Work in progress a hit for UW-Whitewater baseball
And like a stretch of road that was obstructed for a few months, the team now has clear sailing into the NCAA Division III World Series.
The Warhawks (36-11) play Buena Vista (32-16) in a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. today at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
“Obviously, they are a quality ball team,” Warhawks coach John Vodenlich said of the Beavers. “I was told they were the top team in their league all year long, even though Coe was the No. 1 seed in thei regional.”
The Warhawks took care of business in their regional, which they hosted. Whitewater went through the double-elimination tournament without a loss, eliminating UW-Stevens Point—the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion—in the process.
Vodenlich’s confidence in his team went up a few notches with the way the Warhawks played.
“I’m very excited with the way we played in the regional,” Vodenlich said. “Getting through our regional was a big, big obstacle. If you look back in 2005, we won four straight games in the World Series after struggling in our regional.”
The Warhawks won the 2005 national title. Whitewater finished third in the World Series in 2008.
“There’s nothing that says these are the eight best teams in the nation,” Vodenlich said. “It’s just the eight best teams at this point of the season.”
The Warhawk team that will take the field today is much different than the one that opened the season March 3 with a doubleheader sweep of Washington University in St. Louis.
Different players are starting at third base, shortstop, second base, left field and center field.
Freshman Jared Fon is now the starting third baseman, and he made several dazzling plays against UW-Stevens Point in the regional Friday.
Junior Andrew Eichstaedt started the year as an outfielder and now starts at short.
Junior Travis Wessels went from short to second.
Freshman Dylan Friend is the starting center fielder, and junior Matt Beyer moved from center to left field.
Senior right fielder Daniel Putnam has started all 46 games and has been the sparkplug as the leadoff man. Putnam, a D3baseball.com second-team All-American selection, leads the team in batting average (.411), runs (59), hits (76) and stolen bases (28).
Senior first baseman/pitcher Jeff Donova, a third-team All-America picks, leads the team with eight homers and 50 RBIs while hitting .390.
Catcher Rob Coe takes a .351 average into the World Series and has 47 RBIs.
Riley Tincher (10-3, 3.02 ERA) and Donovan (10-0, 3.38) lead a deep staff that features seven pitchers who have thrown at least 23 innings.
“Several of our capable pitchers didn’t even get on the mound in regionals,” Vodenlich said. “Teams will have to go five, six or maybe seven deep pitching-wise, and I think that gives us an advantage.”
Now it will be up to the Warhawks to carry that through.
“Every team has some weapons,” Vodenlich said. “It’s just a matter of what team plays best.”