No. 9 ’Hawks stay perfect

By Emily Leclair

March 30, 2016

“Potential” is the word head coach John Vodenlich says best describes the No. 9 ranked 2016 UW-Whitewater baseball team, and with eight-straight wins over break, including setting a season high of 17 hits against St. Thomas (Minnesota), “potential” may be the right word.

“I think realistically we’re a really exciting team,” senior Alex Hallenbeck said. “We’ve been putting up numbers against really good teams so far this spring break, and I think we’re going to be really exciting to watch.”

The team started its annual spring break trip on March 17 in Orlando, Florida with a season-opening win against Anderson University (Indiana) 9-2.

Sophomore pitcher Lake Bachar tallied six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to earn the win for the ’Hawks. Bachar tallied 19 total strikeouts over 17 innings in three starts.

Junior shortstop Jordan Kuczynski led the team with three runs batted in, while junior second baseman Steven Chamberlain and sophomore designated hitter Austin Jones posted two hits and two runs batted in.

Freshman pitcher Riley Gruetzmacher earned his first save of the season with a win against Framingham State University (Massachusetts) 4-2. He held runners on first and third base as Framingham State tried to rally to take the win.

Offense led the ’Hawks to a 16-0 win against St. Olaf College (Minnesota) on March 22 with Chamberlain going 4-for-5 with four runs scored and four runs batted in to lead the team. Jones added three hits and three RBIs, while junior Dylan Bersch and freshman Cal Aldridge added two hits and two RBIs each.

“I think one thing we’ve learned down here in Florida is that we can be productive offensively as well, and we’re continuing to improve on that side of the ball,” Vodenlich said.

The ’Hawks won its first doubleheader of the season with victories over St. Scholastica College (Minnesota) 3-1 and 9-2.

Junior pitcher Matt Langlie pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief in the first game to earn his first save of the year after tossing himself out of a bases-loaded jam.

“In my opinion, we have some of the best pitching in the country,” Hallenbeck said. “We are a young team, but our bats are heating up, we’re seeing the ball really well, we’re seeing pitches, so I would say we’re a combination of pitching and hitting.”

Sophomore Daytona Bryden had a walk-off hit in the 10th inning to seal a 4-3 victory against Eastern Connecticut State to continue the team’s six-game winning streak.

Junior pitcher Mike Nompleggi went five innings, allowing four hits, two runs, and six strikeouts, while Olejniczak came in for three innings of relief allowing two runs and three strikeouts. Sophomore Renz earned his first victory of the season.

On March 25, the team continued its undefeated streak with a win against No. 5 Southern Maine University 2-0.

Junior pitcher Ankur Shah tossed his first victory of the season going eight innings, allow five hits, and recording seven strikeouts, while Chamberlain led the offense going 1-for-3 with one run scored.

The team recorded a season-high 17 hits in its 13-1 victory against No. 20 ranked St. Thomas University.

Bachar pitched seven scoreless innings, earning his third win of the season, and recorded seven strikeouts.

The ’Hawks played Castleton State College (Vermont) on March 29, but scores were not available at the time of publication.

The team will continue play with a doubleheader against Ripon College on April 2 in Ripon, Wisconsin, and its first conference game will come on April 9 against conference rival UW-Stevens Point.

“We definitely have a lot of growth yet to do, a lot of development left to do, but we’re a good baseball team,” Vodenlich said. “We confident if we continue to work on fundamentals and improve on a daily basis that at the end of the season we should be in the mix.”

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