The UW-Milwaukee baseball team kicked off their 2015 season this past weekend by going 3-1 against the University of Main at Chain of Lakes Park Stadium in Winter Haven, Florida.
The Panthers started the weekend series against the Black Bears with a 10-0 shutout win on Friday. Junior Brian Keller stole the show, pitching six scoreless innings. UWM’s defense and pitching put on a stellar display, allowing only five hits all game long. Keller only allowed four sporadic hits, struck out four batters, all while allowing no walks in his six innings.
“It all starts with Brian Keller,” Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek said. “Early on, he dictated the tempo using both sides of the plate. He had a good three-or-four pitch mix and then we put up that one and Herm (Tyler Hermann) got a big two-out hit. I thought the momentum really shifted to our side there and we were able to create some pressure on the bases and have some good at bats.”
From there, the bats came alive for the Panthers as they got 13 hits in the opener. Senior Sam Koenig led the way for Milwaukee, going 3-4 on the day with three RBIs and scoring two runs himself.
The third inning helped the team strengthen their lead. Koenig doubled into right field, scoring junior Luke Meeteer. Tyler Hermann came on and singled to score Derek Peake and Koenig to create a 4-0 lead. Tell Taylor and Eric Solberg scored in the fourth to increase it to a 6-0 lead.
After junior Nick Unes scored another run in the fifth, Milwaukee laid it on in the sixth. Meeteer and Peake scored on a Koenig single, followed by Unes scoring Mitch Ghelfi on a sacrifice fly.
“It’s amazing,” Doffek said of the team’s offense. “You never know. You come out of the gym, come out of the batting cages and it does take a little while. There were some at bats that I thought we gave away that I think we need to improve on, but for the most part, you can’t ask for a better start.”
Possessing a large lead allowed Milwaukee to make eight changes to their lineup, allowing many of their active position players to get into the game. The 10 runs scored is just the second time in program history they have scored double-digit runs in the season opener, the last one in a 16-6 win over Youngstown State in 1996. It was also the first season opener the team has won since a 2-0 win over St Marys of California in 2006.
The Panthers followed their 10-0 win with a doubleheader win the next day. In the first game, Milwaukee rode an all-around team effort to a 12-3 win.
“It starts with the offense in game one,” Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek said.
After singling into center field in the third, Derek Peake was driven home by Ghelfi. Hermann then drove Ghelfi in, followed by an RBI by Unes to bring in Sam Koenig to make it 3-0. More runs came in the fourth when Peake drove in Luke Meeteer with an RBI triple. Soon after, Ghelfi hit an RBI single to drive in Peake.
Milwaukee continued the offensive salvo in the sixth with five more runs, then two runs in the seventh to make it 12-0. Maine later scored three runs in the seventh, but the damage was done and UWM took home the win into game two.
Following Brian Keller’s scoreless bout of the opener, sophomore Justin Langley pitched five scoreless innings, only allowing two hits and three walks, while collecting six strikeouts.
“He (Langley) was effectively wild and ended up getting a good result,” Doffek said. “He’ll be better next week. He’s going to pitch the ball better but you can’t ask for much more than five scoreless.”
Game two of the doubleheader didn’t start off so well, with Maine driving in two runs in the first inning. However, the Panthers responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, followed by two more in the second to nab a 3-2 lead.
Maine laid a counterpunch in the fourth with two more runs in the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth, Meeteer’s RBI double drove in freshman Daulton Varsho, and was later drove in by Ghelfi to regain a narrow 5-4 lead.
The fifth was the same story, with Maine scoring three more to take a 7-5 lead, which Milwaukee promptly responded in the bottom of the inning with a Tell Taylor two run homer to tie it up at 7 apiece.
For the next few innings, Milwaukee’s bats could not get anything going, but their pitching came to the rescue. Freshman Alex McIntosh shut out Maine in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, while only allowing one hit.
“I thought from a pitching standpoint, Alex McIntosh coming in as a freshman in his first time out really solidified the game and let our offense find their stride again. He really picked us up today,” Doffek said after the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Panthers came out firing. Luke Meeteer singled to start the inning and stole second, his fifth steal of the day and seventh of the season. After a bunt single by Peake and an intentional walk to Ghelfi, Tyler Hermann belted a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Meeteer. Nick Unes then drove in Peake and Ghelfi with a shot into left field. Taylor then put the icing on the cake by driving in Unes to end the game.
“(Those hits were) huge,” Doffek said later. “It was all set up by Meeteer, taking an 0-2 count into a walk, stealing second base and pressuring with his feet and then Peake takes a 1-2 pitch and bunts it down the line perfectly and that created the big inning.”
UWM was now 3-0 for the first time in program history. Scoring 10 or more runs in the first three games to start the year was another first in program history.
Their final game of the series did not go so well. Similar to the day before, the Black Bears scored three in the first, the Panthers responded with three of their own at the bottom of the inning. Sam Koenig’s RBI single plated Meeteer. Hermann then dropped a shallow hit into right field to score Peake. Mike Porcaro later scored Ghelfi on a fielder’s choice to tie everything up 3-3.
After that, Maine pitcher Scott Heath went hot and pitched six straight scoreless innings to eventually get the 6-4 win.
“We didn’t do a great job of commanding the strike zone and let a couple routine plays get away from us. Those extra outs will get you,” Doffek said in his post-game interview.
The tie game lasted until the sixth when Maine sent eight batters to the plate, scoring three to take a 6-3 lead. The Panthers rallied in the bottom of the eighth, with Peake, Koenig, and Hermann walking. Porcaro then hit a sacrifice fly to score Peake. Taylor then walked to load up the bases again, but the Panthers would end the inning with no additional runs on a Ryan McShane strikeout. Maine would ride the 6-4 score for one more inning for their first win of the year.
“We would’ve liked to have played a little more fundamentally sound today, but I definitely appreciate how hard the team played,” Doffek said on their first loss of the year. “They played very hard and picked each other up all weekend long. There’s a lot to build off of heading into the weeks to come.”
Two of the stars of the weekend were Sam Koenig and Luke Meeteer. Koenig scored four runs of his own, and got five RBIs. Meeteer scored nine runs of his own, driving in two RBIs, while stealing right bases.
Milwaukee’s next action is a three-game series against the Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky, starting on Friday at 2 p.m.