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D1 Preview

A year removed from a trip to the Regional tournament, the D1 Wisconsin Club Baseball team has rebuilt itself into a contender poised to make some noise in the playoffs.

“I fully expect a conference championship and a Regional berth. I personally don’t think this team should be happy with anything less than a World Series run,” said head coach Jeff Block. “The talent is there but we need to continue to put in the work.”

The Badgers graduated five seniors who all played a key role on last year’s team. Rory Menzer, Parker Sear, Sean Blythe and Chris Hase were all starters on last year’s club. They also lost starting pitcher Logan August.

However they have a strong returning rotation. Sophomore Nick Newburg, who finished fifth in the nation in ERA last year with a stellar 0.88 mark, will be back on the bump.

Sophomore Austin Mullins, who was named to the Great Lakes All-Region Second Team as a relief pitcher, returns as well. Junior Griffin Lynch, who has been one of the team’s top starters the past two seasons, will also hurl for the Badgers this spring.

Additionally, Wisconsin has reloaded on the hill, adding junior Mike Hansen, a junior-college transfer and junior Alex Noel, a transfer from Division 1 South Dakota State. Both will compete for starting spots in the rotation according to Block.

“The addition of Hansen and Noel is going to be huge for our pitching staff and I think both of them can contribute at a high level right away,” Newburg said.

Sophomores Evan Polce and Ben Horman could also figure in the starting rotation. Both are hard-throwing right-handers who have shown devastating stuff. The Badgers pitching staff will be deep this spring, an asset that is needed if they want to bring home the hardware.

“I think it is very important that our middle relievers, who might not see a ton of work during the regular season, realize their importance come playoff time when we have the possibility of playing five 9-inning games in the matter of three days,” Block said. “It’s usually those guys that make the difference between a trip to the Regionals and a trip to the World Series.”

Offensively, the Badgers lost several big bats and will need a new core to step up at the plate. Freshman Tyler Safgren, who hails from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, could be one of those guys. A powerful right-handed hitter who catches and plays first, Safgren said he hopes to be a “consistent player the team can rely on” this season.

Junior Aaron Peterson, another powerful right-handed bat, should also help to fill the holes left by the three and four hitters who graduated. Peterson, who plays third, has high expectations for the 2016 campaign.

“I think we have a group of guys that is largely intact from last year and gained a lot of experience,” Peterson said. “Everyone knows what it takes to win now.”

Sophomore third basemen Colten DeMorett, a transfer student who played baseball at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, should help the Badgers offensively as well. He earned three hits in the series against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall, where the Badgers took two out of three games.

Newburg also believes that sophomore outfielder Ed Olson will improve on his performance from last year and play an important role in the middle of the lineup. Sophomore second basemen Brian Mariska was named to the Great Lakes All-Region Second Team and will look to build on his strong 2015 campaign.

Despite the talent in the lineup, the Badgers will have to be more consistent at the plate, according to Newburg.

“A lot of the games we lost [last year] were one-run games where one hit here or there would’ve won us the game,” Newburg said.

Block also recognizes the inconsistency as an issue for Wisconsin, but said this can be made up with the brand of small ball that the Badgers work hard on perfecting all off-season.

“This fall showed us that we could put up some serious numbers, but also that we weren’t immune to going cold like we did in the Eau Claire series,” Block said. “If the team buys into that [small ball] philosophy and executes when it counts, then this team should be above average offensively.”

Wisconsin kicks off their season in just four short weeks in sunny Tampa, Florida. Immediately following the week of Spring Training, the Badgers will begin the regular season in pursuit of a conference championship.

“If we all can play up to our abilities each weekend, it will be a fun season,” Peterson said.

DI wins series on walk off in the 11th; DII rained out.

UW-Eau Claire 6, UW DI 3

Three errors for the host Badgers put them behind the eight-ball in their loss to the Blugolds.

Wisconsin was able to rally to load the bases with two-outs in the sixth inning when senior Jalen Knuteson drove in the Badgers final two runs of the game, but the bats were otherwise limited throughout the ball game.

UW DI 7, UW-Eau Claire 0

The Blugolds had no answer for the Badgers’ strong pitching performance from Mike Hansen. Eau Claire only mustered two hits against Hansen who got the complete game shut out.

Offensively, Wisconsin was led by Colten DeMorett’s 2-for-4 day at the plate. The sophomore also scored two runs in the game.

UW DI 3, UW-Eau Claire 2 (F11)

The Badgers got valuable contributions from the 6-7-8 spots in the lineup on throughout Sunday’s rubber match of the series with the Blugolds. Brian Mariska’s single down the left field line plated Taylor Tomczak to win the game in eleven innings.

On the mound for Wisconsin, junior Griffin Lynch worked around two errors by striking out 11 batters and walking just one batter. Alex Noel got the win for the Badgers following four innings of hitless relief.

Wisconsin will enter the off-season a half game out of first place in the conference at 2-1.

DII was rained out. Its series with Augustana will be made up following Spring Break.

 

Both teams playing this weekend

DI will be in action against UW-EC on Friday night at 7:00 PM at Ahuska Park. Saturday at Mansfield Park off of S. Gammon Rd, DI will host a doubleheader starting at 11:00 AM.

DII will travel to Rock Island to play a conference series against Augustana this weekend.

 

DII Sweeps Bradley

UW DII 8, Bradley 6

The Badgers fell behind in the first inning, but had more consistent offense than Bradley could handle on Saturday night at Ahuska Park in Monona.

Bradley was able to get the potential tying run to the plate after a single in the seventh made the score 8-6. Alex Kueck came in to get the final out and close the door and record the save.

UW DII 12, Bradley 2

For whatever reason the Badgers struggled to muster much offense early against Bradley in Sunday morning’s double header falling behind in the first inning for the second consecutive game. Wisconsin would take the lead with a three-run fourth inning and never look back.

The three-run fourth inning was highlighted by freshman Joe Fahning’s 2 RBI single. Fahning would come around to eventually score the winning run.

In the fifth inning, Tony DeBartolo delivered a bases clearing double to contribute three of the five runs scored in the inning. The Badgers then  were able to walk of Bradley in the sixth inning by scoring four more runs to activate the ten-run rule.

Alec Nelson and Hunter Bailey combined to only allow one hit.

UW DII 17, Bradley 6

Once again, the Badgers fell behind in the first inning. Once again, Wisconsin clawed its way back and won via the ten-run rule.

Sophomore Tony DeBartolo smoked a 3-run home run to give the Badgers a 7-6 lead in the second inning that they would not give up.

Every starter would score at least one run for the Badgers and Nick Clement and McCormick Sinclair provided three innings of shut out baseball from the bullpen.

DII will travel to Rock Island to play a conference series against Augustana this weekend.

DI will be in action against UW-EC on Friday night at 7:00 PM at Ahuska Park. Saturday at Mansfield Park off of S. Gammon Rd, DI will host a doubleheader starting at 11:00 AM.

Having a significant amount of fans at our Fall Tournament as well as the DII series last weekend is something that we truly appreciated. The more the merrier.

Our goal in the Fall and Spring is to average at least 32 fans per game. Something that may seem small, but for a Club organization it’s worth paying attention to.

On Wisconsin!

Tournament Results

The Club Baseball program split itself into three teams and hosted three other teams to participate in its annual round robin tournament. The Badgers three teams went 5-1 against UW – Milwaukee, UW – Whitewater, and Marquette.

UW-Whitewater (Club) 6, University of Wisconsin – DI 4

In the first competition of the fall, DI’s rust showed and it was defeated by the Warhawks after giving up four runs in the first two innings. The Badgers had several hard hit balls that did not result in enough runs scored.

University of Wisconsin – DII 4, Marquette 1 

The DII team also suffered from a slow start, but was able to break through against the Golden Eagles in the fifth inning when senior Sam Calmes scoredto tie the game 1-1 on an Alex Kueck RBI single. The Badgers scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth before Kueck entered the game in the seventh and recorded the save.

UW – DII 3, UW-Whitewater (Club) 2

After the Warhawks left-handed pitcher decided to go into the wind up in the bottom of the seventh inning, junior Jeremy Dixon had a feeling that he had been neglected. The next pitch the pitcher wound up again and Dixon took advantage stealing home and with it, the victory.

James Oelke gave up the only Whitewater runs in the first inning. Oelke followed that with three scoreless innings before handing the ball to Hunter Bailey and Drew Rust who also kept the Warhawks from scoring.

UW – DI 12, UW-Milwaukee (Club) 0

Freshman starting pitcher Mike Hansen lost his no-hitter for DI in the fifth and final inning when he gave up a double. The freshman retired the first 13 Panthers he faced in his first Club Baseball appearance.

Hansen induced several ground balls, including five to sophomore second baseman, Brian Mariska. The Panthers only had 16 batters come to the plate and Mariska finished the day with five assists and two put-outs.

UW – DI 13, Marquette 2

Up and down the lineup the Badgers had players with multiple hits. The Badgers were able to score in each of the four innings and DI won their second game of the weekend by the run-rule.

Each of the teams that were invited were NCBA DI teams. Once the Badgers got rolling, they showed why both of the teams in the program could be playing deep into the Spring Semester’s exam week.

October Baseball in Madison

This weekend the Club Baseball teams will be playing in and around Madison. The following schedule includes locations of the games and times that games will start. We look forward to seeing people there.

Friday, UW DI vs. UW-Whitewater — 5:00 PM at Mansfield Park in Madison (201 S Gammon Rd.)
Saturday, UW DII vs. Marquette — 11:00 AM at Norse Park in Stoughton
Saturday, UW DII vs UW-Whitewater — 1:30 PM at Ahuska Park in Monona
Saturday, UW DI vs UW-Milwaukee — 6:30 PM at Ahuska Park in Monona
Sunday, UW DI vs. Marquette — 11:00 AM at Ahuska Park in Monona
Sunday, UW DII vs. UW-Milwaukee — 11:00 AM at Norse Park in Stoughton.
On Wisconsin!
Follow us on Twitter for more updates.
@ClubBaseballUW

Try-Outs Today and Tomorrow

We will have try-outs today at 4:00 and at 6:00, as well as tomorrow evening at 5:00.

To sign up, follow this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1E9CKMgX4vsRn4HD99p_KyDMQeOHBpBtwRLfn5yfI3zg/edit#gid=0

We will leave from the parking lot in front of the business mall at the corner of West Washington Ave and Regent St. As it says in the above link, we will be leaving at 3:45 for Ahuska Park in Monona.

Make sure you to follow the instructions in the Become a Member tab above.

Contact jknuteson@wisc.edu with any questions.

New Season Beginning

Please make sure you check our ‘Become a Member’ tab in the toolbar for generic information regarding what it takes to play for our team. If you or anyone you know is interested in continuing playing baseball at the collegiate level, please refer them here.

More specific information — including important dates — can be found below. Over the next week we will have four informational sessions for potential players.

Keep on!

If you would like some more information, these events will be helpful for you:
September 3 — Rec Sports hosts an event where students have a chance to find out what sports clubs exist and whether or not they are interested. This event is at the UW Natatorium from 5:00PM to 7:00PM.
September 8 — Rec Sports will be hosting another event similar to the event on September 3. This event will be at the SERF from 5:00PM to 7:00PM.
September 8 — The Student Org Fair will be held at the Kohl Center from 5:00PM to 8:00PM.
September 9 — The second Student Org Fair will be held at the Kohl Center from 5:00PM to 8:00PM.
If you know that you would like to try out, come sign up:
September 9 — Engineering Hall Rm 1213 from 8:00PM to 9:00PM.
We will go over more official details and get new players signed up for try-outs. Bring your lap tops.
September 10 — Memorial Union (RIP) from 8:00PM to 9:00PM.
Another opportunity to get signed up for try-outs. Bring your lap tops.
September 13th is the first week that we will be evaluating baseball talent, making cuts, and playing baseball.

 

Volleyball Fundraiser Approaching

People consistently ask us how they can help our program maintain our level of excellence. We have several fundraisers throughout the calendar year and our Volleyball Tournament is quickly approaching: August 15th to be exact.

Time is running out to play in the tournament, but Lucky’s Bar & Grille in Waunakee still promises to host an entertaining event worth attending. See our Facebook event for more details.

If you’re a student and you’re concerned that you have to move into your apartment on August 15th, but still would love to play Volleyball and contribute to our program, we will be having another tournament on August 29th at Coliseum Bar in Madison.

Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page to remain updated about the various ways that you can get involved!

Thank you and On Wisconsin!

Nomadic Dedication: Honing a Craft Without a Permanent Home

At a school with no baseball facilities on campus, it is no easy task for the club team to find places to practice. The struggle to find a place to practice on campus is both metaphorical and telling of how bad our players want to continue playing competitive baseball.

Which is why club baseball makes the most of what is available, taking advantage of the Greg Reinhard Baseball Academy, the Stock Pavilion, and the McClain Center.

With the season right around the corner, the players are practicing two or three times a week at these various facilities, working hard to bring a championship to Madison—if not, two.

First Class Facility

Located about 15 minutes outside of the city, the GRB complex is a large indoor batting cage with ample room for the two teams to practice.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the club team has the entire facility to work on pitching and hitting. With multiple 60 foot cages, GRB provides a great opportunity for pitchers to throw to live batters, a necessary step to prepare for the campaign.

“It’s cool to go to a nice facility because it actually feels like what a collegiate baseball team would have,” said freshman pitcher and first baseman Austin Mullins.

In addition to live at bats, GRB’s several cages allow all players to take plenty of hacks while waiting to hit live. The live pitching also gives catchers the ability to work with pitchers in game-like situations, a skill that takes a lot of time to develop and is vital to winning ballgames.

Both hitters and pitchers alike reap the benefits of this work throughout the winter.

“Having hitters see live pitching and getting a chance for our pitchers to get their arms ready despite the winter weather really prepares us well for spring break,” said senior Club President Billy Calawerts.

Character Development

The Stock Pavilion is often home to horses, pigs and goats, but on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays it is also home to the baseball team. Used for animal shows, the Stock is an open oval of dirt, surrounded by stadium seating.

While the dirt is rocky and not suitable for infield work, the large area allows for pitchers to throw bullpens and a batting cage to be put up for hitters to utilize.

“There’s not many baseball facilities that have live animals in them,” Calawerts said. “Having the players set up the net and coordinating that is always interesting.”

Since the Stock’s primary function is not baseball, the players take on the task of assembling and hanging up the batting cage in the middle of the Pavilion.

This process, depending on the expertise of the players, can take some time to get right. Nonetheless, when the net is hooked up properly, it serves its function admirably.

“I initially laughed, then I went up and down the stairs looking aimlessly for a place that we could actually hit and throw,” Mullins said reflecting on his initial reaction before seeing the cage set up.

“It has just become a normal thing. I don’t even think twice about it being odd or anything. It’s a place where we practice, nothing more, nothing less.”

The Stock certainly takes some getting used to, especially the smell, but in the end it is a convenient option for offseason work. The multiple time slots available allow players to sign up on dates and times that work for them, which gives all players the opportunity to practice consistently.

“It’s funny because my freshman year one of my friends who plays DI baseball sent me a picture of their state of the art indoor practice facility and I responded with a picture of the stock,” Calawerts said. “It’s definitely not desirable but you definitely grow to like it.”

President-elect Jalen Knuteson looks at the experience in the Stock fondly.

“I think it really proves whether or not guys want to get better or not,” said Knuteson. “You can either be stubborn, and avoid setting up the cage to get better, or show how much you love the game of baseball by practicing in the Stock.”

Late Night Grind

Around two times a month, the club team is granted access to the McClain Center, the indoor football field located right next to Camp Randall. Unfortunately, these practices run from 10 p.m to midnight, which is not always an easy time slot to make for college students. Regardless, the dedicated players take time out of their busy schedules to work hard.

“The McClain provides the opportunity in the winter to stretch out throwing and do infield as a team,” Calawerts said.

The huge turf field allows space for all players to improve their game. Infielders are able to take ground balls and turn double plays, outfielders can shag fly balls, and catchers are able to work on throws down to second base.

The space also helps the infielders build chemistry with one another. The ability to work through game like situations helps the players get used to where each infielder will be. The team goes through both bunt and first and third situations, making sure they have the different plays down.

This world class facility on its own makes the players want to practice and take advantage of every minute in McClain. But there is also something special about

gracing the same field as players such as Melvin Gordon and Russell Wilson; about practicing in the midst of greatness.

The team may only be able to practice in McClain a few times a semester, but it is vital to the club’s preparation. The ability to practice in such a large area ensures that the team is ready for game situations before the season even starts.

“I like to think of it as with the Stock, GRB, and McClain, we have a complete practice facility comparable to practicing outside,” said Calawerts.

And the players find extra value in their humble practice situation.

“Practicing in all three facilities shows us—even if we don’t always acknowledge it—how much we are willing to sacrifice to continue playing this game at a high level,” said Knuteson.

 

-by Robert Ehrlich