The baseball team is ready to play
Kyle McDonald | Sports Writer | @kylesportsbias
The crack of the bat. The pop of the glove. The smell of the green grass. Concession stands selling hot dogs, cracker jacks, popcorn, and cotton candy. It could only mean one thing. The boys of spring are here and ready to play. Baseball season is upon us and the Utah Valley University Wolverines are looking to improve on a 4th place finish in the Western Athletic conference as they prepare for the 2014-2015 season under Coach Eric Madsen who is in his 7th season at the helm.
It might seem strange to many people to think that the baseball season is upon us but on February 13, 2015 the Wolverine baseball team will travel Northridge, CA for their season opener against Gonzaga. Junior designated hitter and All-WAC performer Mark Krueger will lead a young Wolverine team into the 2015 season. Krueger hit .306 a year ago with 7 home runs and 42 runs batted in. The Wolverines are hopeful that Krueger can begin right where he left off as he went 8-19 in the WAC tournament, earning All-Tournament team honors along the way. The Wolverines also return 2 of their starting outfielders as senior left-fielder Kade Andrus and junior center-fielder Craig Brinkerhoff return. Both players were named to the WAC All-Tournament team and both players ended the season on a high note as Andrus hit .476 in the WAC tournament and Brinkerhoff hit .368. Brinkerhoff also led the WAC in doubles with 21 and was 16th in the nation. These three players along with junior Seth Rhineer will be the catalysts on a team that hopes to rebound from what some would call a down year offensively. Historically, teams managed by skipper, Eric Madsen have been known to be very good offensively. However, last year the Wolverines took a step back in that direction and are looking for a bounce back year.
With 6 freshman and 4 junior college transfers, experience on the pitching mound isn’t a strong suit for the Wolverines this year. They will have to rely on junior, Danny Beddes out of Highland, Utah. Beddes, who earned 2nd team All-WAC honors in 2014, went 2-2 on the mound last year for the Wolverines including a four-hit shutout at league champion Sacramento State. He hopes to be able to get deep enough into the game with a lead that he can hand the reins over to closer Chad Michaud. The senior from Brush Prairie, Wash led UVU in saves with 6 while also posting a 2-1 record in 22 relief appearances.
A couple of newcomers that UVU coach Eric Madsen hopes will have an immediate impact are junior third baseman Jordan Schlehuber out of Iowa Western Community College, freshman catcher Jake Atkinson out of Murray, Utah, and freshman pitcher Jackson Cofer out of Coronado High School in Henderson, NV.
Schlehuber comes to UVU after leading Iowa Western to the 2014 NJCAA JUCO World Series title. He earned first time all-region honors while helping his team to both the District Championship and Region XI Championship. His older brother Jared currently plays baseball in the Kansas City Royals organization. Atkinson comes to Utah Valley courtesy of Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah. The second team all-state performer led the Colts to a second place finish in Region 2. Cofer is a left-handed pitcher who led Coronado to the 2013 Nevada State championship as well as the 2013 Sunrise Region Championship. These young guys will look to continue their success to UVU to their first WAC Championship.
Sacramento State, who won both the regular season and tournament titles last season return a majority of a very good pitching staff and are the team to beat in the Western Athletic Conference this season. Grand Canyon might be the most well-rounded team as well as have arguably the best player in the WAC conference with senior infielder Chad De La Guerra. De La Guerra led the Western Athletic Conference in batting average and was second in hits, RBI, and slugging percentage as well as tied for fourth in triples, home runs, and runs scored. It is a good thing that both these teams have to come to Orem to face the Wolverines. These two series will most likely have a huge impact in deciding the 2014-2015 regular season champion. The Wolverines will host Sacramento State the weekend of April 10-April 12 and then will host Grand Canyon the weekend of April 24 – April 26.
A couple of other games that fans might have a big interest are the in-state rivalry games against Utah and BYU. They will travel to BYU on Tuesday April 7th and then to Utah a week later on April 14th. UVU will get another shot at their in-state rivals as they will host BYU on Tuesday, April 28 and Utah on Tuesday, May 5. The Wolverines will also have a couple of series against national powerhouses Long Beach State and Creighton. The Wolverines will travel to Long Beach California for a 3 game series February 20th and 21st and then will go take on Creighton at TD Ameritrade Field in Omaha, Nebraska which is the home of the College World Series March 14th and 15th.
UVU has had great success under Coach Madsen over the last 3 years as they have gone 123-51 and before joining the WAC had won 3 consecutive Great West Conference titles. This included an impressive 32 game winning streak en route to a 47-12 records in 2012. They may go through some growing pains as they are very young this year but as with all teams at the start of the season, Coach Madsen and his young Wolverines are excited and looking forward to the 2014-2015 season, their second in the WAC.
I am 32 years old, love the Chicago Cubs. A huge lego maniac and love to crochet team blankets (just ask, cool stuff)!! I have a passion for sports and a passion to write about them.