The Milwaukee Panthers Baseball team has won four conference championships since 1999, taking home the title in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2010. Currently, the Panthers are alone atop the Horizon League Standings at 11-4 (20-16 overall) and are looking to put themselves in a position to win yet another conference title.
One of the stars of this 2013 squad is senior starting pitcher Jake Long. Long holds a 6-2 record with a 1.41 ERA over 63 2/3 innings and has won Horizon League pitcher of the week honors three weeks in a row, something no other Milwaukee player has ever done. In the seven games Long has started this season, he’s thrown four complete games and three shutouts and is pitching at a very high level.
“I don’t really like to say I am the ace of the staff because we have a lot of very good pitchers,” Long says. “I’m just trying to go about my day the right way and share that with the younger players.”
Having a healthy season is also important to Long. He broke his leg in 2009 and had Tommy John’s surgery in the summer of 2010.
“Both took about a year to get back to full strength,” says Long. “The injuries don’t really affect my pitching now, but they do affect how I go about getting ready to pitch in a week.”
With the help of strengthening arm exercises, Long plans to prevent future injuries this season. Unfortunately Long and the Panthers are unable to prevent the rain from postponing games. So far 12 games have been postponed this year, all of which were scheduled to be played at Henry Aaron Field which Milwaukee calls home. Being on the road for the first 29 games is tough, according to Long.
“You get a lot of bus trips where you’re not getting back home till midnight or later,” Long said. “Not sleeping in your bed, not eating the best diet, trying to fit school in the mix. It just wears you down a bit.”
Scott Doffek, the Panthers head coach, says he hasn’t had a rainy spring like this in his 18 years of coaching.
“It’s not really conducive for baseball,” says Doffek. “But no one is going to feel sorry for us and we’re certainly not going to feel sorry for ourselves. So we just got to make the most out of it and hope the weather turns.”
Long says the Panthers will be stronger as a result of the continuous road play and is confident in what they can do.
“To push through the adversity to do as well as we have to this point really shows that our team can accomplish some big things,” Long said.
The Panthers are currently on an eight game winning streak, seven of which were in Milwaukee including their official home opener April 24th at Miller Park. With six games left to play in the Horizon League, it appears Milwaukee has put themselves in a good position to be the top seed in the conference tournament come May 22nd.