bat Wednesday against Cleveland State after sitting at 199 coming in. Darin Haugom (245), Ross McCoy (220) and Charlie Reschke (213) are the only other three to reach the 200-plus level.
AN ACE UP THEIR SLEEVE
Junior Andy Hetebrueg has been heating up as the season has progressed and is now 6-6 overall after recording wins in five of his last seven appearances. He has five of his last six starts, beating Wright State (8.0 IP, one ER, 6 K) May 22, UIC (two earned runs in 8.0 IP) May 9, Valparaiso (6 K's in 6.2 IP) May 3, Wright State April 25 and Cleveland State (three earned runs in 8.0 IP, career-high 7 K's) April 19.
THIS "WOZ" GOOD; VERY GOOD
Junior Shawn Wozniak continues his impressive breakout junior campaign, as he has set new career-highs in runs (42), at bats (218), doubles (26), home runs (6) and runs batted in (51) while batting a team-leading .367. He also has a 16-game hitting streak on his resume this year. In 50 games last year, Wozniak recorded 33 hits in 133 at bats (.248), scored 26 runs, hit four home runs and drove in 22.
FRESHMEN LEARNING CURVE
Freshman Doug Dekoning opened the season as one of the starting outfielders for the Panthers and has gone on to appear in 51 games, making 42 starts. After a slow start which saw him batting .173 at the end of March, the Dick Falk Award winner (high school player of the year in the state of Wisconsin) has raised his batting average to its current .307.
HURTS SO GOOD
For a pair of Panther players, getting on base by any means can be a little painful at times. Junior Andy Gerhartz and sophomore Shaun Wegner lead the team in getting hit by a pitch this season, with both ranking in the top four in the league heading into play this week. Gerhartz has been plunked a league-leading 23 times and Wegner is now tied for fourth at 14. For good measure, senior Nick Wichser ranks sixth in the league with 13. For the record, the UWM season mark is 26 by Clay Schwartz in 1997.
Senior Troy Vesling and sophomore Shaun Wegner have made the most of additional playing time this season, as each has already set career-highs in numerous categories. Vesling has established career marks in at bats with 205 (was 99), runs with 29 (14), hits with 55 (25) and has already gone well past his RBI-total from last season (18) sitting at 31 after play this weekend. After batting .277 as a freshman, Wegner is currently at .333 and has blown by last season's totals of 18 runs (he currently has 35), 26 hits (has 49), and 13 RBI (has 22). In addition, he has picked four runners off base and thrown out 18 would-be base stealers.
THE BEAT GOES ON NO MORE...
Senior Nick Wichser saw his hitting streak end at 24 games in the first contest of a doubleheader at Cleveland State April 19. The streak will go down as the third-longest in program history, trailing only 32 and 27-game hitting streaks by Mike Goetz in 2006. Wichser ended the stretch with 16 multi-hit efforts in those 24 games, going 44 for 92 (.478) while scoring 28 runs and driving in 25 more.
HART ON SEASON-LONG MISSION
Senior Jesse Hart is looking to put his name in the UWM record books in numerous spots over the course of his final season, as he has established new career marks for hits, at bats and doubles this season. In addition to chasing career records in several categories, he will also look to become the first-ever Panther to bat over .300 in each of his four seasons in a Milwaukee uniform. Charlie Reschke (2002-05) was the last senior in line to give it a shot, but batted .287 his final season. Hart, a career .342 hitter, batted an impressive .371 in 35 games as a freshman in 2005, .315 in 55 games as a sophomore and .360 as a junior a year ago.
CAREER RECORDS CHASE
1. 775, Jesse Hart 1. 266, Jesse Hart
2. 737, Ross McCoy (2004-07) 2. 245, Darin Haugom (1997-2001)
3. 692, Darin Haugom (1997-2001) 3. 220, Ross McCoy (2004-07)
4. 683, Charlie Reschke (2002-05) 4. 213, Charlie Reschke (2002-05)
5. 610, Chad Sadowski (1997-2000) 5. 197, Chad Sadowski (1997-2000)
READY FOR BUS RIDES AND MOTEL STOPS...
The Panthers were busier than ever while waiting for the snow to melt and Henry Aaron Field to be ready for them to play in Milwaukee. While that happened, they played 30-straight road games to open 2008, the most-ever to start a season in their NCAA Division I history. The previous record of 26 occurred in 2001.
The Panthers traveled more than 12,500 miles over the course of the first seven weeks of the season via plane or bus, visiting six different states (Florida, California, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana), including two trips to Indiana and four separate road trips to Illinois.
Milwaukee was picked to take second in the Horizon League season preview put out by www.rivals.com, one spot ahead of UIC and behind league favorite Wright State. Three players made its Preseason All-Conference Team: seniors Jesse Hart (at 2B) and Nick Wichser (OF) and junior Josh Groves (3B). UWM was the only team to have three players on the list.
The preseason issue of Baseball America featured its 2008 College Preview as well. The Panthers were slotted for third in its version, behind UIC and, once again, WSU as the top pick. Hart and Groves appeared on the Preseason All-Conference Team.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
The Panthers will look to replace four team members (three position players and one pitcher) that all earned Second Team All-Horizon League honors a year ago. The trio of position players (Ross McCoy, Rob Brockel, Grant Berkovitz) accounted for 618 at-bats and a composite .306 batting average, 110 runs scored and 102 runs batted in. The pitcher (Robert Michalkiewicz) led the squad in earned run average, wins, games started, innings pitched, shutouts and complete games and was second in strikeouts.
The Panthers were picked third in the 2008 Horizon League preseason baseball poll. They will look to improve on their third place finish from a year ago, when they had their season come to a close in extra innings just one game away from the league tournament championship.
Wright State was the top pick to win the league in the vote of Horizon League head coaches. The Raiders went 36-22 last year, falling in the league tournament championship to UIC. They received 34 points and four of the seven first-place votes. UIC took a close second despite having won its sixth-straight regular season title in 2007 and third tournament crown in that span as well, advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
1. Wright State (4) - 34 points
2. UIC (3) - 32 points
3. Milwaukee - 25 points
4. Butler - 17 points
5. Youngstown State - 14 points
6. Cleveland State - 13 points
7. Valparaiso - 12 points
If the Panthers secure the Horizon League Tournament Championship, they will be heading to NCAA Regionals starting May 30, 2008.