A first-hand report from spring training
Nine wins, a no-hitter and a first chance to bat for the Green Knights made spring training a memorable experience for sophomore
Jordan Vater. Here’s his take on his first trip to Florida for the spring break baseball tournament.
We couldn’t believe it. Every other Wisconsin team was on the banner, but we weren’t.
We had just gotten off the bus after the 26-hour trip to Port Charlotte, Fla., headed for our spring break baseball tournament—my first as a member of the St. Norbert team. As we arrived and unpacked our gear, the coaches drew to our attention the fact that St. Norbert College had been left off the banner listing all of the teams playing in the event.
“When we walk out of here next Saturday with one of the best records down here, we’re going to sign that banner and let everyone know that St. Norbert College was here and we don’t like being overlooked!” our coach,
Tom Winske, said to us.
That was motivation enough to come out swinging the next morning, as we got ready for our season-opening doubleheader. When we got to the diamond we were fired up and ready to take on a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh program we hadn’t defeated since 1978.
After falling behind early, 2-0, we rallied behind junior
Alex Byrne, who threw a complete game gem, holding Oshkosh to just those two runs. We scored three runs in the final three innings, and won the game on a walk-off single by second baseman
Jordan Stauber ’08, and began the season with a victory.
Unfortunately, over the next two games, both heroes would be lost for the remainder of the trip, to a broken thumb and a broken wrist respectively.
I got involved in the action in our second game Tuesday against Elms College (Mass.). After spending all of last season as a reserve outfielder near the bottom of the depth chart, I was elated to be on the field as a relief pitcher.
We were trailing 8-7 when I entered with one out in the fifth inning but, after one run scored on an error, I escaped any further damage.
We took the lead the next inning and in the seventh, clinging to a one-run lead, I got my first collegiate at-bat. On the second pitch, I hit a line drive single to left field, and couldn’t help but smile the entire time I stood on the bases.
It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life to be able to say, “Coach, I told you I could hit a little.”
I walked out of the park that night with my first college hit, win, and a game ball to commemorate one of the biggest moments of my athletic career.
On Friday, I experienced another fantastic personal accomplishment, but this time by one of my teammates.
Jake Gasser ’08 twirled one of the best all around pitching performances I have ever seen. Gasser threw the first no-hitter for St. Norbert College since
John Hanmann ’92 in April of 1989, and shut out Worcester State (Mass.), 3-0, to earn his second victory of the trip.
By this point, we really started to roll, playing good fundamental baseball. We finished off the trip with a five-game winning streak.
I capped off my trip with a victory over Bates College (Maine) on Saturday afternoon, and pitched a total of 10 innings in six appearances. I left with a 2-0 record, proving to myself that I had finally “made it” to the next level.
All told, we left with a 9-3 record, one of the best records in the tournament and a little redemption over Oshkosh and whoever overlooked us so much that they forgot to list us as a participant.
We spent our last moments at the field on Saturday, April 24, celebrating with a marker, signing “St. Norbert College” onto the banner at the stadium.
We had created an unforgettable spring break with a couple of wins, a Sharpie, and a 26-hour bus ride to remind everyone that the team no-one knows can be the most dangerous team to play.
With the doubleheader sweep of Bates College (18-9 and 8-5), St. Norbert's 9-3 trip to Florida matched the most wins on a spring break trip in school history.
The Green Knights went 9-2 in 2000. St. Norbert went 2-8 in Arizona last March en route to a 16-18 season finish.
Highlights of this year's trip were the win over UW-Oshkosh, a triumph over perennial MIAA power Hope (Mich.) and a doubleheader sweep of MASCAC contender Worcester State (Mass.).