Bullpen key to ’Hawks wins

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April 22, 2015 By Emily Leclair

Relief pitching led the UW-Whitewater baseball team to finish the week winning three of its four games, starting a three game winning streak. The ’Hawks split the series against UW-Oshkosh on April 15, but came back to sweep the series against St. Norbert College on April 18. UW-W is 9-3 in conference and 21-4 overall.

“We’re a capable team,” head coach John Vodenlich said. “We can do good things on the mound and on the defensive side of things, and at times we can be very lethal offensively.”

UW-Oshkosh totaled 16 hits and seven unanswered runs in the first game to beat UW-W 10-6.

Senior Andrew Lowe took the loss, his first of the year, after coming in to relieve sophomore John Olejniczak.

Casey Power led UW-W’s offense with three hits.

“There’s things we need to improve on, and we’re just not improving yet,” senior Mikole Pierce said.

The ’Hawks came back in the second game to win 5-4.

Freshman Lake Bachar pitched five shutout innings of relief, allowing two hits and striking out five.

UW-W took the lead in the first inning and added two more runs in the third inning. The ’Hawks lost the lead to Oshkosh in the top of the sixth inning, but freshman Kyle Jones hit a single to drive in the go-ahead run to give UW-W the win.

“We need to step up our individual performance,” Pierce said. “If people step up their individual performance, our team performance is going to go up as well.”

The team continued its success into the series against St. Norbert.

Senior Adam Gregory was the first to get UW-W on the board in the first game, with a ground out RBI in the bottom of the second. Freshman Jordan Kuczynski followed with his first career home run to give the ’Hawks a 2-0 lead early in the game.

The Green Knights came back to tie the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth.

The score remained tied into the bottom of the tenth inning, when Power had a walk off hit to drive in the winning run.

Sophomore Mike Nompleggi pitched six innings of relief, coming in for freshman Ankur Shah in the fifth inning. Nompleggi allowed one hit and struck out seven.

Pierce led the offense, going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate and reached base five times.

“Our pitching was improved, our defense was improved, and our defensive approaches are starting to get better,” Vodenlich said. “There is still room for improvement, but I think we took a step forward.”

The second game remained tied 1-1 until UW-W’s three-run fourth inning, which gave the ‘Hawks the lead for good.

Sophomore Steve Chamberlain’s triple to right center field gave UW-W the 4-2 lead to win the game.

Sophomore Donnie Manke came in to relieve freshman Heath Renz in the fourth inning, pitching four scoreless innings and allowing two hits. Sophomore Austin Finn and Lowe combined for the last two innings, not giving up a hit.

“Our goal in the coming weeks will simply be to start playing up to our ability and all facets of the game,” Vodenlich said.

The ’Hawks will play No. 6-ranked UW-Stevens Point at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on April 21 on the road.

“We need to get there and have a sense of urgency,” Pierce said. “There are some games that we really need to win if we want to be on top of conference.”

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