It all begins with pitching“In the game of baseball, if you’ve got pitching, you’ve got opportunity,” University of Wisconsin-Superior baseball coach Eddy Morgan said.
By: Emily Kram, The Daily Telegram
“In the game of baseball, if you’ve got pitching, you’ve got opportunity,” University of Wisconsin-Superior baseball coach Eddy Morgan said. “As our pitching goes is how our season will go.”
That’s quite a lot of pressure on the Yellowjackets’ pitching staff, but so far the pitchers have responded well.
“I think we just build off that because we know how important our job is,” said senior Pat Diedrich, a closer for UWS. “Everybody knows their role on this team and nobody’s jealous of anybody. If we’re all doing our part, we’re going to be successful, and that makes you kind of proud to be a part of that staff.”
With the team ERA hovering just around two, the UWS baseball team now has a 9-3 overall record. Last year, the Yellowjacket men ended the season with as many wins as they have currently, but much has changed since then.
In all, UWS has 21 new players and 12 players returning from last year.
“It’s a good start,” Morgan said. “Even though we brought in a lot of junior college transfers ... we’re still inexperienced. We’re still trying to build a team, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
But many of the faces on the field have changed overnight, especially on the mound.
“Basically our top pitchers are all newcomers,” Morgan said.
Three juniors who transferred to UWS have stood out so far. Justin Saufley transferred from Minnesota West Community and Technical College, and according to Morgan, is probably the Yellowjackets’ top pitcher early in the season. He was already named the WIAC Pitcher of the Week this year.
Joey Hostrawser played two years at Iowa Central Community College before transferring to UWS. He pitched a complete game to pick up his first win as a Yellowjacket Thursday over St. John’s.
Tim Bouvine, a native of Superior, also joins the Yellowjacket staff this year.
“He’s come a long way to get here,” Morgan said. “Through surgery on his shoulder and a couple years at a community college.”
Bouvine, who said his arm was feeling fine, thought the UWS pitching staff has come together quickly, even with so many new members.
“The camaraderie is probably better than any team I’ve been on before,” Bouvine said. “Everybody is together as one. I think it’s just the caliber of people coach Morgan has brought in; it’s been easy for everybody to come together.”
Diedrich also felt good about this year’s team.
“Just from last year, it’s such a great atmosphere out there,” he said. “Last year was a good time, everybody had fun and everything, working together, but this year everybody’s really striving to get to that next level.”
Last year was the beginning phase of building the team, but now Diedrich can feel the excitement as players work toward advancing in the conference and earning respect. Both he and Bouvine know pitching will be key to the Yellowjackets’ success, and they think the staff has carried its weight so far.
“We’re throwing a lot of strikes and not walking people,” Bouvine said. “All our pitchers so far have done a great job of keeping us in the game and doing what we need to do to get us the win.”
“I think with the pitching staff that we have, we’re going to be in 95 percent of our games,” Morgan said. “Now it’s us trying to figure out how to win those games. Having a young and inexperienced team, that’s what it’s going to take.”
To help lead the team, Morgan is looking to his three captains.
Sophomore Paul Schlangen from Rice Lake separated his shoulder and was unable to play last season, but he has already had an impact this year. Bill Ryan, a returning pitcher who is now a junior, and Sean Cummings, a junior from Superior, are the other two team captains.
“As we go, the captains go,” Morgan said. “The captains really do a lot for this team in work ethic, and all three of them have played in the conference, so they help out with their experience there.”
Cummings leads the team in nearly every offensive category this season.
“I knew this when I first came in, that Sean was going to be one heck of a baseball player,” Morgan said. “He’s the strongest guy on the team, the fastest guy on the team and he can spray the ball to all parts of the field with power. He’s very solid defensively and leads the team in stolen bases. He’s the rock on our team. He has great work ethic and he’s very baseball savvy; that’s hard to recruit sometimes.”
UWS was fortunate in its recruits this season, however. Morgan is excited about the incoming freshmen, one of whom is pitcher JJ Wright.
“JJ was the Minnesota Class A Player of the Year. That’s a pretty big honor,” Morgan said. “We were fortunate to get JJ; he’s probably the best athlete we have on the team.”
Morgan added that Wright is not yet the best baseball player on the team, but his natural athleticism and potential are very impressive.
“He’s very raw and has a high ceiling, and it’s going to be fun to watch his growth,” Morgan said.
Mitch Loegering, the starting shortstop, is another freshman to watch. He is leading the team in RBIs and is second and third in many other categories on offense.
“He was first team All-State in Minnesota,” Morgan said. “He’s a little spark plug, and he bats two hole. It’s fun watching him grow in just one year.”
UWS has also grown as a team, but for now at least, the Yellowjackets still have to earn opponents’ respect.
“We’ve been picked once again to finish last in the WIAC, kind of like our basketball team, which took huge strides this year,” Morgan said. “We’ve got a term that we use, a Japanese word called kaizen. It means to improve on a daily basis in small increments. Instead of putting out big numbers, like we want to get 20 or 25 wins, we know those things are going to come if we focus on our day to day things. If we can get better every day, every inning, those wins will come.”
The Yellowjackets will get their first chance to claim a win against a WIAC opponent this season when they play at UW-Oshkosh Saturday and Sunday. Oshkosh is ranked No. 7 in the country and was predicted to finish second in the WIAC behind UW-Stevens Point.
“I feel if we continue to improve as we have, we could finish in the top five in the conference or the top four,” Morgan said. “It’s been a while since UW-Superior has been out of last place. I really believe with the passion that our players show, that we can make that jump this year.”