By Paul Freelend
After a season that saw the UNO baseball team barely break even in conference games, the Mavericks enter the final weekend of their regular season with their post-season destiny firmly in hand.
UNO posted a record of 21-25-1 last season, including a 9-9 record in the North Central Conference, but the 2002 Maverick baseball team has experienced a rapid upswing in its fortunes. The Mavs come into the final weekend with a record of 29-12 (11-3 NCC) and are ranked second in the NCAA Division II central region poll behind Central Missouri State (43-4).
Maverick head coach Bob Herold said part of the credit for this season’s turnaround goes to the Mav pitching staff.
“If you look at any winning team, you’ll see their game revolves around good pitching,” Herold said. “If your team pitches well, then your defense plays well and then all you need is some timely hitting and good base-running. We knew we had some good hitters coming into this season, but our pitching has put us in good positions to win this season.”
Herold’s club recently completed a stretch where it won 14 of 16 games, including winning 10 of 12 NCC games. In that stretch, the Maverick pitching staff allowed opponents five runs or more seven times, with the Mavs going 5-2 in those games. Starting pitcher Kyle Funk was recognized by the NCC for his recent efforts, being named NCC co-pitcher of the week for the week of April 29 alongside North Dakota State’s Mike Peschel. Funk pitched a complete game shutout of South Dakota State, striking out seven batters as the Mavs won 4-0.
UNO will play two doubleheaders to finish the regular season. The Mavs will play a pair of games against Morningside (27-16, 7-9) on Saturday before traveling to South Dakota (22-15, 7-8) for a doubleheader on Sunday.
Despite the disparity between the teams’ league records, Herold warned against complacency as the post-season draws near.
“We’ve only won one of our last eight games against Morningside,” Herold said. “In fact, the last three times we’ve played them, we’ve lost the game in the last inning, so if there’s such a thing as having a team’s number, Morningside has ours. As a team, we need to be consistent and approach this weekend like any other weekend. This will be an important weekend, though, because it’s the last one and it can serve as a springboard going into the conference tournament.”