Titans Thrive Despite Season Of Adversity

Addison (upper left), Jessica and Kevin Tomasiewicz
Addison (upper left), Jessica and Kevin Tomasiewicz

It's a girl!

UW-Oshkosh head baseball coach Kevin Tomasiewicz became a father for the second time Monday (May 14) morning, welcoming another daughter. Addison Jennifer Tomasiewicz was born at 7:59 a.m., weighing in at 8 pounds, 12 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

Eight hours earlier, the fifth-year head coach had learned his Titans earned their first NCAA Championship berth in 10 years. An hour and a half after Addison was born, Tomasiewicz was on his way to Kolf Sports Center to jump on a NCAA regional conference call.

And 30 hours after his family expanded to four, he and the rest of the Titans were on the road to Duluth, Minn., for their NCAA regional first-round game against Bethel University (Minn.).

A bit dizzy? This 38-hour whirlwind was nothing new to Tomasiewicz or his players.

High Expectations Leading Into The Season

Tomasiewicz, a former pitcher at UW-Whitewater who won a national championship in 2005, was excited about the 2018 baseball season. Players from his first recruiting class with the Titans were now seniors, and he was returning 22 letter winners from a squad that finished second in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (WIAC) a year ago.

Like most northern schools, UW-Oshkosh began the season on the road to escape the cold weather. Thirteen games taking the team from Indiana to Florida resulted in a 11-2 record and began a winning streak that would reach 12, the longest in the program since 2005. 

The hot start also resulted in players earning WIAC weekly awards each of the opening three weeks, Taylor Grimm claiming a spot on the D3baseball.com National Team of the Week, as well as wins over third-ranked Washington and Jefferson College (Pa.), 17th-ranked University of Saint Thomas (Minn.) and 22nd-ranked The College of St. Scholastica (Minn.).

It culminated in the Titans becoming ranked for the first time since April 2013. UW-Oshkosh checked into the D3baseball.com poll 25th on March 27.

Weather Wreaks Havoc On The Titans

The Titans hosted their home opener a day after becoming ranked and defeated Wisconsin Lutheran College, 11-2. A home doubleheader against Milwaukee School of Engineering was played a day earlier than expected on March 30, due to inclement weather.

Weather continued to cause scheduling issues and the Titans would not play again for 12 days. A slight break in the weather allowed them to open WIAC action with two games at third-ranked UW-Whitewater on April 11, which they split, and to host UW-Stevens Point for a game on April 12.

Then the unthinkable happened.

A historic spring snow storm hit the state; first with freezing rain and sleet and then with 11.4 inches of snow in Oshkosh. As the town was trying to shovel out from the storm, the team received news that their home facility of Tiedemann Field had been severely damaged.

"It was a surprise," Tomasiewicz said. "Ian and Mike (assistant coaches Ian Czarneski and Mikole Pierce) went out to the field, and Ian called me and said 'We have a problem.' I said, 'What's the matter?' He's like, 'Well, the field is broken.' I said, 'What do you mean?' So, Ian sent me pictures, and I immediately knew that we weren't going to be playing home games anymore."

After surveying the damage of the field, which included the collapse of the safety net, the UW-Oshkosh officials announced on April 18 that the team would play all of its remaining contests on the road or at a neutral site.

"Hearing the news was disappointing," said Grimm, a senior catcher.

Teammate Logan Reckert echoed Grimm's thoughts. "With it being our senior season, we were looking forward to having our senior day out there. We spent our fourth year here, and we didn't get to play on it much, which was a bit disappointing."

Team Becomes Road Warriors

The only thing the Titans could do was move on from the disappointment.

UW-Oshkosh played its first games post-Blizzard Evelyn on April 21 (a doubleheader at UW-Platteville) and went on to play 20 more games on 10 different days over a span of 21 days.

Tomasiewicz believes the challenges of being on the road down the stretch helped his team in the long run.

"Being on the road so much allowed guys to know each other a lot better," Tomasiewicz said. "Spending four consecutive weekends on the road with each other – they're in close quarters, they're on the bus, they're in the hotel room – so, I think from a team-bonding standpoint, it really did help out. It brought us closer together as a team."

The Titans closed out the year winning 17 of their final 21 games and moved up the rankings to seventh in the nation.

Adversity Leads To NCAA Postseason Bid

With a 31-8 record, a second-place finish in the WIAC and national ranking of seventh, the Titans still weren't a lock for the NCAA Championship. They were hopeful the aforementioned would secure them one of the 18 at-large spots in the 58-team championship when the field was announced late Sunday (May 13).

"Sunday was nerve-racking. Anytime you put your fate in the hands of somebody else–the committee–it's always nerve-racking," Tomasiewicz said. "So, I just kind of stayed busy. I cut the lawn and did all sorts of stuff. Then we found out later that night that we were in, which was–after four years of building this program–satisfying and gratifying."

For Grimm, the postseason bid was a goal since being recruited in high school.

"The recruiting pitch to me when I decided to come here was we need to get UW-Oshkosh back to a regional and back to Appleton (for the NCAA Division III World Series)," Grimm said. "It's pretty special to get back in it my final year." 

Despite and because of all the adversity this season – weather, added travel, no home field, new baby girl – Tomasiewicz and the Titans are ready for this moment. They begin play in the Duluth Regional against Bethel University (Minn.) tonight (May 17) at 7 p.m. 

Written by Liz Smith, University Marketing & Communications