SENIOR CLASS READY TO TACKLE THE MOMENT OF THE OVC TOURNAMENT
May 23, 2017
OVC Digital Network
OXFORD, Ala. – After the six seniors for the University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team left the field on Saturday, May 13 after being honored for their accomplishments on the diamond, the group was still uncertain of their postseason fate.
However, after posting a 9-3 win over Murray State in the first game of the series this past Thursday and with a little help from scores around the league, the group of six had helped clinch the first berth in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament since 2011, and just the third overall.
“I think this is what our goal was as seniors when we came in here two years ago,” said senior shortstop Josh Hauser. “We wanted to change this program, where going into each game, winning is something we expect to do. We’ve played well down the stretch of the season and all it takes is a team to get hot to win this thing.”
And win this thing is exactly what UT Martin (25-29, 12-18 OVC) is looking to do. And although they may be the last team in the field to qualify for the event, they do not plan on being an easy out.
“Making the OVC Tournament has been our team’s main goal all year long,” said senior Dan Kerwin. “Now that we’re here, we can’t just be content. It’s time to turn some heads.”
The Skyhawks open up play tonight, at 6 p.m., at the new tournament destination, Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala., against Austin Peay in a do-or-die game. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the final seven and is also guaranteed at least two more games, while the loser sees their season come to an end.
“There is no other way to end a great senior season, than by earning the chance to compete in this tournament,” said senior reliever Alex Evans. “We are just a few wins away from doing something that no other team at UT Martin has accomplished.”
In fact, the Skyhawks have only recorded one win in the OVC Tournament in their 24 year history as a Division-I program. That is a trend that these seniors plan to overturn, beginning tonight.
“We have been making history all season long,” said senior Ryan Helgren. “This tournament is really just a chance for us to keep making history.”
For a program that has not qualified for the OVC Tournament in six years, it would be easy to see a team get swallowed into the moment. But for this group of six, enjoying the grind of competing for a championship is something they have embraced.
“We have a special opportunity to do something that has never been done at UT Martin,” said senior right fielder Tanner Wessling. “We have as good a chance as anyone to win the whole thing. As long as we come fired up and play good baseball, we can compete with anyone. I am excited to get this thing started and see what happens.”
As the Skyhawks prepare for this ride into uncharted waters, finding time to just enjoy the moment is something they all plan to do.
“I am very excited that God has blessed us with this opportunity,” said senior pitcher Jake Patzner. “I hope we can just stay focused and play with confidence one game at a time. If we do that, I know we will be just fine.”