Warhawks look to recapture glory of 2014 season

WHITEWATER, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin | Whitewater baseball team sat atop the mountain of one of the greatest seasons in Warhawk athletics history. It was the 2014 season and they had defeated Emory University to win the title of division III National Champions.

Fast forward three seasons and the Warhawks are once again poised to make another deep playoff run. No, the football team didn’t win the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl (Mary Hardin-Baylor over UW | Oshkosh). No, the basketball team wasn’t crowned champions (Babson over Augustana). But Warhawk baseball coach John Vodenlich and his staff are keeping their crew hungry as they get ready to take on UW | Oshkosh for the beginning of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. — a team they’ve beaten four times already this season.

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“One of my mentors used to say ‘I may be old school; some call me new school; but I definitely have to stay in school,'” Vodenlich said Monday afternoon. “If you’re not trying to get better, if you’re not trying to grow…then things are stagnant.”

Six of this year’s seniors were freshman the last time the Warhawks hoisted the DIII championship trophy, hoping to depart the same way they arrived — as champions. Infielder Steve Chamberlain leads that senior group in batting average (.361), home runs (7), RBI (35), and fielding percentage (.972).

Vodenlich described this year’s Warhawks as the best pitching crew he’s had since “probably the 2004 season,” but he’s also not putting championship expectations on them, despite heading into the WIAC Tournament as conference champions of the regular season.

“National championships are tough to get,” Vodenlich said. “There [are] years where we’ve had great teams and a play or two, or a game or two go the wrong way and it just doesn’t happen for you. I’m proud to say I’ve been to the College World Series seven times…most of those guys are back. For them, getting back there and performing better has been the goal since we ended the [2016] season.”

Vodenlich added that the key for his team entering the WIAC Tournament is for them to get past any mistakes they make and focus on improving in the coming moments of the game.

Whitewater will host Oshkosh in the first round Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Jim Miller Stadium, followed by their second round game that afternoon or evening.

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