2016 baseball season leaves its mark on UVU history

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After claiming the title in the Western Athletic Conference tournament, the Utah Valley University baseball team’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Regional punctuated a historical 2016 season. Picked to finish sixth in the preseason polls, UVU shocked the conference with a title run through the WAC tournament. However, UVU head coach Eric Madsen wasn’t surprised by his team’s success.

“Number one, I think that the ranking early on was low,” said Madsen. “I mean, when I saw it I was like, ‘OK, it’s good to be overlooked.’ But I thought this team was better than that from the beginning.”

After a 10-11 start in nonconference play, the Wolverines ran through WAC play to finish with a conference record of 18-9. The turning point on the season for UVU could be marked after the Wolverines dropped two of three at the Seattle U Redhawks. UVU went on to finish the season with a record of 11-3 entering the conference tournament.

In a season for the record books, the Wolverines had multiple unforgettable moments. One highlight included a sweep of the season series over the Pac-12 champion Utah Utes. UVU also snapped a five-game losing streak across the athletic program to the BYU Cougars with a 7-6 win in 11 innings at Larry H. Miller Field. However, the game of the year came when the Wolverines entered the ninth inning trailing the North Dakota Fighting Hawks 9 -1 and gutted out a nine-run ninth inning for a walk-off win.

The Wolverines entered the WAC tournament having won four series in a row, including wrapping up the regular season with a three-game sweep over the Chicago State Cougars. UVU ran through the conference tournament with four consecutive wins, including a 4-0 win over Seattle U to claim the title and clinch a bid to the NCAA Regional.

Photos by Darryl Webb

Photos by Darryl Webb

WAC Tournament MVP Craig Brinkerhoff led UVU at the plate with a .330 batting average and a team-leading 11 home runs. Newcomer Zac Willis made his presence felt with a .288 batting average, including 11 doubles, six homers and a team-high four triples.

Pitcher Danny Beddes led the Wolverines on the mound in a record-setting season. Beddes set program marks for career wins (19), career strikeouts (227) and season strikeouts (99). After completing his season in a three-inning effort against the LSU Tigers in the NCAA Regional, Beddes was drafted in the 15th round of the MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the program’s first-ever appearance in the Regional, the Wolverines drew juggernaut LSU at in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After falling to LSU 7-1 in the midst of three days of pounding rain, UVU’s season came to an end with a 3-2 loss to the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.

Despite losing eight seniors, Coach Madsen is optimistic about his team’s chances entering next season because of the experience on the roster.

“I think it’s always difficult because you’re losing guys, but I think a lot of it you’ve just got to trust in the experience just getting there in the championship game, winning it and then being at the Regional,” said Madsen. “I think that’s something that’s invaluable for your club. I think you’re losing guys, but gaining that experience. I think it puts us in a pretty good position if we do the things we need to do.”