By: Aaron Morse 4/8/22
The University of Wisconsin La Crosse baseball team has aspirations of a WIAC title and a legitimate chance at the postseason this year thanks to an experienced, but young core of leaders.
In the early going, the Eagles are 11-6 overall and 6-2 in the WIAC thanks to a four-game sweep of Finlandia a couple of weekends ago. UWL knows they can play a long season and because of that has played some tough competition in the non-conference down in Florida. That includes a two top-10 teams in Rowan University (NJ) and Webster University (MO), losing those games 9-0 and 7-4, respectively. However, while getting their early season games in down in Florida, it allowed them to get good looks on the depth of their pitching staff, according to Head Coach Chris Schwarz:
And Schwarz should be happy with what he has seen through 17 games from a number of his pitchers. Chris Seveska (1.72 ERA) and Alex Mach (1.76 ERA) lead the team in earned run average so far, and they are well under an extremely impressive 2.00 mark. And both are just Sophomores with plenty of time to continue getting better. Another Sophomore, Jacob Bryant, might be the best pitcher on the staff. He has thrown the most innings of any Eagles pitcher (28) and still has an ERA that most pitchers would beg for at this level (2.89). Surprise, surprise, two more Sophomores Alex Redman (4.29) and Brady Schmitt (4.76), as well. This pitching staff is young and really good.
The top hitters on the team are young, too! Freshman (although, second year playing) Jack Olver leads the team in batting average (.523), hits (34), doubles (9), runs batted in (25), slugging % (.754), on-base % (.539) and has only struck out five(!) times in 76 plate appearances. It is an impressive start for Olver and something that Coach Schwarz said he is carrying over from last season:
Again, it is not just a one-man show at the plate for the Eagles. Yet another Sophomore, Jack Kelly hits .360 and is on base 43% of the time while striking out just once more than he was drawn a walk. And a couple of other Freshman are leaving their marks alongside Olver. Mac Born is hitting .324 with three homers and 21 RBI (both second on the team behind Olver), and Anthony Vivian is hitting .278 and bringing some pop over the past few series with five home runs to lead the team to go with 17 RBI and a nearly .400 on-base percentage.
To be a good team that go far in the postseason you need some veteran leadership, which the Eagles do have. Zach Carney is showing that it is just not the young guys as the Senior from Kimberly HS is second on the team with a .381 average and with six walks and six hit-by-pitch, Carney is getting on base nearly 50% of the time. He does not show the big power that Born and Vivian has shown so far, but his speed at the top of the order makes a big difference as a threat to steal a base at any time with 13 swipes in 17 games.
All of the talent only means something if you can do something with it, though. And the WIAC is a tough conference that has three legitimate contenders for the conference crown, says Schwarz:
UW-Stout has something to say about that, starting 8-0 in conference this season. That only makes the Eagles job that much harder. But, if you want to get to the top and challenge in the postseason, that is how it is going to be.
The Eagles continue conference play this weekend with a couple of doubleheaders at UW-Stevens Point- A chance for the Eagles to show they are for real.
For the entire conversation with Head Coach Chris Schwarz from last Friday (4/1), we have it posted on our podcasts page: https://www.espnlacrosse.com/podcasts/