Baseball: UW-W set as No. 1 seed

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Baseball: UW-W set as No. 1 seed

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May 7, 2014

By Emily Leclair

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater baseball team finished its 2014 regular season with six straight conference wins. The team won its 15th WIAC title in school history with a record of 18-4 and said they are looking forward to hosting the WIAC tournament starting May 9.

“We know our strengths, and if we play our baseball, then everything is going to fall into place,” senior Scott Plaza said.

The ’Hawks’ winning streak started April 30 against UW-Oshkosh in a doubleheader. UW-W took game one with a score of 8-7 and fought through 11 innings of play to take a 1-0 win in the second game. Plaza pitched nine of the 11 innings, striking out 11 and walking one.

The team continued its momentum into the weekend, starting on May 3, with back-to-back wins against UW-Superior in a four game series going into May 4. The ’Hawks won game one, 15-5, in eight innings. UW-W tallied 15 hits, and senior Brock Liston earned the win for the ’Hawks. UW-W won game two, 11-9, with junior Andrew Lowe earning the win.

The team played its final two conference games on May 4 with two more wins against the Yellowjackets. The ’Hawks won game one, 10-6, and won game two, 15-0, in seven innings. Senior Justin Mortensen pitched the shutout, earning his first win of the season. The ’Hawks tallied 29 hits and 25 runs for the day, with seven players having three or more hits each.

“We’ve had a very successful run here; our team and everyone has the highest expectations,” head coach John Vodenlich said. “That’s something that we’ve had since the start of the season.”

The team leaves the regular season behind and heads into the WIAC tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Warhawks will play the No. 4 seed in the first round. The seeds have yet to be finalized during the time of publication.

UW-W lost to UW-La Crosse last year in the WIAC Tournament in a 12-2 loss. The ’Hawks fell to Eagles in 2012 as well, finishing second.

“I think we hit the down point at the wrong time last year, and that’s not the case this year,” junior Mikole Pierce said. “If we play baseball like we’re supposed to play baseball, no one is going to beat us.”

The ’Hawks’ biggest competitors in the tournament will be UW-La Crosse and UW-Stevens Point who finished second and third in the WIAC, respectively.

Since the team won the WIAC, UW-Whitewater will host the tournament, which players and coaches agree will be a big advantage for the team. The winner of the WIAC tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA regional.

“It’s always nice to be able to drive down the street; you’ve got your home field and your home fans,” Pierce said. “It’s a big advantage to play for the home crowd.”

The team has utilized its pitching rotation, as well as its field and power in the batter’s box all season, and plans on carrying that into the postseason.

“Right now our focus is simply on playing good baseball and finding a way to start to come together and play complete baseball, and that’s going to be our focus as we get into tournament play,” Vodenlich said.

The ’Hawks will host the No. 4 seed at 10 a.m. on May 9.