Baseball gets off to hot start during spring trip


Evan Halpop

Senior Heath Renz posted a 0.82 ERA in two appearances during the team’s spring trip. This photo shows Renz during the Warhawks’ March 30 game against Ripon College, which was not completed by press time at 4:30 on Friday, March 30.

Kolton Hegstrom, Sports Editor

The No. 2 ranked UW-Whitewater baseball team got out of the gates at the RussMatt Invitational hotter than the Florida sun but stumbled in their last two games in Auburndale to finish their spring trip 6-2.

The Warhawks outscored their opponents by 49 runs in a perfect 6-0 start on the season, including an impressive 8-1 victory over 11th ranked Washington and Jefferson (Pennsylvania) and a 13-0 shellacking of Keuka College (New York). Despite a hot start, the Warhawks were defeated by Saint Olaf College and Saint Thomas College in their last two games in Florida.

“We haven’t played up to our ability yet as we shore up some inconsistencies,” head coach John Vodenlich said about his team. “We have a lot of potential but a long way to go.”

The large part of this potential rests in the Warhawks’ returning upperclassmen.

“We have a great senior class here, with great senior captains,” junior infielder Nick Schrader said.

Of these upperclassmen none have played better than senior outfielder Daytona Bryden. Through the first eight games of the season Bryden is batting .563, and he tallied six RBIs in Auburndale. As the lead-off batter, Bryden’s on-base percentage of .611 has been key for the Warhawks as he leads the team with 16 runs in the early season.

“I’m seeing the ball real well right now,” Bryden said.

Bryden’s play earned him the Division III National Hitter of the Week honors from March 19-25 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Bryden’s week was highlighted by a cycle in the Warhawks 16-4 win over Grinnell. Bryden got the Warhawks’ bats rolling with a lead-off home run, a bunt for a single in the fourth, a triple in the fifth and a double in the sixth inning to complete the cycle.

“The cycle really didn’t matter to me at all,” Bryden said.”When I got to second on the double to complete the cycle I didn’t really realize it until guys were yelling and making a big deal about it. At the end of the day I was more excited that we played a good game and got the win.”

Bryden is just one of many Warhawks who has the bat working for him early in the season. He is one of two Warhawks batting over .500 on the season as he is joined by Schrader who is batting .556 on the season. Junior Cal Aldridge provides the power for the Warhawks batting as he leads the team in home runs with three and in RBIs with 13. Through the first eight games Aldridge has a slugging percentage of .929, but he is far from the only Warhawk driving in runs. The Warhawks have 12 players with at least one RBI and have four different players who have hit a home run.

“We’re strong from top to bottom,” Bryden said. “From this trip you can definitely tell we are deep.”

Though their offense is stellar, the Warhawks’ pitching has been just as key to their success. Through the season’s first eight games the Warhawks are surrendering 2.18 runs per game.

Five different pitchers started the Warhawks’ first eight games. While the whole bullpen performed well in Auburndale, it was senior Heath Renz who stood out. While pitching 11 innings Renz has allowed just four hits and one run compared to 13 strikeouts, posting an ERA of 0.82 with his opponents batting .114 against him. Being one of three Warhawk pitchers with two starts in Florida, Renz trails fellow senior Austin Jones and junior Michael Kaska in strikeouts, who both have 14. Bryden feels that a lot of his early season success can be attributed to facing the Warhawks pitching in the offseason.

“Our pitching is right where we expect it to be: very good.” Byrden said. “We face some really good pitching in practice, our pitchers. So when you get outside it’s so much easier to see the ball, and we’re typically seeing less talented pitching.”

UW-W will start conference play next week with three conference games. The Warhawks will travel to Chicago to play the Illinois Institute of Technology on April 2 before hosting UW-Stout two times March 7-8 at Miller Stadium. The Warhawks early season play has them excited about their potential for the remainder of the season.

“All around as a team we look really good,” Bryden said. “I like where we’re at and I’m excited to see where we go from here.”