Devils Hold Huge Advantage over Milwaukee

Imagine playing a basketball game before entering a gym or playing a football game before touching a football field. That is the feeling the UW-Milwaukee Panthers will have this weekend when they come to Tempe to open their season against ASU. The first time the Panthers will touch a baseball field, let alone play catch outside will be when they hit the field at Packard Stadium this weekend.

"Baseball more though than any sport is the haves and the have nots," said Milwaukee Head Coach Scott Doffek, "We aren't going to have the budget or the weather. You aren't going be able to offset that we haven't played catch outside yet."

Doffek knows that his team will be at a disadvantage this weekend, because ASU has practiced plenty outside, but he knows it is something that only will take a couple of games to get used to.

"It is a huge advantage," laughed Doffek, "Baseball is played on a baseball field and we are on a basketball court or in a batting cage. At the same time, most of our kids are northern kids and are used to working out in the winter.

" Doffek went on to say that the advantage may be more mental than a physical advantage.

"The advantage might be something we talk about than reality," said Doffek, "It certainly will take us a couple games to get our feet under us and get used to the logistics of the game. The game is so different, seeing the pop-ups, the fly balls, communication and the wind and sun, things you just can't simulate."

"It is like riding a bike, it comes back pretty quick."

The Panthers finished 25-36 last season and 11-15 in the Horizon League. UWM struggled with injuries all season long and pitching was hit the hardest, but Milwaukee got hot at the right time and won four games in the Horizon League tournament before falling to Illinois-Chicago in the Championship Game.

"We feel really good about the momentum we picked up towards the end," said Doffek, "We didn't have our number one, two or three pitchers last year, and they didn't throw a pitch. We just don't have the depth to make up for that."

The Horizon League as a whole is trying to increase their RPI and strength of schedule by scheduling top opponents each season.

"Every single year, bar none, we have raised the bar," said Doffek of the conference, "It has been really exciting and every school has been scheduling up and it is showing. Every team had some formidable wins against ranked opponents."

That is one of the factors UWM is coming to Tempe to play the 6th ranked Sun Devils for a four game set this weekend. The Panthers have to go somewhere warm to play and why not play one of the top programs in college baseball?

"It is a recruiting edge for us to put quality competition on the schedule; ASU might be the most prestigious college program in the country. What Coach Murphy has done is unprecedented."

But this weekend will be a learning weekend for UWM and with the temperature supposed to be 53 degrees warmer in Tempe than Milwaukee; the Panthers might just get to play catch outside.

"We have competitive, athletic kids, just like the southern schools do; we are just a few thousand reps behind," said Doffek, "Our kids our competitors and we are going to come out and play hardball."

Probable Starters
Friday 6:30PM:
ASU: Mike Leake (11-3, 3.49 ERA in ‘08)
UWM: Brad Lusti (4-4, 4.24 ERA in '08)
Saturday 1:00PM:
ASU: Josh Spence (14-4, 1.69 ERA at Central Arizona College in '08)
UWM: Andy Hetebrueg (6-7, 6.57 ERA in '08)
Saturday 4:00 PM:
ASU: Seth Blair (4-2, 6.96 ERA in '08)
UWM: Jeff Gordon (Missed '08 with Injury)
Sunday 12:00 PM:
ASU: Matt Newman (1-0, 5.60 ERA in '08)

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