Delavan native Michael Gonzalez anchors UW-Whitewater offense
WHITEWATER--The last time UW-Whitewater’s baseball team advanced to the NCAA Division III World Series, Michael Gonzalez was simply along for the ride.
The Delavan native would love nothing more than to close out his college career with another trip, this time as a key contributor for the Warhawks.
They took another step toward that goal Thursday, knocking out UW-La Crosse with a 13-3 victory in a regional game at Miller Stadium. UW-Whitewater is 2-0 in regional play and plays Adrian (Mich.) at noon today in a matchup of the two remaining undefeated teams in the regional.
Gonzalez, the Warhawks’ right fielder, went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI in Thursday’s victory.
“It’s been good playing every day to get comfortable at the plate and also out there in right field,” Gonzalez said after UW-W’s victory Wednesday. “I’m just getting confident.”
Gonzalez took a bit of a winding path to arrive here. After graduating from Delavan-Darien High in 2009, he enrolled at Division I Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He was part of the program there for three semesters but decided to transfer out in the middle of his sophomore year. After pondering the junior college route, Gonzalez decided to return close to home and play at UW-Whitewater.
“I wasn’t getting better, and I knew there were good coaches here at Whitewater,” Gonzalez said. “My parents come to every game, so it’s nice being so close.”
The Warhawks made the DIII World Series his first semester back.
Gonzalez didn’t exactly flourish right away once he took the field in 2012. He played in 24 games, starting 10 and hitting .313 in limited at-bats.
But he worked himself to almost every-game status his junior year. He played in 35 of 44 games last year, either as an outfielder or the designated hitter. Gonzalez ranked fifth on the team with 37 RBI.
“He was a guy that was a high-status, high-profile player out of high school,” Whitewater coach John Vodenlich said. “Everyone knew who Michael was. He didn’t come here originally, but he finally came back. His first year here was good but not great.
“He took it upon himself to improve everything he does.”
Gonzalez has worked to become a complete player.
At the plate, he hit in the cleanup spot in each of the first two days of regionals, and he has started every game this year. He’s hitting .366 with a team-leading 19 doubles.
“I’m mainly focusing on being more patient,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to find my pitch and drive the ball.”
Vodenlich has seen the most growth in the outfield. Gonzalez was an all-everything catcher in high school, but has become a steady right fielder and doesn’t have an error this year.
“He’s made some great plays,” Vodenlich said. “He’s gone from being a guy you’re trying to put out there because of his (bat) to a guy we can trust out there to get the job done.”
In the midst of this week’s regional, Gonzalez will graduate with a degree in health and human performance.
A trip back to Appleton for the World Series would be a nice graduation present.