Plaza pitches UW-Whitewater to title

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The Warhawks raised their second national championship trophy on Tuesday, shutting out Emory in the process.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

By Erik Buchinger

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- Scott Plaza threw a complete game shutout as UW-Whitewater defeated Emory 7-0 in the championship game of the 2014 NCAA Division III World Series at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.

Plaza allowed seven hits, two walks, and recorded nine strikeouts on three days’ rest.

"When I was in the bullpen, everything was working and that’s when I knew it was going to be a good day,” Plaza said. “There was no way I was coming out of that game.”

Plaza gave up no runs in 16 innings in his two starts in the tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the World Series.

Whitewater opened up the scoring in the bottom of the second after three consecutive singles with one out.

With the bases loaded, Adam Gregory hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Casey Power to give the Warhawks a 1-0 lead.

Brandon Hannon reached first after Power tried to apply a sweep tag, but dropped it and was ruled safe. Brett Lake then singled to left center and Hannon was thrown out at third to end the threat.

Whitewater extended its lead in the third on a single by Michael Gonzalez to center that scored Dylan Friend.

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Jared Fon dumped a single to right with nobody out that scored another run and runners moved to second and third on a throwing error from Brandon Hannon that made it a 3-0 game.

Emory starter Jackson Weeg struck out the next two batters and got Mike Mierow to line out to right center field to end the inning.

The Warhawks were back in business in the fourth. Gregory was hit by a pitch and three consecutive singles plated Gregory and Nick Kuhlmann. Emory starter Jackson Weeg struck out the next two batters and got Mike Mierow to line out to right center.

“We’re the best hitting team in the nation to be honest in my opinion,” Kuhlmann said. “We just get up there and put barrels on the ball and that’s just something we’ve been working on all year.”

Michael Byman came in to replace Weeg, who took the loss and went 3.1 innings and allowed 10 hits, five runs, walked two, and struck out three.

 “That kid hadn’t faced a team like us yet of our caliber and he saw it today,” Kuhlmann said.

Byman got the next two batters out for the Eagles.

Philip Maldari doubled down the right field line to lead off the top of the fifth and advanced to third with one out, but Plaza got Jack Karras to line out and Wes Peacock grounded out to third.

With runners at first and second and one out in the sixth, Jared Kahn lined sharply to Power, who stepped on first for the double play that ended the inning.

“When you lose games, that’s what happens,” Emory coach Mike Twardoski said. “We never got a chance to get momentum going whether it was a line drive right at somebody or a great play. They made every play to stop our momentum and their pitcher threw strikes.”

Emory missed out on another opportunity in the seventh inning when the Eagles had runners on second and third with nobody out. Jordan Selbach hit a looping line drive to right center that was caught by a diving Gonzalez.

Jared Welch appeared to score the first run of the game for Emory. After the dugout motioned to Plaza that Welch to appeal to third, Plaza threw to third and it was determined he did not tag up and was called out. Replays showed that Welch tagged up and Emory should have been given a run.

“I was worried about Maldari at second base,” Twardoski said. “I didn’t even think about [Welch]. Even if he was safe, we didn’t lose because of that. I don’t want that play to even be talked about in the whole realm of this. It is Whitewater’s day and they beat us.”

Whitewater added two runs in the eighth to extend its lead to 7-0. With runner on first and third, Trey Cannon reached on a fielder’s choice to second that scored Gonzalez. Two batters later, Gregory singled to left and Power scored.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Plaza got Maldari to fly to center and Friend caught the final out in front of the 2,042 people in attendance, the largest championship game crowd since the NCAA Division III World Series was moved to Appleton in 2000.

“There’s no better way to go out than make the final out of your career to win the national championship,” Friend said.

With the win, Whitewater athletics has now won the football, men’s basketball, and baseball national championships in the same year. This is the first time that has happened NCAA history.

“When you hear Whitewater, you don’t think one sport anymore, you think multiple now,” Kuhlmann said.

Whitewater coach John Vodenlich said the success in all three sports has been special.

“I’m glad we have Google,” Vodenlich said. “Anytime people search it, they’ll see that UW-Whitewater is the only school in history that has accomplished that. I know it’s not like winning World War II, but it’s our own little piece of history that is very special to me.”

This is the second national championship for Vodenlich, who won it all with the Warhawks in 2005.

“It’s a special one for me,” Vodenlich said. “My father was with me last time I won. He’s not with us anymore, so I want to dedicate this to my family, first and foremost.”