Pioneers predicted to finish sixth in WIAC

Pioneers predicted to finish sixth in WIAC

MADISON, Wis.--Two-time defending champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is the choice to win the 2019 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) baseball title based on a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

The Warhawks have collected 18 regular-season conference championships in their history and added five tournament titles. UW-Whitewater entered the 2019 campaign ranked second in the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Preseason Top 25 and bring back Cal Aldridge, who topped the league with 19 doubles and 15 home runs, while finishing second with a .451 batting average, 69 hits, 53 runs scored and 52 RBI.

Michael Kaska is the reigning WIAC Pitcher of the Year after leading the conference with a 1.41 earned run average and placing second with nine victories. He added 55 strikeouts in 63.2 innings pitched and opponents batted .221 against him. The Warhawks have won at least 30 games in 14 of 15 seasons under head coach John Vodenlich and made NCAA appearances 11 consecutive years.

UW-Whitewater is followed in the conference predictions by: UW-Oshkosh; UW-La Crosse; UW-Stevens Point; UW-Stout; UW-Platteville; and Finlandia University (Mich.).

UW-Oshkosh secured a NCAA bid a year ago for the first time since the 2008 campaign and compiled 34 victories, which were the most for the program since 35 wins in 2007. The Titans, who own 29 conference championships, entered this season ranked No. 18 in the Preseason Top 25. Dylan Ott had a team-high .454 on-base percentage in 2018, while ranking third with a .349 batting average. On the mound, Colan Treml led the WIAC with 12 starting assignments, a 10-0 record, 88.0 innings pitched and five complete games, while placing third with a 2.15 earned run average and 74 strikeouts.

UW-La Crosse has 14 league titles and welcomes back seven starting position players, including Nate Heili, who could become just the second four-time All-WIAC first team selection in program history, joining Jeff Hertel (1991-94). Heili led the 2018 squad with a .432 on-base percentage, 52 hits, 39 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, five home runs and 36 RBI. Mitch Sutton had a team-best .337 batting average and .505 slugging percentage. Also returning are four starting pitchers, including Caleb Willems, who posted a 2.55 earned run average and four saves, while Mason McMahon racked up a conference-best 107 strikeouts in a team-high 67.1 innings pitched.

UW-Stevens Point had its most overall wins (24) and conference victories (15) in head coach Jeremy Jirschele's three seasons in 2018. Ryan Stanicek had a team-best .547 slugging percentage, .410 on-base percentage, six home runs, 34 runs scored and 14 stolen bases, while finishing second with a .302 batting average. Alex Stodola led the league with eight saves.

UW-Stout's seven WIAC wins a year ago were the most since accumulating 10 victories during the 2014 campaign. The Blue Devils bring back eight starting position players from last season's group, including Jordan Wilson, who led the squad with a .327 batting average, 12 doubles, 34 RBI and 23 runs scored. Jack Donahue had a team-high 60.0 innings pitched, while Brad Rindfleisch was second with a 2.91 earned run average and 33 strikeouts.

Chad Harris begins his first season at the helm of UW-Platteville. He has 17 years of collegiate coaching experience, most recently as assistant coach and pitching coach at the University of Dubuque (Iowa). The Pioneers bring back all nine starting position players, including Josh Moses, who has led the team in batting each of the last two seasons. A year ago, he posted a .361 batting average, .578 slugging percentage and .462 on-base percentage to go along with 19 doubles and 42 RBI.

Finlandia University (Mich.) begins its first season as an affiliate member with the conference after previously being a member of the City University of New York Athletic Conference. The Lions have 18 returning letterwinners from a year ago, including Joey Krug, who led the team with a .330 batting average, three home runs and 19 RBI. Krug was also the squad's top pitcher with 42.0 innings pitched, a 2.57 earned run average and 37 strikeouts.

2019 Preseason Predictions (Voted on by WIAC head coaches and sports information directors)

                                            2018 Record                                                                      

 1. UW-Whitewater (33-8 overall, 20-4 WIAC)
 2. UW-Oshkosh (34-10, 18-6)
 3. UW-La Crosse (24-15, 14-10)
 4. UW-Stevens Point  (24-14, 15-9)
 5. UW-Stout     (10-27, 7-17)
 6. UW-Platteville   (10-30, 4-20)
 7. Finlandia Univ.  (10-18, NA)


Team Vitals (Entering the 2019 season)


Finlandia University (Mich.)

Head Coach:  Evan Brandt; 2nd season at FIN; 10-18
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  18/5

Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  8/1
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  7/2
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/0

Returning All-WIAC:  NA

Notable Returning Position Players:  Brian Doyle, Jr., 2B; Joey Krug, Sr., 3B/DH; Jean Pimental, Jr., SS

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Nate Johnson, So., P; Joey Krug, Sr., RHP; Brandon Teichman, Sr., P/OF


UW-La Crosse
Head Coach:  Chris Schwarz; 15th season at UWL; 344-251-1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  20/5

Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  7/2
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  4/2
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  3/0

Returning All-WIAC:  Zach Carney, So., OF (2018-Honorable); Nate Heili, Sr., INF (2016-First, 2017-First, 2018-First); Mitch Sutton, Sr., 1B (2018-Honorable); Caleb Willems, Sr., RHP (2017-First, 2018-First); James Witt, Sr., LHP (2018-Honorable)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Alex Robson, Sr., 2B; Brennan Schmitt, Jr., INF; Brady Stolzman, Sr., 1B

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Connor Cook, Jr., RHP; Mason McMahon, Sr., RHP; Zach Pronschinske, Jr., RHP


Head Coach:  Kevin Tomasiewicz, 6th season at UWO; 118-87-1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  19/12
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  3/4
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/3
Returning All-WIAC:  Alex Koch, Sr., OF (2017-Honorable, 2018-First); Dylan Ott, Sr., INF (2016-Honorable, 2018-Honorable); Zack Radde, Sr., INF (2018-Honorable); Colan Treml, Sr., RHP (2017-First, 2018-First)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Jensen Hinton, Sr., C; Jonathan Selchow, Sr., 3B/1B; Hunter Staniske, So., INF

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Chris Atwood, Sr., LHP: Alex Larson, Jr., RHP; Jon Maday, Jr., RHP


Head Coach:  Chad Harris; 1st season at UWP (9th overall); 127-173 (overall) / 0-0 (UWP)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  18/14
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  9/0
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  3/4
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  0/2
Returning All-WIAC:  Jonathon Kelso, So., OF (2018-Honorable); Josh Moses, Jr., OF (2017-Honorable, 2018-First); Brendon Reifsteck, So., 3B (2018-Honorable)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Ross Krist, So., OF

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Scottie Gordon, Sr., LHP; Caleb Kaufmann, Sr., LHP; Tyler Vogel, Sr., RHP


UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach:  Jeremy Jirschele; 4th season at UWSP; 67-54
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  22/12
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  9/1
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  3/5
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/3
Returning All-WIAC:  Kyle Mrozinski, Sr., C (2017-First); Payton Nelson, So., OF (2018-Honorable)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Tommy Duddleston, Jr., INF; Lucas Luedtke, Jr., 1B; Ryan Stanicek, Sr., OF

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Alex Stodola, Sr., RHP


Head Coach:  Ben Kincaid; 3rd season at UWST; 20-54
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  20/11
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  8/1
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  3/5
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/1

Returning All-WIAC:  Kasey Bass, Jr., 1B (2018-Honorable); Brad Rindfleisch, Sr., RHP (2018-Honorable); Ben Vanhove, Jr., INF (2018-Honorable); Jordan Wilson, Sr., OF (2018-First)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Kyle Hamilton, Jr., INF; Jack Hemsath, Jr., INF/DH; Hunter Merrill, So., C

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Jack Donahue, Sr., RHP


Head Coach:  John Vodenlich; 18th season (16th at UWW); 569-213-1 (overall) / 540-173-1 (UWW)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  18/16
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  2/3
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/0

Returning All-WIAC:  Mike Aiello, Sr., C (2018-First); Cal Aldridge, Sr., INF/DH (2016-First, 2017-First, 2018-First); Alex Doud, Jr., OF (2018-First); Michael Kaska, Sr., RHP (2018-First/Pitcher of the Year); Nick Schrader, Sr., INF (2018-First)

Notable Returning Position Players:  Noah Jensen, Jr., UTIL; Nick Santoro, So., INF; Connor Schneider, Sr., INF

Notable Returning Pitchers:  Riley Gruetzmacher, Jr., RHP; Westin Muir, So., RHP; Matt O'Sullivan, So., LHP