All good things must end, and so it did for Utah Valley’s baseball team on June 5. The Wolverines lost 3-2 to Southeastern Louisiana in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
But what a ride.
Utah Valley wasn’t even a Division I program until 2003 and played its first baseball season in the new tier in 2004. The Wolverines went 47-12 in 2012 but weren’t selected for the NCAA Tournament. They joined the WAC in 2013 and won the conference championship this year despite being picked to finish sixth by the leagues coaches.
“Those kids those first years, they were just playing for the experience to be playing Division I,” head coach Eric Madsen told USA Today. “It’s been awesome to watch and be a part of seeing the growth each year, both the highs and lows. It’s really surreal for me.”
And not just for the baseball team. The men’s and women’s soccer teams both advanced to NCAA Tournaments last fall and wrestler Jade Rauser finished eighth at the NCAA Championships.
The Wolverines’ 4-0 victory against Seattle on May 28 in the WAC baseball championship capped the most successful year in school history.
Utah Valley’s website recorded the sports moment judged the greatest in school history:
Utah Valley University completed its unbeaten run through the WAC Tournament with a 4-0 shutout of Seattle University, earning the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Kaden Schmitt threw seven scoreless innings for the Wolverines (37-21) who have now won seven straight games.
“Kaden Schmitt. Are you kidding me? Needing that type of game from him and he gave it to us. I’m so proud and happy for the guys. They’ve earned this,” said UVU head coach Eric Madsen.
Schmitt was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Jackson Cofer, Mark Krueger, Jordan Schlehuber and Craig Brinkerhoff, who was named the Tournament MVP.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Two years ago we got here and didn’t win it. From day one this year we had our goal set on the dogpile. It was a great team effort,” Brinkerhoff said.
“I don’t even know what is going on right now. This is surreal. I’m so proud of our guys. I can’t describe how amazing this feeling is,” Krueger said.
Greyson Bogden went 4-for-4 for UVU while Zac Willis was 2-for-4 with an RBI triple and two runs scored. The Wolverines scored in the top of the first on a two-out RBI single from Krueger to jump out to an early 1-0 advantage.
Krueger helped keep the Redhawks off the board in the second, when he caught a line drive and then cut down Brock Carpenter at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
The Wolverines got three in the fifth with Trevor Howell delivering an RBI single to plate Justin Erlandson, who reached on a bunt single and stole second. Willis followed with an RBI triple to left-center and then scored on a base hit by Bogden, giving Utah Valley a 4-0 lead.
Schmitt finished with four strikeouts in earning his first win. Zach Wolf (0-1) took the loss for the Redhawks (37-21) whose season included a WAC regular-season title.
Logan Hold came on and got out of the eighth with the bases loaded, striking out Carpenter to keep Seattle off the board.
In addition to those on the all-tournament team, several other Wolverines had big weekends. Kyle Valgardson pitched a scoreless ninth, finishing off his third game of the tournament. He recorded two saves on the weekend.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s been a great blessing to be teammates with all of these guys. We got hot when it mattered and now we’re going to try and continue that on in a regional,” said Valgardson.
On the cover and above: Utah Valley celebrates its 2016 WAC baseball championship, which earned the Wolverines the first NCAA Tournament bid in school history. (Courtesy Darryl Webb/UVU Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Towson and Tulane
• Tuesday: Tulsa and Union
• Wednesday: Utah Valley and Valparaiso
• Thursday: Vermont and VCU
• Friday: VMI and Western Carolina