Warhawks win 19th WIAC title

Aldridge, Vodenlich set individual career accomplishments

Tyler Job, Sports Editor

The No. 16 Warhawk baseball team clinched at least of a share of the WIAC title in its first doubleheader against UW-Stevens Point May 3.

But that was not good enough.

The Force was with the Warhawks May 4 by sweeping the Pointers for the second time in as many days, ultimately outright clinching their 19th WIAC championship in program history at Prucha Field at Jim Miller Stadium.

“Winning the conference title is absolutely one of the things we hope to do,” head coach John Vodenlich said. “And despite what your parents told you in Kindergarten, we don’t believe in sharing…We’re really a one day at a time, one game at a time mentality, and I think that will stay with us throughout the playoffs if we can make it.”

It was a history-making weekend for the Warhawks all-around. In addition to the WIAC title, senior third baseman Cal Aldridge set a program record in career hits with 249, and head coach John Vodenlich earned his 600th career win, both coming against Concordia University May 5.

Before setting all of this history, the Warhawks split games against Ripon College May 1.

UW-W had trouble getting runs across in game one falling 3-1, but responded in game two with a 7-3 win.

Whitewater found itself down 3-2 in the fifth inning in game two, but senior third baseman Cal Aldridge hit a 3-run blast over the left center field fence to regain the lead. Aldridge’s homer was his 44th of his career.

The Warhawks added their final two runs in the eighth on a fielding error and stolen base. Junior center fielder Noah Jensen scored on the fielding error, while junior right fielder Alex Doud stole home.

“If you don’t elevate your focus level to a championship level, anyone can beat you,” Vodenlich said.

UW-W carried its momentum to the Pointers by winning all four games by scoring at least seven runs in all games.

The Warhawks found themselves down 2-0 in game one before bursting for a six-run third inning. Freshman left fielder Matt Korman broke the 2-2 tie with a 3-RBI triple to left field.

Stevens Point right fielder Aaron Simmons hit a 2-run homer in the top of the seventh, but freshman pitcher Hayden Fox held his own and earned the save.

Sophomore pitcher Weston Muir improved to 6-0 after game one.

UW-W used consistent hitting in game two in a 13-2 blowout victory.

Already up 2-0 in the fourth, Korman hit an RBI ground rule double to extend Whitewater’s lead to 3-0. Freshman designated hitter Taylor White then followed up with an RBI triple to left center that scored Korman.

“It’s just a whole lot of work in practice,” Korman said. “Our coaches mix it up a lot every day, and you know just staying confident at the plate. Confidence is a big thing in baseball. And if you stay confident, you’re going to hit the ball.”

Jensen belted a 3-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Warhawks the run-rule win.

Sophomore right-hander Connor Spear improved to 7-0 on the season in six innings of work, and currently has a 1.51 earned run average.

“I’ve been really pleased,” Vodenlich said. “Connor [Spear] really competes out there for us. He probably could of kept going today for us in the second game, but he did a great job. And Weston Muir has been there for us all year long…For sure I’m happy where our starting pitchers have taken us at least right now.”

The offense did not let up in games three and four May 4.

Down 3-0 in game three, UW-W once again exploded for a huge inning offensively by scoring 10 runs from a variety of hitters. Senior catcher Mike Aiello got Whitewater on the board with a solo homer. Aiello cashed in again on his next at bat in the same inning by hitting an RBI double to right center to give the team a 7-3 advantage.

Korman soon after hit a bases-clearing double to extend Whitewater’s lead to 10-3.

“We’re grinders,” Korman said. “We’re going to grind the whole game no matter if we’re winning, losing, tie game, we’re gonna grind. Everybody has confidence in each other, every hitter that goes up there, we’re confident we’re gonna get hits and score runs.”

Aldridge handed the Warhawks another run-rule victory by hitting home run number 45 in the seventh inning, a 2-run blast.

The Warhawks used an opportunistic eighth inning in game four by scoring six runs after a 2-2 tie. Korman first broke the knot with an RBI sacrifice fly to right, then Doud hit a 2-RBI single to right to give his team a 5-2 edge.

After Doud scored on an RBI groundout, junior infielder Lucas Price a little later hit a 2-RBI single to right to make it 8-2 Whitewater. Price’s single was UW-W’s final scoring play.

Sophomore left-hander Matt O’Sullivan picked up win number seven on the year compared to just three losses, allowing just three hits and striking out eight.

The Warhawks closed the regular season with a 10-6 victory over Concordia University. Aldridge pounded his 46th career homer in the third – a solo shot – to tie the game at three apiece.

Concordia had trimmed its deficit to 9-6 after seven, but Korman reached home after senior second baseman was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

“I think it’s the [bull]pen that’s going to have to step up, and I think they will,” Vodenlich said.

After getting off to a shaky regular season start, the Warhawks played consistent baseball once April hit to total a 31-9 overall record and 21-3 conference record. They seek to continue that consistency once they face UW-Stout in the WIAC Tournament May 10 at home.