No. 11 Arizona State was the lion. No. 4 Arizona was Goliath.
Meet Wolverines baseball, the new David of UVU athletics.
Forget the fact that Utah Valley held a middling 14-11 record heading into the weekend. Last Wednesday’s home win over the Wildcats was worth 10. That estimate may become more literal when head coach Eric Madsen starts scheduling games for next season. How many more quality games will these landmark wins earn him?
UVU needed this. There had been little evidence in other sports that the Wolverines could compete with – much less beat – nationally ranked opponents, even when they deigned to come to Orem.
Now the baseball team has two such victories in less than a month. Both teams hail from the new NCAA darling Pac-12 conference. You don’t think UCLA, USC, Oregon and others noticed?
“By the time I got to my phone, I had about 35 texts and another 10 or 15 phone calls,” head coach Eric Madsen said. “Former players, staff at the university as well as coaches across the country that we know.”
Dozens of people – players, coaches, executives, etc. – deserve some amount of credit for what transpired last week. Here are a few of the notables:
Eric Madsen, head coach – Madsen made it a point to never shy away from scheduling difficult games. It may have hurt their overall record in the short term, but big wins like the last two will more than make up for it.
Jeremy Gendlek, pitcher – the senior hurler came into the season beset with lofty expectations after a stellar 2011 campaign. He struggled at the start of the season, but rose to the occasion when it mattered most. Make no mistake, his part in UVU’s breakthrough will be remembered.
Alex Exon, catcher – MSNBC.com recently ran a stellar piece on why the catcher position is “the toughest job in sports.” When I asked Madsen which player had the most to do with Wednesday’s win and got the least recognition for it, he didn’t hesitate.
“People probably wouldn’t know what impact [Alex] had on that game just from watching that,” Madsen said. “He called that whole game last night. Pitcher’s gotta make pitchers, but you have to have someone on the other e
Mike Jacobsen, athletic director – Jacobsen never settled for consolation prizes or compliments, calling out his teams and stating the need for landmark victories that – until last week – seemed more and more farfetched with each humbling home loss to a marquee opponent.
“We just can’t play games,” Jacobsen said. “We need to play at a higher level and we all have a great expectation for ourselves. [The win] puts greater pressure on all the other programs, and that’s okay.”
Matthew Holland, university president – He pitched – and came up short – UVU’s bid to the WAC for an invite. He’s spoken in front of NCAA committees, arguing their case for multi-sport status.
Thursday, he was on hand for a game where UVU could very well have gotten creamed. Instead, when the game was over and the Wolverines had won, he was where he’s always been.
In the thick of it.
Arizona, volunteer victim – This isn’t an insult or even a back-handed compliment. Just as there would be no David without Goliath, UVU could never have made last week’s statement without Arizona agreeing to play them at Brent Brown Ballpark. They deserve kudos for not being too proud to take the ultimate risk – playing a game where winning was no news and losing was bad news.
By Matt Petersen