Baseball reloads arms to prepare for season


Sophomore first base Nick Paget (35) gets ready to hit the ball in Prucha Field Saturday afternoon, April 3, 2022.

Parker Olsen, Men’s Sports Editor

UW-Whitewater baseball is well known around the country as being one of the most consistent threats to win the national title. They enter this season ranked as seventh in the nation and favored to win the WIAC despite having lost nearly every starting pitcher.

Only junior Cade Berendt returns to the starting rotation with more than a  handful of starts from last season. Even with the loss of the starters on the mound, the clubhouse is confident in the pitchers that will be filling into those starting roles this season. Both veterans and younger arms are expected to step up and fill the holes.

“We lost about 350 innings on the mound, so that’s quite a bit, and I guess what was considered our top two pitchers,” head coach John Vodenlich said. “We’re addressing it not only with some veteran players that I think are going to step up and have big years, but also we’ve got a lot of nice young arms that we’re going to be looking to do some things for us.”

Berendt, Max Huseboe, and Trey Bretl who are all juniors, plus sophomore Joey Pettit were all mentioned by Vodenlich as players who have taken a big step forward and could be strong throwers.

Donovan Brandl was another mentioned by Vodenlich. The junior pitcher had 11 appearances to the mound in 2021 when he threw for a 2.32 ERA, unfortunately he suffered a leg injury which benched him practically all of last year. With his return, this core group of pitchers could emerge as another one of Whitewater’s strong rotations.

“We lost a few guys but I think we’ve got plenty of guys stepping up, some young guys, a bunch of new starters and a bunch of guys that can get it done,” Brandl said. “I’m going to come in here everyday, do my best, help the team win and I hope other guys do the same thing.”

On the other side of the game, most of the Warhawks big bats are back for what could be another campaign of explosive offense. Last year they topped the WIAC in batting average, stolen bases and were second in runs, hits, RBIs and had the third fewest strikeouts.

According to Sam Vomhof, now a senior who led the team in batting average and was second in hits last season, most of the fielders are returning. Returning players include sixth year seniors Matt Korman and Ryan Norton. The Warhawks also welcome in transfers that include infielder Adam Cootway from St. Norbert College and outfielder Gabe O’Brien from Madison College. 

With big bats back Whitewater should be able to give the new starting pitchers some help, of course Vomhof isn’t concerned about the new starting pitchers.

“Losing Westin Muir and Kade Lancour might be a little tough to overcome but I’m confident in the young talent we have and Hawks ball is known to reload. I’m excited for some of these guys to get an opportunity to show off what they’ve got,” Vomhof said.

Baseball is a funny game, hot and cold streaks tend to be contagious throughout a team and being hot at the right time can carry momentum all the way to winning the College World Series. Vodenlich is hoping to get his team hot at the right time this season so they can walk away holding a national championship trophy. 

“I think we can do some special things, we’ve got an awesome core veteran group that’s going to be there. I think the one thing we’ve learned is it doesn’t matter how good your season is unless you finish really hot,” Vodenlich said. “We’re going to try to get our pitching at its peak this year, we’re going to try to have our hitters all clicking at the right time, so we’re doing some things to change routine that way.”

Adding into that weirdness of baseball is the fact that Whitewater constantly plays with a target on them, meaning teams give them their all to have the chance to celebrate beating a top opponent. Sometimes because of some timely hitting the Warhawks have ended up on the losing side despite sometimes being a more talented team.

“That’s happened a couple times throughout the past couple of years, and I can tell you when the opposite team rushes the field in celebration for a regular season win, it always impacts us in that way. We understand what they’re doing, they’re excited about beating us,” Vodenlich said.

Whitewater will look to put their best foot forward this year to prevent those upsets and to make a deep run into the playoffs. That push begins with a special opportunity in Florida. Warhawk alum Quint Studer owns the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and invites Whitewater to play in a number of games at their facility in Florida.

The Warhawks begin their season in Pensacola, Florida, March 15 when they take on Spalding University (Kentucky) before many more games on the same trip. First pitch at Prucha Field at Jim Miller Stadium is slated for March 25 when the Warhawks host UW-Eau Claire.