With a senior class of 14, MU baseball sets its goal to make it to the NAIA World Series

By Trevor McClain

Coming off a 35-21 season, which ended in the semifinals of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference baseball tournament, MU has its sights set to make it to the 2013 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series.

“We have a great group of seniors that had a taste of getting out of town their freshman year,” said Greg Haeger (pictured center above), entering his 17th season as head coach of the Crusaders. “It gives them something to work hard toward; they want to make it to the World Series before their college baseball career is over.”

MU returns 14 seniors for the 2013 season. The class includes eight pitchers – Matthew Cook , Josh Deeg, Austin Delmotte, Robert Fraser, Jeremy Gooding, Peter Renaud, Randall Stempek and Josh Vandemark; four outfielders – Jeff Beckles, Alex Charles, Brad Lineberry and Steve Pelletier; and two infielders – Justin Cook and Spencer Sarel.

“I think that it is a big benefit to have such a big senior class,” said Pelletier, senior outfielder. “It’s nice to not have to rely on coaches to provide the leadership.”

MU’s leadership has already lead them to a 3-1 record to open the season in early February, as the team participated in the Tennessee Valley Invitational. Six seniors started games for the Crusaders and led them to a team batting average of .264 to open the 2013 slate.

While participating in the Tennessee Valley Invitational, MU took a win over No. 3 ranked Lee University to close out the weekend series.

“We played some really good teams in Tennessee,” said Haeger. “The teams that we played in Tennessee are the same ones that we are likely to see down the road in the World Series.”

Following Tennessee, MU will return indoors until they head down Florida for the team’s spring trip.

“It’s tough, nobody likes to go back in the gym,” said Pelletier. “But you need to use this time to get better and this is where senior leadership is most important.”

During indoor practices, Haeger has a chance to really see how not only the seniors are doing but the freshman as well. MU will feature 12 new faces on the squad this year, including Shane Dokey, who started all four games at second base in Tennessee.

“The freshman that we have are great,” said Pelletier. “None of these guys are scared.”

MU will also return a familiar face to the coaching staff: Ted Falkner, after taking a leave of absence to work on his master’s degree and serving as an assistant coach at Ashford University in Iowa.

“I love having Teddy back,” said Brad Lineberry, senior outfielder. “He has so much knowledge for the game; he could easily be a college head coach someday.”

MU will participate in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational and open the invitational with Evangel University March 1.

“Florida will be a great time,” said Lineberry. “Using the Lee win as motivation we should be able to play in some great games down there.”

To follow No. 24 ranked Madonna baseball team all season long, log on to the official Madonna University Athletics website, madonnacrusaders.com.



Baseball, softball set high expectations for 2013 seasons

The Madonna softball team starts to prepare for back-to-back appearances in the NAIA Softball Championship Tournament

By Trevor McClain

After coming off a 34-14 season in 2012, the Madonna University softball team prepares for another successful season in 2013 under the direction of head coach Al White, entering his 15th season at the helm of the Crusaders.

“It’s going to be exciting but scary at the same time,” said White. “We have just about the same starting lineup as last year.”

After the 2012 season, MU graduated two seniors, pitcher Hallie Minch and outfielder Kiley Thornton. Minch started 27 games inside the circle for the Crusaders posting a 2.35 earned run average, while also hitting .241 for the season. Thornton came in mostly as a defensive replacement for the team appearing in 40 games throughout the season.

“We are going to need our returners to have as good of a season as they did last year on the offensive side,” said White. “Defensively we are going to be all right.”

MU will have 11 returning players from last season, four of which posted over .300 batting averages for the season.

“I like the team that we are returning,” said White. “With the returners and the freshman we added, we should be really competitive.”

During the offseason, White signed five newcomers: Emma Cook, Katie Fenech, Whitney Paddock, Katelyn Taormina, and Hayley Wallace.

“I think the freshman and new transfers are awesome,” said Angela Pavilanis, sophomore pitcher. “They all bring in something new and I feel like we are more stacked with them here.”

Within the 11 returners, MU will have two seniors leading the Crusaders, Amber Rafko and Arielle Cox.

“Both of our seniors this year are outfielders, and both bat well in the line-up,” said Pavilanis. “I think they can lead the team with good enthusiasm and hopefully take us to nationals.”

Both seniors were honored by the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and the NAIA last season. Cox received All-WHAC first team honors and being named to the WHAC All-Academic team. Both were honored as NAIA All-American Scholar-Athletes.

In addition to Rafko and Cox, a multitude of Crusaders were honored by the WHAC last year. Madonna had four returning players named to the WHAC All-Conference First team, including Cox, Pavilanis, juniors Jackie Barley and Erin Mayes. Sophomore Caitlyn Keuvelaar was the only Crusader named to the WHAC All-Conference Honorable Mention team.

“I think that this season as a team we are looking toward the big picture, and that is going to nationals,” said Pavilanis. “I think we have a lot more potential, if we work hard and focus we can come out on top.”

The road to the national tournament this year will start in Tucson, Ariz. as the Crusaders will participate in the Tucson Invitational over spring break.

“I am looking forward to spring break,” said Rafko. “I think that it’s the most excited that I have been for spring break.”

MU will play 18 games in Tucson; the slate will feature three, top-25-ranked teams, including No. 5 Concordia-Irvine, No. 12 Olivet Nazarene, and No. 22 William Penn.

“We need to start strong this year,” said Rafko. “After spring break our season is already half way done.” 

MU will opened the 2013 season March 1 against Biola University.

After returning, MU will make a weekend trip to Ohio to take on Shawnee State and Ohio Dominican. Following Ohio, MU will open the home schedule on a brand new, all-turf field at the Madonna Athletic Complex as they take on Albion College in a double-header.

The Crusaders will then head into their conference schedule, with another couple of Ohio trips mixed in. The 2013 WHAC softball tournament is scheduled to be held at Bailey Park in Battle Creek, Mich.

For the most updated schedule and to follow the team as they progress through the 2013 season, log onto the Madonna athletics website madonnacrusaders.com