For those who don’t know, baseball is supposed to be a spring sport, but NCAA Division I baseball starts every year in the middle of February. This gives universities like UVU the task of formatting a full season schedule while dealing with normal Utah Valley winter weather conditions.
Weather issues leave UVU and Coach Eric Madsen with only one option: start the season on the road. The 2011 season does just that, and consists of 29 of their first 33 games away from home.
With seven of those road games down, the Wolverines (3-4) are looking to warm up just as they did last year where they started 4-6 going on to the program’s first 40-win season and a Great West Conference Championship.
UVU opened their season this year in Lubbock, Texas for Texas Tech’s Red Raider Classic. The Wolverines first faced Big-10 opponent Northwestern, winning 3-0 and were highlighted by Blake Krahenbuhl and Josh Swenson’s respective pitching performances. The two combined for a five-hit shutout, giving Krahenbuhl the win and Swenson the save.
UVU would go on to drop their next two games against Western Michigan and host Texas Tech with final scores of 3-2 and 6-2, both of which were games Coach Madsen felt were well within reach of winning.
“Our pitching has dominated everything we have done and has kept us in every game,” said Madsen. “Our defense made some costly miscues and we’re trying to get better and the injury to Ricky (Jake Rickenbach) put a spin in that. We’re trying to get everyone in position and get them experience and that takes time.”
Rickenbach was a First Team All-Conference shortstop last year and led the nation in runs per game.
Finishing up the Red Raider Classic, the Wolverines were able to get revenge against Western Michigan, winning 3-1 after Cole McWhorter drove in the game-winning runs off a bases-loaded hit in the seventh inning.
The Wolverines would go on to play in-state opponent Southern Utah University for a three-game stand.
Krahenbuhl started right where he left off, extending his scoreless inning streak to 13 by throwing eight solid innings of shutout baseball, giving up just one hit to SUU.
“I want to go out and get every hitter and beat him,” said Krahenbuhl. “Every time I step on the mound I’m going to give 110 percent and I have confidence my team is going to have my back. I just want to do all I can to help the team win.”
The two wins from Krahenbuhl have highlighted the season thus far as UVU dropped the next two games 6-4 and 3-2.
Although the defense has had its miscues, it has been the offense that has hurt the Wolverines the most.
“Our offensive production just hasn’t cut it so far this season,” said Madsen.
The Wolverines have left a total of 61 men on base through the first seven games and have struggled to get the big hit when the team needs it most.
Madsen is confident that his team will get back on track and feels the team is ready to break out the bats soon, providing more run support.
Fans can catch the Wolverines at home March 17-19 for their only home stand until April 21.