Warhawks win regional opener
Brock Liston demanded the baseball.
The UW-Whitewater senior pitcher was coming off his worst outing of the year, a four-inning stint where he allowed eight hits, five walks and four runs to UW-Stout last week.
But when Warhawks head coach John Vodenlich met with his seniors heading into this week's NCAA Division III baseball regional on campus, Liston spoke up immediately.
“I threw it out and asked who wanted to start, and he quickly said, 'I'd like the ball,'” Vodenlich said.
Liston took it and ran with it Wednesday.
He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven batters in seven innings as top-seeded Whitewater knocked off sixth-seeded St. Norbert, 6-2, in the regional opener at Miller Field.
St. Norbert (23-15) faces Heidelberg (31-12) in an elimination game at noon today. UW-Whitewater (37-7) faces WIAC foe UW-La Crosse (26-17), which lost to Concordia-Chicago 3-1 Wednesday night, at 3 p.m. today.
“I knew I had a lot of stuff to work on, but basically it was just going back to basics,” Liston said. “It's my senior year here, and in the first game of regionals, I wanted to set the tone.”
Liston moved to 8-1 on the season, and he was staked to a lead early by the Warhawks offense.
In the bottom of the second inning, left fielder Trey Cannon led off with a single and scored on Trent Diekvoss' single. Edgerton native Adam Gregory singled to give the Warhawks a pair of baserunners, Nick Kuhlman delivered an RBI single, and then Gregory scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
“We got three early in the game, and that was good and got us going in the right direction,” Vodenlich said. “I think that made Brock feel somewhat comfortable.”
Liston looked comfortable outside of an errant changeup in the top of the third inning. St. Norbert first baseman Travis Mason made Liston pay for that pitch with a no-doubt home run to right field.
“I think it's pretty fair to say that was a bad pitch,” Liston said. “Other than that, everything was working.”
The Green Knights were shut out the rest of the way.
UW-Whitewater padded its lead with single runs in the fifth and sixth. In the sixth, the Warhawks loaded the bases with nobody out but settled for one run on a sacrifice fly. In the sixth, center fielder Dylan Friend delivered an RBI double.
Colin Grove relieved Liston in the eighth and pitched two scoreless innings for the save, and the Warhawks—playing without regular contributors Mike Mierow and Jared Fon due to injury—helped him out with one more insurance run in the bottom of the eighth.
“It was a lot less exciting,” said Vodenlich, who saw his team win three straight elimination games Saturday on the way to the WIAC tournament title. “I don't think, mentally, we're where we were a couple days ago. I think that excitement will build as the tournament continues, and I hope our team can build with it.”
WHITEWATER 6, ST. NORBERT 2
St. Norbert 002 000 000—2 6 3
UW-Whitewater 030 011 01x—6 13 0
Nutley and Godinez; Liston, Grove (8) and Power.
Leading hitters—Ljunggren (SN), 2x4; Mason (SN), 3x4; Kuhlmann (W) 2x4; Friend (W) 3x4; Pierce (W) 3x4; Gregory (W) 2x4. 2B—Friend (W). HR—Mason (SN).
SO—Nutley 6, Liston 7. BB—Nutley 3, Grove 2.