By: Ricky Babcock
This weekend can be summed up in one word “sweet”. We had the opportunity again this season to play in the Jacksonville Invitational which is a great weekend round robin hosted by Jacksonville University. We started the weekend with a game against the University of Michigan which was a unique one. I have known head coach Rich Maloney for some years and this was the first time our two teams met on the diamond.
This was probably one of the sloppiest games I have seen in my three years in Milwaukee, there were a combined 15 walks, 8 hit batters, and 5 errors. After last weekends poor performance many of our players worked hard during the three days we were home in Milwaukee and it definitely showed. Every player in the line up had a hit and scored a run, we were led by senior first basemen Shawn Wozniak who went 3 for 5 with a double, a three run home run, 5 RBI and 3 runs scored. Michigan battled back the whole afternoon, they were within striking distance at 9-7 then we scored 7 runs in the top of the 6th to get a big cushion for the win.
The funny thing about the weekend was our hotel setup. We had four different college teams at our hotel in Jacksonville. Akron and our team were playing in the JU Invitational while George Mason and Ohio State were playing in the weekend series at the University of North Florida. So, when we returned to the hotel the Ohio State fans were excited to hear that we had beaten Michigan. The players had the opportunity to enjoy the many amenities that surrounded the hotel, primarily the numerous restaurants approximately 25 all within a mile or so of the hotel. A few players ventured to the movie theater, and some went with family and friends out to the beach to enjoy the beautiful weather we had on Friday and Saturday.
Saturday morning we were matched up with University of Akron, the Zips definitely came out inspired to play after a tough loss Friday night to host Jacksonville 6-4. Akron plated 2 runs in the top of the 1st on a RBI double by center fielder Matt Roberts as well as bases loaded single by Brian Kordal. We were able to battle and plate runs every inning except the 3rd. In the top of the 7th Akron went ahead 7-5 but we answered with a three run homer by Sr. Ben Long. After Long’s HR that sealed the deal as our Sr. closer Craig Meier came on for his first save of the season to close out the 9-7 win. After the game the coaching staff and I watched some of the Michigan vs. Jacksonville double header. Baseball is a unique game that anything can happen at any time, Michigan won the first game 21-3 but JU was able to pick up game 2 10-2. While preparing for today’s game we wondered which Jacksonville team would show up.
Sunday, there were early AM rain showers which pushed back the start of the games. Since Michigan and us had travel plans, we played shortened games. There was a time limit for both games that no new inning could start after 2 hours and 20 minutes. Our game went 7 innings where Michigan’s went 8 innings. Which on a side note the 10-7 win by Michigan was Rich Maloney’s 500th career win. Jacksonville came out early and took advantage when we fell behind in some counts. They jumped out to a 2-0 after the first inning but we put up four in the top of the 2nd. By the 4th inning we had a comfortable 8-3 lead, but JU chipped away and got the scored tied in the 6th. In our frame of 7th Jr. Shaun Wegner hit a lead off blast to left center field to put us up 9-8. An infield single by Cole Kraft, followed by a double down the left field line by Wes Munson set us up for a balk to score the game winning run. The pitcher double set, then after the call he tried to argue it a little, but the call stood. Craig Meier came in for his 2nd save opportunity on the weekend and with the tying run at 2nd and the game winning run at 1st he induced a ground ball to end the game.
This was a great weekend and all the players were jacked up. During the game, being in charge of our operations and team travel I had my eye on the weather around Atlanta, GA. After the game was over some parents had said that our flight out of Jacksonville was delayed. When we pulled up at the airport I went in and the monitor showed the flight was still on time, so with 45 minutes until push back I told the guys to hustle up and get moving we needed to get checked in. With only two agents able to check people in and a considerable line, things got frustrating and while we were standing in line they delayed the flight two hours. Finally we got everyone checked in and on to the gate, we were told that our flight out of Atlanta was probably going to leave without us and we would have to wait until the Monday morning and possibly Tuesday morning to get back to Milwaukee. Fortunately the flight out of Atlanta was delayed until midnight and we made our flight to Chicago, arriving at 1:30 AM.
With a two hour bus ride ahead of us and some players were worried about early morning exams so we got on the road, some people fell asleep others were listening to music. I fell asleep but there were a few times I woke up to see nothing but white in front of us. We were so caught up in the weather around Atlanta we didn’t bother checking the forecast for Chicago or Milwaukee. Currently we have a lake effect storm which had dropped 6 inches of snow earlier in the evening and more to come. The bus was definitely sliding and started to get sideways a few times. Since I’m from Maryland where big snow falls are few and far between I was a little worried having to drive home. We finally made it back to campus at 5 AM and it’s now 5:40, fortunately after last weekend’s debacle with travel we at least have 3 wins to balance it out. I made sure to drive through campus and get a few doughnuts out of my system in the Chancellor’s parking lot, and hopefully classes will be canceled so we can get some much needed rest.