UW-Whitewater looking to make history
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GRAND CHUTE--The opportunity to make history is within their reach.
If UW-Whitewater can defeat a resilient Emory team today at Fox Cities Stadium, the Warhawks will win their second NCAA Division III baseball title and give the school a first-ever sweep of the three major sports—football, men’s basketball and baseball—in the same year.
Head coach John Vodenlich, who guided Whitewater to the 2005 national title, insists the historic feat isn’t the focus of his players.
“I don’t think we look at it at all,” Vodenlich said. “I don’t think it is a part of who we are. We take it one day at a time. I know that is a cliché, but we don’t count outs when the game gets into the ninth. We keep playing the kind of baseball that got us there.
“I think our guys are going to stay loose. I think they’re going to stay confident and they’ll be ready to show up and play on Tuesday.”
Whitewater, 3-0 in the double-elimination tournament and 43-7 overall, meets Emory (38-12) at 11 a.m. today. The Warhawks need to win just once to claim the title. A second title game, if necessary, would be held after the conclusion of the first game.
Emory, which was No. 22 in D3baseball.com’s final regular-season poll, ousted No. 2 Linfield, No. 5 SUNY Cortland, No. 12 Southern Maine and No. 6 St. Thomas to reach the championship round. Whitewater was No. 3 in the final poll.
In five World Series games, opposing starters have lasted a combined 6 2/3 innings against Emory.
“It is a testament to these kids’ heart what we just did,” Emory coach Mike Twardoski said after the Eagles generated a combined 25 runs and 33 hits in victories over Southern Maine and St. Thomas on Monday. “This team has the heart of a lion and it’s going to take that tomorrow to beat a great Whitewater team twice.
“But if anybody can do it, this team can.”
Whitewater enters the championship round with an impressive 10-game winning streak that began with an 8-1 decision over rival UW-Stevens Point on the second day of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
The Warhawks have been dominant during the streak.
n They have outscored their opponents, 88-32—an average of 8.8-3.2 per game.
n Seven of the 10 victories have been by four runs or more.
n They are hitting .349 and are limiting opponents to .242.
n They have banged out 12 or more hits in seven games. Opponents have managed 10 or more hits only twice.
n They have trailed entering the seventh inning just twice.
The Warhawks scored twice in the top of the seventh and then added two runs in the 10th to defeat UW-La Crosse 6-4 in the championship round of the WIAC tournament. They scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to defeat Adrian 5-4 in the title game of the Midwest Regional.
That late-inning productivity has carried over to the World Series.
Whitewater scored three runs in the eighth inning of a 9-6 victory over SUNY Cortland in a second-round victory and scored six times in the eighth of a 10-4 victory over St. Thomas to reach the championship round.
“They believe that the longer the game goes, the better their chances are,” Vodenlich said of his hitters. “So if we can be in position to win the game late, I think our guys thrive on that.
“If they’re in the game late, I believe they think they can win.”
St. Thomas coach Chris Olean, whose team finished the season 39-9, offered his assessment of Emory’s chances to keep Whitewater from winning the title.
“I think Emory needs to get off to a quick start,” Olean said. “Whitewater can hit. They’re pretty deep. From the top of the lineup to the bottom of the lineup there’s not a lot of time off there (for a pitcher).
“So if they can hang around a little bit and make them nervous, that might be the way to do it.
“But realistically they’re going to have to have some pitching because it is pretty hard to sit back and slug it out with them.”