Spartan Baseball’s Budding Talent Seeks First IIAC Tournament Berth Since 2005
Mar 13, 2015 | N/A
2015 Roster and Schedule
DUBUQUE, Iowa – It’s been a long time coming for the University of Dubuque baseball team, who last reached the Iowa Conference tournament in 2005 as a #6 seed. There’s no time like the present for the sophomore-laden Spartans as they utilize a contingency of underclassmen and a 3-0 start in pursuit of that elusive IIAC berth.
The Spartans were picked tied for fifth in this year’s preseason IIAC poll and hope to hit that benchmark or surpass it to grab one of six spots in the IIAC tourney.
So far, so good.
The Spartans (3-0) opened their season last weekend with a quick three-game sweep (2-1, 12-2, 3-2) of Elmhurst (Ill.) on the road. Eddie Pablo leads the way with a .444/.500/.667 (BA/OB%/SLG%) line with one triple, three runs scored, and two RBIs. Sophomores have accumulated 22 of UD’s 25 hits and 9.0 of UD’s 25.0 total innings. Of the 17 players that have contributed at least one hit or 1.0 inning, 11 are sophomores and two are freshmen.
It comes as no surprise that UD’s top-5 hitters are all clearing .300 or better thus far after nine Spartans return who played 23+ games last year. They may be young, but there’s plenty of experience to go around as the Spartans aim for the IIAC crown.
Wyczawski’s Spartans have finished 9-19 in the Iowa Conference each season of his two-year tenure and are due for a breakout campaign. The nine IIAC wins were the highest team totals since 2003 when UD finished 10-10 in IIAC play.
“We are still in the building phase of our program but I hate to put any limitations on what this team is capable of doing this year,” said Head Coach Paul Wyczawski (WY-CHOW-SKI). “We gained some valuable experience by starting 7 or 8 freshman a year ago and their continued development will be the key to our success.”
Leading the youth movement is sophomore outfielder, Daniel Casanova, whois back at it after being the only freshman to earn 2014 First Team All-Iowa Conference (IIAC) accolades. Casanova started all 40 games and led the IIAC in stolen bases by a wide margin (18), finished fourth in the IIAC in batting average at .375, and ended up fifth in runs scored with 24 during conference play. On the season, Casanova set the all-time single season school record with 28 stolen bases in 30 attempts.
The Lake Tapps, Wash. native needs only 25 more stolen bases to set UD’s all-time career record. His prowess on the paths allowed UD to lead the IIAC with 32 stolen bases in IIAC play a year ago.
The Spartans other returning IIAC honoree is Second Team Utility selection, Eddie Pablo, whosported a .282/.356/.462 line, a team-high 10 doubles, two triples, and seven RBIs.
The productive pair of sophomores, Austin McWhite and Will Fogel, both hit .300+ for a Spartan team that compiled the fourth-best batting average in IIAC play (.280). McWhite posted a .336/.362/.427 (BA/OB%/SLG%) line, a team-high 26 RBIs, and one home run after a successful first year campaign. Fogel returns with a .318 batting average with three doubles, a triple, and 12 RBIs.
On the bump for the Spartans is leading ace and elder statesmen, senior Josh Eastman, who paced the Spartans with 57.2 innings pitched and two complete games. Eastman allowed a 5.15 ERA and compiled a 3-5 record, but posted a solid 38-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 starts.
“Eastman is back for his final season and looks to anchor the staff,” added Coach Wyczawski. “He has the experience to show the way for the younger guys and has done a great job of imparting his wisdom on the squad.”
Backing him up will be the starting tandem of Trent Van Egtern (5 starts, 31.2 innings, and 3.69 ERA) and Reed Stumpf (6 starts, 30.0 innings, and 5.70 ERA).
The reliever role will be up for grabs after graduating record-setting Justin Naval, who tied a UD single-season save record with 5, and posted a sterling 1.85 ERA with a 2-1 record in 24.1 innings.
Naval, along with graduated home run leaders, Vince Parisi (team-high 3 home runs) and Steve Ryan (2 HRs), will be tough to replace, but no worries from Coach Wyczawski and the gang.
“We feel good about our early season preparation so far,” stated Coach Wyczawski. “With a large group of returning players, practices have been outstanding - both mentally and physically - and our retention has been great. A number of veterans, Austin Monfross, Mike Riordan, Chris Fields, and our three other seniors have taken a leadership role on and off the field and are doing a great job of setting the tone for the others.”
Backup has arrived to assist the Spartans in the form of key newcomers, freshmen RHP Doug Van Dyke and C Will Doherty.
“Van Dyke has thrown well in the preseason and will be a big part of the staff this spring,” added Coach Wyczawski. “Doherty has also developed nicely as a catcher and has shown good leadership as well.”
The Spartans will rely on their newly minted freshman and lean on their sophomore veterans as they build upon their 3-0 start with a nine-game spring break road trip starting on March 14. Some key dates include Buena Vista coming to town for IIAC opener on March 27, rival Loras in a pair of doubleheaders on March 31 and April 21, and the start of the IIAC tournament on May 7.
At this point, every game will be crucial for the Spartans.
“The 28 game conference schedule is a challenging one and we treat all our opponents the same – with great respect,” said Coach Wyczawski. “Our approach each game will be to focus on the process, know who we are, and concentrate on executing the fundamentals. We really don’t pinpoint any team or series – they are all big!”
Picked fifth in this year’s IIAC coaches poll bodes well for a team looking to get back into contention. Now the Spartans must go out and earn it.
“Based on scores against our conference opponents the last two years, we can play with any team in the IIAC – the question is: Can we do it on a consistent basis?” mused Coach Wyczawski. “The goal is to get to the conference tourney where anything can happen. That is something we want to do on a yearly basis – and this team certainly has the makeup to make it happen!”