Spending spring break in the South didn’t bring much sunshine to the Wisconsin-Whitewater baseball team.
The Warhawks, who haven’t lost more than nine games in a season since 2016, started the year 5-5 on trips to Alabama and Florida.
“It lit a fire under us,” said Prairie Ridge graduate Cal Aldridge, the team’s senior third basemen. “No one’s used to [losing], and that’s a good thing. We all needed to bring a little more energy, and we needed to find our brand of baseball.”
Since returning home late last month, the Warhawks (16-6) have won 11 of 12 games and discovered their own style.
“In years past, we’ve had a lot of big power numbers,” Aldridge said. “This year, we’re a little bit more of a small-ball team.”
Aldridge, meanwhile, has provided plenty of pop at the plate.
He leads the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and ranks in the top 10 nationally with eight of the team’s 20 home runs. He’s also in the top 25 nationally with a WIAC-best .455 batting average, which is a career high.
The Warhawks started the season ranked No. 2 nationally by D3Baseball.com and eventually fell out of the Top 25 before turning their season around. This week, they are at No. 20.
After a strong freshman season, Aldridge began seeing a heavy diet of breaking pitches from opponents.
“I noticed that if I didn’t make an adjustment, it was going to be pretty tough to be successful,” he said. “It’s definitely a learning curve. It comes with practice. Our coaches give us a lot of opportunity to see breaking balls in practice. So when it comes to a game, it’s not a shock.”
Aldridge leads the conference in six offensive categories, including slugging percentage (.870) and a career-best on-base percentage of .561.
His approach at the plate has been matter of fact.
“It’s just knowing that one of those times, they’re going to give me a pitch to hit,” he said.
Whitewater’s pitching staff has benefited from the experience of senior Michael Kaska, a Richmond-Burton grad. Kaska (3-2) has a 3.60 ERA and leads the WIAC with 50 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Whitewater pitchers have allowed more than four runs in a game only twice since their return from the spring trip.
“I really think the sky’s the limit,” Aldridge said. “It’s fun. It’s a different energy than we had before. Guys are into every pitch of every game. It’s fun showing up and going to work with everybody every day.”
Hahn rules Big Ten: Richmond-Burton grad Jordan Hahn, a senior at Wisconsin, was recognized Wednesday as the Big Ten Conference Men’s Golfer of the Week after winning the individual title last weekend at Purdue’s Boilermaker Invitational.
Hahn’s 36-hole total of 9-under-par 135 (67-68) was good for the first solo medalist honor for a Wisconsin golfer since 2006. In his career, Hahn has won three tournament titles.
This season, Hahn has a team-best 71.3 scoring average, and 12 of his 26 rounds have been under par.
Upper Iowa record breaker: Sophomore Serianna Dehmlow (Huntley) set the 10-kilometer school record last weekend for D-II Upper Iowa University at Mount Mercy University’s Mustang Open.
Dehmlow finished in 41 minutes, 54.20 seconds to place second in the meet. But she improved on her own record time – set a week earlier at Central College’s Dutch Invitational – by more than 90 seconds.
Steeplechase standout: Marian Central grad Abigail Jones cut almost 22 seconds off her personal-best time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last weekend to place second at the Musco Twilight Meet at the University of Iowa.
Jones, a sophomore at Loyola, posted a time of 11:10.45, which ranks as the seventh-best time in school history.
Big, bad Bear in St. Louis: D-III Washington University St. Louis softball player Amy Walsh (Crystal Lake Central) is batting a career-best .402 this season for the Bears (13-11).
The junior outfielder leads Washington in five offensive categories, including hits (33), total bases (43) and runs scored (18). She also has stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts.
She has eight multihit games this season, including a 4-for-5 effort with three runs scored last weekend in a 7-1 victory against Carnegie Mellon.
Bradley on a roll: One of the hottest college baseball teams in Illinois resides in Peoria, where Bradley University has won 11 in a row, including a 12-8 victory Tuesday at Illinois.
The Braves (23-10) have relied on excellent pitching with a 2.25 team ERA.
Prairie Ridge grad Ben Cilano, a junior right-hander, has been solid out of the bullpen with career-best 3.29 ERA in eight appearances. Cilano has 14 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings, and opponents are batting .204 against him.
Leading the way at Lewis: Crystal Lake Central grad Carrie Johnson ran the second leg of Lewis University’s winning women’s 4x100-meter relay team at the Benedictine Relays. Johnson, a junior, and the Flyers won the event in 46.89 seconds.
Lewis also won the team title with 143 points.
Crystal Lake South grad Kianna Clark, a senior, tied for second in the hammer throw with a toss of 171 feet, 1 inch.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.