Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

More than just a pitcher

UW-Whitewater Athletics
Michael Hilker Jr throws a pitch against UW-Stout March 30.

The UW-Whitewater baseball team continues to flash early-season success. Since splitting a four-game series against No. 16 Trinity (Texas) to open the season, the Warhawks are 16-3 heading into Monday’s doubleheader against UW-Oshkosh. The team opened WIAC play against UW-Stout March 29 and 30, sweeping the Blue Devils in a four-game series.

One of the stars of that series was sophomore pitcher Michael Hilker Jr, who started the final game. The pitcher nearly tossed a no-hitter, throwing 17 strikeouts in 93 pitches before allowing a hit in the top of the ninth inning. His performance won him both D3Baseball Pitcher of the Week and NCBWA Pitcher of the Week.

So far in 2024, Hilker Jr. has appeared in 5 games, and hoists a 2-0 starting record with a .86 ERA, a .62 WHIP, and a .188 OBP. He shared his thoughts about his near no-hitter, his development as a Warhawk, and more.


Q: Why did you choose UW-Whitewater to continue your baseball career?

A: I had offers from UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, I could’ve gone to Stevens Point as well, but the thing that really stuck out to me about Whitewater is the legacy and the reputation that they have. Of course, Coach [John Vodenlich] is a very good coach to play for and he’s very successful. So it’s easy to trust a guy like that. 

Q: How have you developed as a pitcher while on campus? Who has helped you out the most?

A: There are a lot of things that I feel I have now as a pitcher that I didn’t when I came in. Probably the most notable would be velocity, and getting in with a strength coach like Coach [Lee] Munger really makes a difference. Having other talented pitchers on the staff has really helped me too, because I can look up to our older guys– Max Huseboe, Cade Berendt– I can look up to those guys and see where they are finding success and how they have been able to develop. Developing not only velocity, but also dominating the strike zone and having command over more than one pitch, and being able to live low in the zone, and things like that have all been emphasized since I’ve gotten here. I think our program does a great job of letting our pitchers know what we need to be successful.

Q: You pitched a one-hit, 17-strikeout game against UW-Stout March 30, that nearly turned into a no-hitter. How nervous were you on the mound as you attempted to toss that no-hitter? Are you satisfied with the performance?

A: Ever since I have started emerging as a starter in high school, it is really easy to think about your outing before it’s over. And that is one of things I try not to do. For me, I wasn’t really scared going out there. Obviously there are some nerves, the blood was pumping, but I would not say that I was scared for the no hitter. It was more wanting to go out there and keep executing the game plan. It’s satisfying to know that I can do that, but as far as the season goes, it is nice to get that out of the way early and let everybody else in the conference know what our pitching staff as a whole is about.

Q: The Warhawks have shot up in the rankings this season so far. Do these rankings matter to you that much?

A: They draw on a lot of attention, I have even heard our guys talk about it quite a bit. But as far as where we are as a team, I don’t think any rankings can tell us what kind of team we actually are. I think the way that we come to every single game, the way that we prepare for them, really dictates our success for that specific day. It’s nice to be able to be assured that we are on the right track and we are among the top teams in the nation, but if you ask me I think we are the best team in the nation.

Q: What are some of your goals that you would like to achieve this season? What about your long-term goals as a Warhawk?

A: Short-term goals would be to win the WIAC. I think that’s a goal that we set very early on. A goal that we expect given our last season. I think my biggest goal as a starter is putting our team in position to win. Does that mean having a one-hit, 17K, eight-inning game every time? No. But being able to keep the game close or to hold them to limited amounts of runs really makes things easier. I would love to be an All-American, I would love to be competing for a World Series and winning a national championship, I would love to sign a professional contract or go play independent ball somewhere, but we will just have to see where that goes when it comes.

Q: How do you represent being a Warhawk outside of baseball?

A: Just playing for the team, I have a bit of Warhawk gear that I wear around, and I wear proudly. I think a lot of the stuff that has the Warhawk logo on it are probably some of the coolest stuff in my closet. I love being a Warhawk.


The athletic, kind and humble Hilker Jr, as described by Coach Vodenlich, has plenty of time to continue solidifying his impact as a Warhawk baseball player. The team is back in action against Edgewood College April 8, and they return to WIAC action against UW-Platteville April 10.

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About the Contributor
Chase Keller
Chase Keller, Assistant Women's Sports Editor

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