2009 MWC Champions
[2009 MWC Champions]According to available records, Beloit College started playing varsity baseball in 1866. But in none of the 94 seasons on the field since have they ever enjoyed a season quite like the recently-completed 2009 campaign.
Under Head Coach Dave DeGeorge, in his 19th year, the Bucs battled through a season like no other on the books, finishing with a 28-9 overall record while going 11-5 in the conference, winning their first-ever Midwest Conference Championship, and advancing to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in the program’s history. All of that while breaking or tying 50 game, season and career records. It was a season for the ages.
It all started in Central Florida when the team went 6-2 on their annual season-opening spring trip. Winning the last four games of that week-long trip was the beginning of what would become a 14-game winning streak, the longest in school history. The final four games of the streak was a sweep of Carroll University, putting the team at 4-0 in the MWC for the first time ever. The streak was finally snapped at Ripon College on April 9 with a loss in the first game of the teams’ four-game series.
The Buccaneers split that conference series with Ripon, each winning twice, and did the same with St. Norbert College in a rain-delayed series two weeks later. But a doubleheader sweep of Lawrence University on the last weekend of the regular season, along with the results of the series between Ripon and St. Norbert, forced Ripon and Beloit to meet at The Ballpark at Strong Stadium on May 4 in a one-game playoff to decide the final entrant into the MWC Tournament, which Beloit had not qualified for since 1995. In exciting fashion, sophomore Mike Kovach crashed into the catcher with the winning run with two outs in the ninth on junior Scott Slubowski’s double to begin another chapter in what had already been a great season.
Beloit showed no signs of stopping at the MWC Tournament in De Pere, where they ran off three straight wins – defeating Monmouth College before topping host and rival St. Norbert twice – to win the Conference Championship and the league’s NCAA Division III automatic bid.
The Buccaneers, seeded sixth in the Midwest Regional in Oshkosh, made their inaugural NCAA appearance against #1-seed St. Olaf College and took the highly-ranked Oles to 11 innings before falling 2-1. The season-long run finally ran out of steam in their next game the next day, an 8-2 loss to UW-Stevens Point.
Through it all the season was something that brought excitement, happiness and pride to not just the team and campus, but also the parents, fans and many alumni who climbed on board a train that seemingly refused to stop.
It started in Florida and ended in Wisconsin. It was One Magical Season.
2011 MWC North Division Champions
[2011 MWC North Champions]The 2011 Buccaneers Baseball squad under Coach Dave DeGeorge wouldn’t quit. On their way to posting the second-most wins in program history, the Midwest Conference North Division champions played six games in five days, including tangling with a perennial conference power three times before finishing the season with an MWC Tournament Championship Game loss.
It wasn’t the end the Bucs wanted, DeGeorge says, but it still was a season to be proud of—and one for the record books. In his 21st season, DeGeorge earned his second MWC North Division Coach of the Year honor and he saw three of his seniors and a junior named First Team All-Conference. He also achieved a significant individual milestone, passing 300 career victories late in the season.
The MWC North Division title, a program first, also carried greater significance because it marked the first time in more than 25 years that any team besides St. Norbert and Ripon had won the North Division crown. And only the 2009 conference tournament champion Bucs posted more wins than this season’s team, which finished 27-12 (one game shy of the program record of 28 wins).
It didn’t come easy. The Bucs got hot in the last 10 days of the regular season. On Tuesday, May 10, they topped North Central in their regular season finale and headed into the tournament three days later on a five-game winning streak. After beating Monmouth in their opener 11-1, they suffered a heart-breaking walk-off loss to Ripon, pushing them into the loser’s bracket. The Bucs returned to action on Saturday morning, with no room for error, and beat Grinnell and then Ripon in the first Championship Game, forcing a winner-take-all contest late that evening. Under near constant drizzle, and with darkness fast approaching, the run finally came to an end, finishing with a two-run Ripon win.
DeGeorge attributes the team’s success – this year and in years past – to a shared philosophy and a family atmosphere that emanates from the coaching staff out.
Kerry Michaels, who coaches the infield, has been on staff for 15 years. Under his guidance, the Bucs set the infield fielding percentage record in 2009 and they’ve matched it every year since. Also in the dugout is Jeff Peterson, who has been coaching the outfield, and overseeing hitting instruction, for a dozen years. The newest member of the staff, Riley Gostisha, coaches pitching—and with great success. This season, the club’s pitchers served up only 80 walks, putting them third in NCAA Division III for walks allowed.
But it is another coach that carries the most interesting job description, and the longest ties to the program. Coach DeGeorge has had his father, former athletic director and Hall of Honor (2011) inductee Ed DeGeorge, on staff for five seasons to work with both the coaches and the players to ensure they are focused on what it takes to win. “He really coaches winning for us,” says the younger DeGeorge. “I’m not sure there’s another person out there with that title. But he knows how to win better than anyone I know, and that’s what he brings to our team.”
That shared focus and passion, mixed with a winning track record and a stable staff, is part of the formula that helped make this year’s team successful, says DeGeorge. It has also changed his recruiting approach. While he obviously wants talented players, he says that these days he’s evaluating recruits on fit as well as talent.
“I tell them, ‘This is who we are. This is the kind of kid we’re looking for. Does that describe you?’ Obviously, I’m going after good players, but we’re also getting men that have a value system that is in line with what we believe in,” DeGeorge says.
The payoff, he says, is apparent.
“These last two years I’ve graduated the best recruiting classes of my career,” he says. But this one was something special. “Of all the teams I’ve coached, this one most fully embraced what we were teaching. It was a great season and a great group to work with.”