Baseball team’s rookie year in Division I play exceeds individual, team expectations

Freshman CJ Healey pitching in a home game. Dave Iba - UVU Review

Freshman CJ Healey pitching in a home game. Dave Iba – UVU Review

Baseball coach Eric Madsen doesn’t hesitate when asked about the first thing that comes to mind concerning UVU’s 2010 team.
“It has to be the unity,” Madsen said. “All the guys focused on one goal. I’ve never been part of a team where that was so evident.”
Madsen had three goals in mind for the Wolverines’ first season of NCAA Division I play: 40 wins, a regular season conference championship and the conference tournament championship.

Done, done and done.

“Those were pretty lofty goals for our first season in the conference, but we thought they were attainable,” Madsen said.
The process of attaining them, however, required exceptional play from a roster untested by the college big leagues.

Exceptional — an NCAA-leading .372 batting average, led by Jace Brinkerhoff’s .456 clip (first in the nation) and a nine-man lineup that didn’t feature an average below .310.

Exceptional — a 42-17 record that included a season-ending 14-game winning streak.

Exceptional — roughing out a rain-delayed, 10-inning victory at BYU the night before traveling to Texas for the GWC tournament, despite the game having zero-effect on the standings.

Exceptional — senior catcher Kevin Arendse’s tenth-inning walk-off RBI single to win the Great West Championship.
After that final game game, Madsen referred to Arendse, Brinkerhoff and Sage Thorpe as “irreplaceable.” New talent will hopefully be found, as all three are seniors.

Despite the inevitable turnover, Madsen has reason to be optimistic about next season. Chris Benson, who led the team in home runs (14), RBI (89) and stolen bases (15) will return as a senior and leader. Jake Rickenbach (.390) and Jason Zundel (.372) also return with their formidable firepower behind the plate.

UVU also has the luxury of developing two hurlers who just finished solid freshmen years in Blake Krahenbuhl (9-1, 5.22 ERA) and Justin Campbell (5-0, 6.27 ERA).

As for next season, Madsen already has a new goal in mind — a region tournament appearance.

“It’s incredible that we’ve come this far this fast,” Madsen said. “A regional doesn’t seem out of the question.”

After such a successful season, the only question might be, “Why not?”

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