Preview: Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This will make it to the big site Thursday night. I’m going to try to put these out here a day or two early, then post them at VB around 8pm the night before the game. That way people have it ready to go first thing in the morning and Tim can cover it up with the content more people want to see during the day. This game should be a walk in the park.

Image from UWM.edu

Wisconsin-Milwaukee
1 pm – February 27, 2009
John Session Stadium (Jacksonville Campus)
Jacksonville, FL
Media: Live Stats and Audio
Home Team:  TBA
Probable Pitchers:  Travis Smith (0-0) vs Andy Hetebrueg (RHP, 0-1)
Michigan Record vs  Opponent:  0-0
Last Series/Game:  Never has happened (unlike UNF, I know this is true)

Overview

Friday Michigan will be playing the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, the only D1 baseball school in the state of Wisconsin as the Badgers in Madison cut the baseball team due to huge athletic deficits in the early 90s.  The Panthers were a bad team last year, finishing 25-36 overall, 11-15 in the Horizon League conference, good for #258 in RPI.  They did manage to make it to the championship of their conference tournament, but they ultimately would lose to Illinois-Chicago.

This year the UWM started off a series with #6 Arizona State.  It didn’t start or finish well for the Panthers as Arizona State swept the 4 games by a combined score of 53-9.  Obviously the numbers are going to be a bit skewed from facing such an opponent.  The team is batting .128 and their ERA is 14.06.  Tough start for the team picked to finish third in the Horizon League.

Offensive Players

The lineup for the Panthers has been shuffled quite a bit this year.  No one has started in the 5/6/7/9 holes of the batting order more than once.  Only the 1/2/3 batters have started in every game, and only lead off hitter and second basemen Andy Gerhartz has started each game in the same place in the order.

Gerhartz batted .288 last season while scoring 43 runs and collecting 13 RBIs.  Gerhartz is a threat on the bases, stealing 15/18 last season.  He’s started slow this year, at a nice .071 pace with 6 Ks.  I guess I can’t make that much fun as our lead off hitter is batting .077 as I type this (pre-UNF game).  Its also worth noting that Gerhartz is one of those ball magnets.  He was hit 8th most in the NCAA last year (23 HBPs) and is on a solid pace this year with 3 in 4 games.

Image from
UWMPanthers.com

Cole Kraft will likely bat second in the order and play shortstop.  He hit .295 last year making spot starts at second base.  This year he has been less impressive (as the theme continues), batting just .167.

Behind Kraft will most likely be All Horizon League first basemen Shawn Wozniak.  Wozniak had a break out season last year hitting .364 with 6 home runs and 26 doubles.  He’s a third year starter and is the team “star.”  Continuing the unimpressive theme, this year he’s started at .182 with 2 singles.

After that, you have a crap shoot on the order.  My guess is Ben Long, the utility player, bats cleanup.   Long has made a start at catcher, first base, and designated hitter this season already.  He was the Second Team All Horizon League last year as a freshman DH.  He hit .292 with 6 homeruns and 11 doubles on the year.  Long is the only Panther batter currently hitting over .300 (3/9).  He also is tied for the team lead in hits.

He’s tied with left fielder Tim Patzman (the only other batter batting above .200), who is also the thunder in the lineup so far this year. Patzman already has 3 runs and 2 RBIs thanks to his homerun and two doubles.  He is a first year starter as a junior and may get bumped up a spot in the order to get more pop earlier.

Rounding out the outfield are center fielder Doug Dekoning and right fielder Johann Andes.  Dekoning hit .305 last year (his freshman season) with 9 steals, earning him a spot on the “Newcomer Team” in the Horizon League.  Andes may not actually start this weekend.  He is a junior college transfer with only this year left in eligibility.  So far on the season, he is 0/9 with a hit by pitch and sacrifice fly. Exepct both of these players, or their replacements toward the bottom of the order.

Shaun Wegner will probably do the catching for this game.  The returning starter (Second Team All Horizon League) hit .329 last year with 35 runs and 23 RBI.  He is more the offensive type catcher than defense.  He had 22 pass balls in 50 games (43 starts) last year, and only threw out 30% of stolen base attempts.  Hopefully this leads to some success on the basepaths that we could definitely use.

The last starter will most likely be Paul Hoenecke at third.  Hoenecke is a true freshman who was one of the best prospects in the state of Wisconsin last year.  So far this season, he’s hitting .091 with a double and RBI.

Pitchers

Image from
HorizonLeague.com

Starting in this game will be Andy Hetebrueg, a right hander who has had meh success in his career.  Hetebrueg was 6-7 last year in 17 appearances (15 starts). His ERA last year was 6.57 in 86 1/3 innings of work, recording 50 Ks and only 34 BBs.

This gets encouraging from a Michigan standpoint.  In his first start this year, Hetebrueg lasted 4 innings.  In those four innings, he gave up 8 hits, 5 of which were home runs.  Yes, you read that right.  He gave up 5 homeruns(!) in 4 innings, with an opponent batting average of .421(!).  On top of that, he also gave up 8 runs (all earned) and walking 3 and hitting a batter.  Arizona State lit him up at the plate and took advantage on the mound, stealing 3 bases on 3 attempts.  Lets see, something good about him this year… he struck out one batter?  All that said, you have to imagine he’ll be looking to get back on the right side of things against Michigan.

The relief corp behind Hetebrueg has obviously gotten some experience already this season.  It’s been about as ugly as Hetebrueg’s start.  Ten different pitchers got work last week, only two of which didn’t give up a run.  The ERA of the non-starters is currently 33.78.  This is somewhat inflated due to a long relief appearance in game 2 vs ASU as Cuyler Franzke was forced into the game in the first inning due to an fast exit by starter Jeff Gordon.  Franzke gave up 8 runs in the “non-start,” which is half the runs given up by the bullpen.  If you exclude Franzke, the bullpen ERA is …only… 13.93. Having looked through their stats the last few seasons, I can’t even find anyone to even single out to tell you keep an eye on them.

Unless one of their pitchers has a career day or is just plain on, the top of the Michigan lineup should tear this pitching staff apart.

Semi-Relevant Reading

  • One of the assistants is keeping a journal for The College Baseball Blog.  The most recent post was “wow, last weekend went poorly.”  The post before has an interesting look on how smaller northern schools spend spring practice.  Nothing enlightening, but interesting nonetheless.
  • The CBB also has their full preseason preview of UWM.  It’s more in depth than I cared to go, detailing all of the position battles and mentioning some of the starters.  It reaffirms the “bullpen-by-committee” as mentioned earlier, not just closer.

*Based from starting rotation last week.  UWM’s site hasn’t prefaced the game as of yet.

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