Rainy conditions did their best to damper Wisconsin's spirits this weekend.
HUNTINGBURG, IN. - The beginning of the Great Lakes Regional tournament in Huntingburg, Indiana served as a perfect snapshot of the frustrating 2013 club baseball season for the University of Wisconsin Division I team. The UW club team (10-3 overall, 6-2 Great Lakes – West) made the 7.5 hour trip to southern Indiana last Thursday evening with its sights set on taking on top-seeded Bowling Green State University (22-3, 14-1 Great Lakes - East) at 2pm on Friday.
Mother Nature had other plans – the players spent nearly all day on Friday shuttling back and forth from the hotel to the field. A logistical snafu meant that the regional organizers had not protected the field from the threat of rain, and they had not contacted nearby schools about using drier fields. Wisconsin players spent time in the morning covering home plate and the pitcher’s mound; a few hours later they made themselves useful by raking and removing water before finally starting their long-awaited contest at 7:30 PM. The players truly embodied the spirit of club baseball on Friday; they went to extreme measures to prepare the field for play despite the fact that at least three players had final exams to take by midnight on Friday, while the other three participating teams had finished their exam periods.
To add insult to injury, the game against BGSU was suspended in the bottom of the third inning when the skies opened yet again. At that point, the Badgers trailed 1-0 and had stranded two runners in each of their first three at-bats. It was an ominous sign of things to come.
Several players did not make it to bed until 2:00 AM because they were taking and/or studying for finals; ace senior pitcher Bradley Johnson did not make the trip due to his final exam schedule, and senior catcher Andrew Sentkowski was also unavailable for all but one game due to similar circumstances. Their services would be sorely missed as the weekend unfolded.
Play resumed on Saturday morning at 8:30 AM. UW players were up at 6:00 in order to arrive at the field in time to take batting practice in addition to their normal warm-up routine of stretching, running, and defensive drills. It was the beginning of the arguably the longest day of baseball any player or fan following the team had ever been a part of.
When play resumed, both teams sent their starting pitchers from the night before back to the mound. Wisconsin’s Aaron Starr (0-2, 6.10 ERA) threw a total of 7 1/3 innings in the game and gave up 6 runs (4 earned) on nine hits, while striking out two and walking one.
Jake McHenry did all he could to give the Wisconsin Club Baseball team a boost, but it wasn't enough to get past Bowling Green as the Badgers lost the first game of the Great Lakes Regional tournament, 7-2. The boys from Madison were led by a flawless day at the dish by McHenry, who went 2-2 with singles in the second and sixth innings. BGSU Freshman starter Brett Jordan (7-0, 0.96 ERA) got the job done on the hill on the way to a win. He allowed two earned runs over 8 1/3 innings after allowing only three earned runs in the entire season leading up to the game. He struck out one, walked ten and surrendered nine hits. Wisconsin repeatedly failed to capitalize on walks and hits; the Badgers left an amazing 14 runners on base throughout the game.
Bowling Green never surrendered the lead after the first inning in which it scored one run on a sacrifice fly. Three errors doomed the Badger club team, as Bowling Green got three-run rallies in the fifth inning and the eighth to put the game away.
In the fifth, Bowling Green scored on a two-run double to stretch its lead to 4-0 and break the game open after Wisconsin threatened with two runners on in the top half of the inning. To make matters worse, the top of the sixth began with a Parker Sear walk and a single from Chris Hase but a first pitch grounder off the bat of Ryan Pelky induced a 6-4-3 double play to kill the Badgers' building momentum. An RBI single by McHenry followed the double play, and a single by leadoff hitter Phillip Kilgas rebuilt the Badgers' comeback attempt as Wisconsin closed the deficit to 4-1. However, Jordan induced an inning-ending fly out from Nick Meyer to end the threat. Bowling Green added three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, which helped it avoid a hairy situation in the ninth.
Wisconsin loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth inning and a walk by Hase with two outs plated one run to give UW life down 7-2, but Sheridan Skala, who had just entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, flew out to end the game. This was the beginning of a long, strange weekend for the players and fans alike.
University of Wisconsin Club Baseball
RBI: C. Hase, J. McHenry SAC: S. Hartwick
FC: P. Kilgas, S. Hartwick
GIDP: R. Pelky CS: J. McHenry
2B: Stevenson, Bosl
RBI: Hawkins, #24, Bosl 2, Brady, Santiago
ROE: Hawkins, Peper