Season Preview: Veterans, New Faces Hope to Send D1 to Holly Springs

A year after falling in the semifinal game of the regional tournament, Wisconsin’s D1 team is looking for more.

The Badgers graduated five players from that team, including ace pitcher Alex Noel. But they reloaded on the hill this year, as sophomore Ryan Gassner, an all-state pitcher in high school joined the squad.

Gassner is a hard-throwing lefty who figures to play a prominent role in Wisconsin’s rotation.

Along with Gassner, Joe Fahning, who comes up to the D1 team after two years with the D2 squad, brings another powerful arm to the pitching staff. Freshman Nolan DeGreef is another newcomer for the Badgers and like Gassner and Fahning, throws hard with a nasty breaking ball. A final rookie, freshman Trey Mohr, will add much-needed depth for UW.

Wisconsin returns plenty of arms as well. Nick Newburg is back for his fourth year of service with the club and junior Colin Schrof enters his second year on the D1 squad after a strong sophomore campaign.

Senior Austin Mullins, who has proven to be a shutdown reliever in three seasons with UW, also returns, as well as senior James Oelke, a consistent strike-thrower.

Offensively, the Badgers will have just as much firepower as usual.

Ed Olson, the team’s offensive MVP in 2017, returns for his senior season and moves from the outfield to the infield — his natural position.

Also returning in the infield is senior Brian Mariska, a slick defender who consistently hits for a high average.

Junior Tyler Safgren takes over starting catching duties upon John Raff’s departure and will provide a serious power threat in the middle of the lineup.

The Badgers’ outfield will have an entire new look to it in 2018. Austin Grover, Jared Eichorst and Gus Turner-Zick will man the grass, giving the Badgers an all-Wisconsin raised outfield.

Grover, a Beloit Memorial product, will provide spectacular defense in centerfield.

Eichorst, who played his high school ball at Madison Memorial with Newburg, will join Safgren as a legitimate home-run threat every time he steps to the plate.

Freshman Turner-Zick, who attended Stevens Point high school, was an all-state outfielder last year and brings stellar defense and an excellent bat.

In addition to those rookies, freshmen Chase Zernich and Will Strauss are both talented middle infielders who will make an immediate impact for UW.

After falling just short of its goal of reaching the World Series last season, Wisconsin has reloaded and has the talent, depth and experience to make a deep postseason run in 2018.

Season Preview: Hungry D2 Squad Ready to Feast

Wisconsin came up just shy of reaching the World Series in 2017, falling in the regional championship game to eventual national runner-up Windsor University. 

This year, the Badgers are hungry for a World Series berth — and have the personnel to get there.

On the mound, senior Alec Nelson returns for his final season after throwing 24 straight scoreless innings his junior year, along with a no-hitter against UW-La Crosse. 

Fifth-year senior Andrew Wolfe is back for another campaign. The tall righty has lost just one game in his club baseball career.

Sophomore Ryan Molini, a hard-throwing righty, is expected to play a more prominent role in the rotation this year.

Senior Drew Rust, another fireballer, hopes to continue the success he’s seen in his career and figures to be the squad’s closer.  

The Badgers also hope to get quality innings from the LA boys. Freshman Ryan Winters and sophomore Charlie Goldring are two newcomers who both hail from Los Angeles and will take their first shot at battling the bitterly cold Wisconsin spring this year.

Offensively, seniors Chris Trafton and Bobby Ehrlich return and are looking to have big seasons at the plate.

2017 offensive MVP Jake Gain returns looking to build on his impressive rookie campaign.

Junior Tyler Behle is finally fully healthy after an injury-riddled 2017 and will provide a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup. Leadoff hitter and second baseman Alexis Quintero also returns for the Badgers. Junior right fielder Ryan Wenzel, who may just be the toughest out in the NCBA, comes back as well. 

Newcomer first basemen Karson Krueger brings serious power to the Badgers’ lineup and will look to make an impact right away, along with freshmen Jackson Preschler, a smooth outfielder, and Tony Spence and Cam Polce, both slick infielders.

The Badgers most valuable asset is their depth. The aforementioned names represent just the beginning of this deep and talented team, which will be a serious advantage for Wisconsin when it enters its jam-packed conference schedule.

With 19 returning players and a strong cast of new faces, the D2 squad looks poised to make a run in 2018.

Senior Spotlight: Drew Rust

Meet senior pitcher Drew Rust, a hard-throwing righty with a fiery competitive spirit. 

Position: Pitcher

Hometown: Janesville, Wisconsin

Major: Biochemistry

Nickname: Shark, Rusty Nails, Rusty Trombone, Iron Oxide

Favorite baseball team: Cardinals

Favorite baseball movie: Major League, the original because I’m a “Big Charlie Sheen Guy.”

Years of club ball service: 4

Notable stats: 0.00 ERA sophomore year

Favorite club baseball memory: Sweeping Michigan Tech in Houghton in 30 degree weather with the boys during my junior year

Favorite thing about club baseball: The people you meet

Career goals/dream job: Doctor

Where do you see yourself in five, ten years: Pitcher for the Cardinals, doctor in the offseason.

Quote: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, only this time more intelligently” – Henry Ford

Senior Spotlight: Eric Van Wazer

Meet senior pitcher Eric Van Wazer, a former non-travel player who worked hard to get called up to the D2 team his sophomore year.

Position: Pitcher

Hometown: Arlington Heights, Illinois

Major: Geological Engineering

Nickname: Waze Craze, Waze Train, Wild thing, Waze Experience, Waze Machine, Waze Piece

Favorite baseball team: White Sox

Favorite baseball movie: 42

Years of club ball service: 4

Favorite club baseball memory: Throwing 3 scoreless innings on the anniversary of my friend’s death junior year

Best thing about club baseball: The weekend road trips with the boys

Career goals/dream job: Ultimately I’d like to be the next Marlins Man

Where do you see yourself in five, ten years: Somewhere out west designing renewable energy systems

Quote: “No I don’t want to eat at that place. It’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore” -Yogi Berra

Tryout dates set!

Prospective club ball players:

Here are the dates for tryouts for the 2017-18 club. All tryouts take place at the new Near West Fields, located just west of the UW Natatorium.

Sunday, September 3, 1-4 PM: Rec Sports Fair. Come to our table!

Sunday, September 10, 4-7 PM: First day of tryouts.

Tuesday, September 12; Wednesday, September 13; Thursday, September 14; Friday, September 15, 4-6 PM: Tryout scrimmages. Attend one or two days.

Tuesday, September 19; Wednesday, September 20, 4-6 PM: Attend one day.

We are looking forward to seeing you out on the field!


D1 and D2 season recaps: Club combines for 42-10 record

Although both teams ultimately fell short of reaching the World Series, both the D1 and D2 teams had successful years, compiling a combined record of 42-10 over the fall and the spring. Both clubs won their conference and advanced to the regional playoffs in the same year for the first time since 2014.

We’d first like to acknowledge the graduating seniors that have played their last game in the Cardinal and White. D1 graduates 7 players: Outfielders Adam Mattson and Taylor Tomczak, catcher John Raff, third baseman Aaron Peterson and pitchers Alex Noel, Mike Hansen and Hunter Bailey. D2 graduates just 3 players, our beloved president and infielder Jack Zoeller, outfielder Tony DeBartolo and first basemen-turned coach Mitchell Hunger. Thank you for your contributions both on and off the field and for leading a dominant era of Badger Club Baseball. Go change the world!


The D1 Badgers started off with a red-hot Florida trip, winning all five games, including beating defending Great Lakes Regional Champion Illinois.

Wisconsin then returned from the Sunshine State for conference play and dropped their first game to UW-Milwaukee. But the Badgers would respond and win their next nine conference games to clinch the Great Lakes West for the second straight year. The pitching staff was dominant through that win streak, allowing more than two runs just once. 

UW then entered the Great Lakes Regional Tournament with yet another rematch against Illinois. Wisconsin dominated from start to finish, capturing an 11-1 victory. Senior Alex Noel dazzled in his final outing as a Badger, throwing a complete game and striking out eight.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin would struggle in the next two games and D1’s season came to a close after a 7-2 loss to Illinois.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, D1 has a lot to hold their heads high about. The Badgers finished 18-4 overall and 13-2 in conference, winning the league by four games.

Junior outfielder Ed Olson was a dominant force at the plate, leading the team with a .387 average while smacking 10 doubles and scoring 23 runs.

Junior outfielder Connor Rolain was also stellar, hitting .367 with a .506 OBP. Junior second baseman Brian Mariska compiled a strong campaign, batting .348 and leading the team with 15 RBI. Junior outfielder Colten DeMorett also had 15 RBI, scored 19 runs and hit .328.

Noel led the pitching staff, going 8-0 with a 2.04 ERA. He struck out 45 batters in 44 innings pitched. Junior Nick Newburg was strong as the second starter, earning a 1.33 ERA over 27 innings. Junior Austin Mullins was a workhorse in relief, throwing 24 innings while holding opponents to a .221 batting average.

The Badgers will return an exceptionally deep and talented junior class next season and will look to make another regional appearance and advance to the World Series.


After a couple disappointing seasons in which D2 fell just a few games short in the conference, Wisconsin turned it around this year, going 13-1 in District V West to capture the title by four games.

The Badgers went 3-2 in Florida, stumbling in games against Illinois (D2) and UW-Whitewater. But UW quickly made adjustments and stormed through its conference schedule, going 11-0. The run was highlighted by junior Alec Nelson’s no-hitter against UW-La Crosse.

Wisconsin entered the District V Playoff as the No. 1 seed, but suffered a tough 5-3 loss in the opening game to Northern Illinois. The Badgers bounced back on Day 2 though, first defeating South Dakota State 3-0, thanks to another dominant effort by Nelson. Wisconsin then got revenge against NIU, putting on an offensive display and sending the Huskies packing with a 14-0 victory.

The win sent the Badgers to championship Sunday, where they had to win twice against the University of Windsor. Wisconsin struggled in the first inning, allowing Windsor to take an early 4-0 lead. The Badgers battled back to make it 4-3, but could not complete the comeback, and D2’s season came to a gut-wrenching close.

Nonetheless, the team came within just two games of its first trip to the World Series in four years and lost to a very formidable opponent. Windsor would go all the way to the National Title Game, where it lost to Slippery Rock 1-0.

Nelson was unbelievable in the spring, throwing 24-straight scoreless innings, a stretch in which he allowed just four hits. After a tough outing in Florida, he settled down and did not allow a single run to cross home plate for the rest of the season. In 39⅔ innings of work, Nelson held opponents to a .140 batting average.

Sophomore shortstop Jake Gain was the team’s offensive MVP, leading the team in average (.404), OBP (.507) and home runs (2). He also drove in 14 runs. Junior center fielder Chris Trafton led the team in RBI with 21 and runs scored with 28. Overall, the team had an extremely deep lineup, compiling a .298 team average while also averaging a whopping eight runs per game.

With only three seniors graduating, Wisconsin is hoping to learn from mistakes made in the regional and bring a title back to Madison in the 2018 season.

D1 takes series over UW-Milwaukee, improves to 5-1 in conference play

The D1 Badgers suffered a tough loss in their first conference game, but bounced back to capture the next two games, giving them an impressive 5-1 conference record.

UWM 6, UW 1

The Badgers scored once in the first, but struggled the rest of the day at the plate, falling in their first conference game to UW-Milwaukee.

Sophomore Nick Williams struck out eight over five innings, but took the loss for the Badgers. Milwaukee put up two runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings to secure the victory.

UW 4, UWM 1

Junior Nick Newburg threw six stellar innings to carry the Badgers in their bounce back game. He struck out five and walked just two, while allowing zero earned runs.

UW finally broke through in the fifth with two runs. After loading the bases, Newburg was hit by a pitch and sophomore shortstop Jake Cavaiani walked to give the Badgers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Junior James Oelke shut the door in the seventh.

UW 8, UWM 2

The Badgers earned a victory Sunday to capture the series over their conference foe. UW jumped out to an early lead, scoring three in the first to set the tone for the game. Junior outfielder Ed Olson delivered an RBI double on the second at-bat of the contest. The Badgers outhit Milwaukee 11-3.

Sophomore Tyler Safgren would add some insurance for UW late, driving in two runs with a two-out double in the eighth. Senior third baseman Aaron Peterson went 3-for-5 to lead UW.

Senior Alex Noel earned the win with five strong innings. Freshman Hunter Bindl was shutdown in relief, pitching four innings and allowing no runs.


Next up, the Badgers host Northwestern for three games at home. They play Friday at Warner Park at 7 p.m. and then play a doubleheader Saturday at Warner Park beginning at 4 p.m.


Nelson’s no-hitter in Game 1; seven-run comeback in Game 2 allows D2 to sweep La Crosse

The D2 Badgers started off their conference season with a bang last weekend, traveling to UW-La Crosse and sweeping the Eagles to move into first place in District V West.

UW 4, UWL 0

Alec Nelson dazzled in the opener, throwing a no-hitter to set the tone for the weekend. The tall right-hander had both of his breaking pitches working, allowing the junior to strike out seven Eagles. The closest the Eagles came to getting a base hit was the first batter of the game, when the lead off man drove a pitch to the right side. Sophomore second baseman Alexis Quintero ranged to his right, made a diving stop, got to his feet and fired to first for the out. From there, it was all Nelson, who dominated the Eagles’ hitters until senior third baseman Patrick O’Connell caught the final out.

The Badgers scored three runs in the third on RBIs from sophomore outfielder Ryan Wenzel, Quintero and junior outfielder Chris Trafton.

UW 11, UWL 10

Game 2 of the weekend was a different story for UW, as walks and defensive miscues allowed the Eagles to take a 10-3 lead in the fourth. But the Badgers refused to give up.

Down seven runs in the fifth, UW began to chip away, plating two runs to cut the deficit to five. After a one-two-three inning from freshman pitcher Bobby Pfefferle, Wisconsin used that momentum to tie the game in the sixth.

Wenzel came in to pinch hit, leading off the inning with a single up the middle to get the rally started. After an error, Quintero drove in Wenzel. With guys on second and third, junior catcher Bobby Ehrlich singled up the middle to make it 10-8 La Crosse. After two quick outs, senior outfielder Tony DeBartolo strode to the plate with the tying run on second. On the third pitch of the at-bat, DeBartolo crushed a no-doubter home run to left field to knot the game at ten.

Pfefferle escaped trouble in the sixth and seventh, before sophomore shortstop Jake Gain singled home sophomore DH Tyler Behle to give the Badgers the lead in the eighth. Pfefferle would shut the door in the bottom half to secure UW’s come-from-behind victory. The freshman was masterful in relief, going 4 and ⅔ innings and allowing zero runs to allow the Badgers to come back.

UW 7, UWL 2

The Badgers scored four runs in the top of the first, which was all UW would need to complete the sweep. DeBartolo, Gain, Behle and Pfefferle each delivered RBIs in the first.

Andrew Wolfe earned the win, striking out four over four innings of work and allowing just one run.

Behle led the way at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Gain was the offensive MVP of the weekend, going 4-for-7 with four RBIs.

D2’s hot bats give them 3-2 record in Florida

The D2 Badgers had a strong opening week in Tampa, going 3-2 and producing 49 runs over those five games. Wisconsin heads into its first conference series of the Spring confident at the plate after tearing the cover off the ball in the Sunshine State.

Wisconsin 14, Stetson 4

The Badgers scored eight runs in their first inning outside since Halloween weekend, taking a big early lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Sophomore shortstop Jake Gain went 2-for-4 and ended the game in the 5th with a two-run, inside the park home run into the right-center gap. Sophomore first baseman Joe Fahning added three RBIs. Senior Andrew Wolfe got the win, allowing just two hits and no runs over three innings of work.

Illinois 16, Wisconsin 9

UW again jumped out to an early lead, scoring eight runs in the bottom of the second. The Badgers had nine hits in the inning, including six straight knocks with two outs to keep the runs coming.

But the lead wouldn’t last long, as Illinois fought back for seven runs in the third and then went ahead with two runs in the fourth. They would add six more in the top of the seventh to put the game on ice.

Sophomore designated hitter Tyler Behle led the way offensively, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a double and a triple. Both sophomore second baseman Alexis Quintero and junior catcher Bobby Ehrlich added multi-hit games.

Wisconsin 6, Miami (OH) 4

After taking a 4-1 lead into the fifth, Miami battled back to tie the game at four. But Wisconsin responded right away, thanks to a two-RBI single from sophomore outfielder Ryan Wenzel. Freshman Jarrett Benson and Ryan Molini shut the door in the sixth and the seventh to preserve the victory.

Fahning carried UW at the plate, smacking two triples. Gain stayed hot, going 2-for-4 with a double.

Wisconsin 13, UW-Milwaukee 5

The Badgers fell behind 3-2 in the third, but stepped on the gas pedal after that inning to vanquish UW-Milwaukee. Wolfe delivered the decisive blow, crushing a bases-clearing triple into the left-center gap that put UW up 8-3. Junior center fielder Christopher Trafton went 2-for-4 and Fahning had yet another big day, going 2-for-4 himself.

UW-Whitewater 8, Wisconsin 7

In its final game in Florida, Wisconsin suffered a heartbreaker, dropping a tight game to Whitewater in the final inning. Whitewater took an early 6-0 lead, putting the Badgers into a deep hole. But UW began to claw its way back in the fourth, scoring three runs to cut the deficit to three. Sophomore outfielder J.J. Lamb delivered a two-out RBI single and Quintero followed that up with a two-out, two-RBI single of his own.

The Badgers would tie it up in the fifth thanks to RBIs from senior outfielder Tony DeBartolo, freshman outfielder Bobby Pfefferle and Lamb. In the sixth, the Badgers took the lead after Ehrlich drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk.

But Whitewater would come back to score twice in the seventh to take an 8-7 lead and UW would fall short, despite erasing a six-run deficit.

The Badgers take on UW-La Crosse this weekend in La Crosse in the hopes of improving their conference record from their strong start in the Fall.

D1 goes 5-0 in Spring Training

The Badgers started off their spring season red hot, winning all five games in Plant City, including a big win over Illinois, the team that knocked them out in the Regional Final last year. With a mix of fresh faces and proven veterans, Wisconsin looks poised to make a deep run this season.

Wisconsin 5, Illinois 1

The Badgers scored in the second, third and fourth innings to take an early lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Senior catcher John Raff came up big at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Senior Alexander Noel earned the win, throwing five innings and surrendering just one earned run.

Wisconsin 13, Miami (OH) 3

UW kept it rolling in the second game, scoring seven runs in the third inning to dispense of the Redhawks. Senior third baseman Aaron Peterson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He ended the game early with a walk-off single in the sixth. Sophomore Nick Williams threw five innings and struck out four to earn the win.

Wisconsin 8, South Florida 4

In their second game of the day, the Badgers entered the fifth tied at four, but promptly loaded the bases. Junior center fielder Connor Rolain drew a walk to bring in Raff and senior outfielder Taylor Tomczak delivered a sac fly to give UW a lead it wouldn’t give up. After battling a wrist injury in the offseason, junior Nick Newburg struck out six batters in just 2 and ⅓ innings of work in his 2017 pitching debut.

Wisconsin 2, Kansas 1

Thursday, UW played their most tightly contested game, escaping with a one-run victory over the Jayhawks. The Badgers scored twice in the first, which is all they would end up needing, despite putting up zeros the rest of the way. UW scored both runs on RBI walks. Kansas cut the lead to one in the fourth, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Sophomore Colin Schrof was strong on the mound, allowing just two hits over three innings.

Wisconsin 14, UW-Milwaukee 4

UW ended its Spring Training trip with a blowout of conference foe UW-Milwaukee, thanks to six different Badgers with multi-hit games. Junior outfielder Ed Olson went 3-for-4 with two triples and Newburg drove in four runs. Sophomore shortstop Jake Cavaiani went 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

The D1 Badgers now take on UW-Milwaukee again for a three-game set this weekend, looking to keep the bats hot.

Location of Near West Field: