A look at UVU baseball’s formula to success
Tim Castaneda | Sports Writer | @xTIMBOxSLICEx,
Photo Credit: Gabi Campbell, Photo Editor, @gabicampbellphotos
In 2012, the UVU baseball team tied the NCAA Division I record for most consecutive wins in a season with 32 en route to a 47-12 record. Last year, UVU’s first-ever year in the Western Athletic Conference, the Wolverines made a trip to the WAC Tournament championship game, where it played for the chance to go to NCAA Regionals.
The problem not seen is that UVU baseball faces losing players each season, which leaves a void that can make it tough to repeatedly produce successful results on the field. The question remains, how does UVU baseball build successful teams?
Besides the obvious answer of recruiting talented players, UVU baseball uses a recruiting formula that involves finding players who are willing to adapt to the system put in place by the coaching staff to get the most out of their talent.
“More than anything, we look for kids who are going to come in with the ability to be coached and make changes at this level because it takes some adjustment,” said UVU baseball head coach Erik Madsen. “Guys that can realize that you’re not telling them they’re not talented, but that you’re trying to take their talent and make them better.”
When UVU baseball loses players to graduation or to the big leagues, as was the case for Goose Kallunki, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2012, the coaches first look to replace them with motivated players that can work to become a team leader.
“We haven’t had stars that come in as stars, we’ve had kids that haven’t been highly recruited. A lot of them come in and they get better,” said Madsen. “That’s one thing about our program, we try to recognize someone that can come in and improve a little bit, instead of relying on great talent all the time.”
The improvement-first mentality fits well into the team’s challenge of putting together a strong program that is allowed only 11.7 full-ride scholarships, as is any other NCAA baseball program.
Each year, the coaching staff is left with deciding how to divide those scholarships among multiple players, on a team that is allowed to have 35 on the roster. UVU relies on seven players, or one-fifth of the roster, to contribute as non-scholarship players each season.
When considering the limited amount of scholarships that can be offered, finding the right players to fill the team’s needs, or adding depth to the roster, can become a challenge for coach Madsen and his staff.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating if you know what you have to get and there’s a talented player, but you just don’t have scholarships for an opportunity at them,” he said. “So you need to have a plan of attack on the direction you are trying to move in because you have to replace everybody.”
Despite this challenge UVU baseball faces, the Wolverines’ recent success in the WAC gives them an edge in competing to bring in players that can help them get better in the long run.
“For us, playing in the [WAC] championship game last year and having a chance to go to regional helped us in recruiting for the upcoming season,” said coach Madsen. “A lot of kids that we have coming in this next year are based off of what happened this past year. So, with every year that you get better and do better in the conference, you have that advantage to help you with the recruiting process.”