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Koch

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Photo Courtesy of Omaha Baseball

Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades, but the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s baseball team ought to be proud of their performance against in-state rival University of Nebraska at Lincoln Wednesday at Werner Park.

The Mavs showed they are not what their record says they are. Its clash with Nebraska was supposed to be a one-sided affair in favor of the Big-10 Cornhuskers. Instead, fans witnessed a tense, 9-inning chess match that could have gone either way. The Mavs had the Huskers up against the ropes much of the game, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow to finish the upset, as the Huskers defeated Omaha 3-1.

In a game with nine starters from the Omaha metro area, Evan Porter made a bold decision to start senior Shane Meltz, who was 0-3 with an 8.38 ERA. The decision showed the brilliance of the young Maverick coach as Meltz did his job, holding the Huskers to one run in three innings of work.

“Meltz sets the tone for us when he goes out there as a starter,” Porter said.

In the bottom half of the second inning with Nebraska leading 1-0, the Mavs got the first two runners on, thanks to two errors by Lincoln third baseman, Luke Roskam. With Omaha eager to jump at the changing momentum, Parker Smejkal roped a double into left field to score Ryan Cate. Nebraska was able to limit the damage by getting Sam Palensky to pop-up with the bases loaded to get out of the jam with only allowing one run.

UNO faced a bases loaded jam in the third with Lincoln’s best hitter Scott Schreiber up. Schreiber laced a line drive that drilled Meltz in the leg, but the senior was able to recover and make the throw to first to preserve the tie.

“Getting that one timely hit has been our enemy all season,” Porter said. “We just have to keep grinding and keep battling, and it will pay off.”

Following the steps of its big brother, Omaha loaded up the bases as well in the third inning. With UNO’s patience at the plate amounting to base runners, Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad was prompted to make a call to the bullpen. A new arm was all the Huskers needed to stymie the Mavs hopes of taking the lead, as Nate Fisher retired two straight batters to end the peril.

With Nebraska up against the wall, Omaha left the bases loaded in two separate innings, shifting the momentum of the game. After holding the Mavs, Nebraska scored an unearned run on a wild pitch with two outs in the sixth inning.

James Smith, who came in relief for Omaha, shut down the Huskers for three innings before surrendering the unearned run.

For much of the game, Omaha had Nebraska right where they wanted them.

“We had a great approach all game, and I felt like we had good plate discipline,” Porter said. “Just one hit away.”

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Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

DISCLAIMER. THE TOPICS AND ISSUES COVERED IN THIS EDITION ARE NOT REAL NEWS.
… HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha announced last Monday the school has voted to bring back the football team to UNO.

In 2011, UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts announced that the university had decided to give up two sports programs in its move from Division II to Division I. Alberts stated the school could not financially afford to keep football, since it wasn’t supported by the Summit League.

It’s 2017 and things have now changed.

In a move nobody saw coming, UNO warmed the longing hearts of the fans that could only reminisce on Maverick football. Not only is the football program back, but the University has already hired a coach for the team, as well.

Taylor Martinez, a Nebraska Cornhusker legend, will undoubtedly bring in high-caliber quarterback prospects eager to learn from the Husker great. Martinez is the second all time for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for most touchdown passes from anyone to put on the scarlet and white jersey. In his first head coaching job ever, Martinez said he is planning to run a “high octane, air raid” style of offense.

“With me working individually with the quarterbacks on their form and footwork, I have full confidence we’ll be able to score with anyone in the country,” Martinez said.

How can anyone argue against him? The legend with a sling shot for an arm has never been proved wrong.

However, even the best offenses need a home stadium. Thankfully, the university had already thought of that.

The Mavericks will play its games on Adam Caniglia Field, located right on the north campus. Most fans know of Caniglia Field, where the Maverick soccer and intramural teams also play their games. University officials stated that the decision to use Caniglia field would create a small hostile atmosphere that would discombobulate opponents.

The UNO Mavericks will be added into the Big 12 Conference, where they hope to fit right in with potent offenses. Omaha will also have an annual game against their instate rivals, Nebraska, which will rotate home-field advantage. Something that the Mavericks will use to their advantage.

Only time will tell if the Mavericks football team will eventually be a powerhouse that can compete with the juggernauts to the South Eastern Conference. One thing we do know, however, is that Omaha, not Lincoln, has the “T-Magic.”

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Photo Courtesy of Omavs Twitter

Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

“We finally stopped beating ourselves and let our opponent beat us instead,” joked Evan Porter, head coach for the University of Nebraska at Omaha Mavericks’ baseball team after it’s latest loss against Northern Colorado.

A week before the conference schedule starts, the Mavericks dropped both games of their doubleheader in it’s first ever game at Isaacson Field. Having previously played at Boy’s Town, the first game in the Maverick’s new home stadium saw a 9-4 loss to Northern Colorado. The Mav’s took a 4-3 lead into the eight inning, but an eight-run assault by the Bears demoralized all chances of an Omaha home-opening win. The hardships continued the next game, as UNO lost, 7-3.

Despite the bad weekend, coach Porter feels good heading into conference play. This bold statement may surprise some given the fact that the team has lost 12 in a row. However, Porter feels that his team is “finally learning how to win.”

As Porter had said before the season started, he isn’t concerned with wins as much as progress until conference play. After a 20-3 opening day loss back in Feb., there was a lot of room for progress. Porter cites improvement in his team’s hitting as of late. After only scoring 17 runs in it’s first 10 games, UNO has scored 29 runs in six games since. Still, the Mavs recent burst of offense hasn’t produced wins.

If anything can be taken away from the Mavs season thus far, it’s that they clearly have flaws. Omaha has yet to find a facet of their game that they can rely on. When the Mavs have had leads, they lose them late in games, courtesy of its bullpen, which fails to have a reliever with an ERA under seven. On offense, the team average is sitting at just a .197 batting average.

When both a team’s hitting and pitching are struggling, wins are going to be few and far between. That is why Porter knows improvement must come before success does.

“We are just trying to improve one area at a time, and I feel like we are doing that little by little,” Porter said. With the conference opener against South Dakota State looming this Friday, the time for the Mavs to turn around a 1-14 record is here and now.

Following a grueling start to the season, Porter declares “I think we’re finally ready to win some games.”

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Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

The University of Nebraska at Omaha men’s tennis team (4-6) has been riding a hot streak heading into its most recent match against the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Friday. The squad’s last two matches leading up to this match were both seven to nothing sweep victories against Midland Lutheran and Doane. That’s one way to end an ugly three-match skid.

After losing three matches in a row in early February, the Mavs seemed to find their stride as of late. After a week off, the Mavericks rolled through Midland Lutheran and Doane on their way to playing UMKC Friday night in Lincoln. But on Friday night, the winning streak came to a halt.

The Mavericks lost 5-2 at the hands of UMKC. The only wins for the Mavericks came from 53rd ranked Razvan Grigorescu and Nathan Reekie. Matt Dunn, Joni Heizlsperger, Colin Buckley and Alex Woodward all were defeated. This was a tough loss for Omaha, as the hot streak the Mavs were on gave them an opportunity to get back to .500. Instead, the loss dropped them to 4-6 on the season.

In doubles tennis, Grigorescu and Buckley combined for a win, while the combos of Nathan Reekie/Matt Dunn and Alex Woodward/John Ellis both were defeated 6-4.The Mavericks get a week off before they host Central College on Friday at 3 p.m., followed by Hastings at 7 p.m. These will be two big games that could get the Mavericks back to the .500 mark for the first time since late January.

Getting wins from young guys such as Grigorescu will help the Mavericks gain some experience as the conference stretch begins. After a rough skid, the Omaha tennis team rattled off two impressive wins. Their recent loss against UMKC puts them a step back, but they will have plenty of time to figure things out. The Mavericks will surely look to get bounce back this weekend.

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Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

There are always fireworks when the University of Nebraska at Omaha and North Dakota hockey teams play a series against each other. Last year, a misconduct penalty by the Fighting Sioux led to a chippy game that saw 13 penalties. These two teams are much different than they were last year, as they prepare to meet for the first time inside Ralph Emerson Arena this season.

The Mavericks are no strangers to familiar foe North Dakota. The hockey powerhouse swept the Mavs January at the Baxter Arena. In that series, North Dakota handed UNO its worst home loss in program history, defeating the Mavericks 9-1. Now, UNO will have to go to Fargo, a place that was just named the top hockey town in America by grandforksherald.com.

This series will be pivotal, with both teams tied for fourth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The two teams are on similar paths, both struggling to find the consistency fans are accustomed to seeing from these two juggernauts. UNO has had no problem scoring this season, but are also the only team in the conference to give up 100 goals (107).

With only four games left before the start of the playoffs, both teams know this series is crucial. UNO will need an answer for their goaltending as of late. They have given up 26 goals in their past seven games, while only scoring 14. They know they need to be more discipline against a quality team like North Dakota (15-11-3). Sophomore forward Fredrik Olofsson and the rest of the team are well aware of how to finish the season.

“Any lead we have to be careful,” Olofsson said. “We can’t stop playing. We’ve got to keep the gas going.”

Young guys like Oloffson hope to help the Mavericks find consistency on the ice. Things are looking up, though, as underclassmen Oloffson, and Riley Alferd have stepped up last weekend. The two scored two goals apiece to give the Mavericks a win when they needed one badly against Western Michigan.

Sophomore goalie Alex Blankenburg aided UNO in a much-needed victory in their last game, where he stopped 33 of 36 shots faced. Results like this will be needed again this weekend if the Mavericks have any chance of sweeping the Fighting Hawks.

Playing North Dakota is never easy, especially since they are a veteran team with a strong defense. In the world of sports, they usually say, “Good defense beats a good offense.”

UNO should not try and fight fire with fire against North Dakota. Consistency in the net will be the Mavericks biggest friend. If they play smart on defense, it will translate to scoring. That being said, using a “run and gun” style of play will only give North Dakota better scoring chances against a defense that has surrendered the most shots in the NCHC this season.

If the Mavericks can play a good, consistent defense, scoring chances will arise. There is always a certain feeling in the air when these two teams meet.

Friday night, one can expect penalties, mind games and heated post-whistle scuffles. Above all, expect two great games with absolutely no love-loss for each other.

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Ray Koch
CONTRIBUTOR

From 2005-2009, Evan Porter was the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s do-it-all shortstop. A two-time All-American, Porter left UNO as a career .372 hitter, while smashing 43 home runs and holding the most all-time by a Maverick. He also holds UNO’s career records for total bases (527), doubles (75), runs batted in (249) and hits in a season (97).

For fans, reminiscing on the renowned career Porter had may stir up feelings of success. As a player, Porter and UNO made it to the 2007 NCAA Division II College World Series. In addition, Porter was part of two Maverick teams (2006, 2008) that set a school record with 45 wins. During his career, UNO made four straight NCAA regional appearances and won the 2008 NCC championship.

That all ended in 2009 when he ​graduated. It’s now 2016, and ​Porter is back to deliver some of ​that same success; this time at ​the Division I level. Porter’s role, ​however, won’t be diving in the ​hole to prevent a single, or clearing the bases with a line-drive ​in the gap. Instead, you will find ​him leading from the dugout. ​

After four years as an assistant, ​Porter was introduced as the new ​head coach in 2016 for the UNO baseball team after the firing of longtime coach, Bob Herold.

Evan Porter, used the words “shocked” and “surprised” to describe his initial reaction to getting the call to be the head coach at UNO. He quickly realized he had some big shoes to fill, in place of the 17-year tenure of Herold.

It is now Porter’s team. Even though he had just been propelled to a head-coaching job far before he could have imagined, he still kept a humble perspective.

“I was fortunate enough to get the chance to play and coach with [Coach Herold],” Porter said. “He is one of the most passionate and energetic guys for the game of baseball I’ve ever been around and has taught me so much.”

Luckily for Porter, he has some talented veterans to assist him.

The leadership of this team comes from the two Sam’s. Seniors, Sam Murphy and Sam Palensky, have led this young group through the off-season. Porter said Murphy and Palensky were tremendous in helping him get the team together as a unit.

Both players and coaches know the beginning of this season is going to be an uphill battle. On Feb. 17, the team will play its first game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on UNLV’s home field. Unfortunately up to this point, the baseball team has only been able to practice outside once this year due to inclement weather.

UNO will play its first four games against teams that have been able to get outside year-round. This could lead to an unequal playing field for the Mavericks early in the season. This is something Sam Murphy is all too familiar with.

“Since I have been here, we haven’t started the season well— sometimes it takes time,” Murphy said.

Like Murphy, Porter isn’t as worried about his first start to a sea-son as the head coach either.

“It’s not about wins and losses, it’s about growing as a team and getting ‘hot’ at the right time,” Porter said. “The purpose of the earlier part of this is to establish roles for each player on the team.”

Being such a young team, it’s not easy to judge the potential this team has. Replacing Tyler Fox, the 2016 Summit League Pitcher of the year, as well as Clayton Taylor—Summit League Player of the year—would be hard on any program.

“Relying on the young guys is what we are going to have to do at some point this season, so they have to be ready to play their role,” Porter said.

One of those young guys who Porter thinks could be a real impact this year is freshman Cole Thibodeau.

“He runs like a deer, and really could do damage on the basepaths because he is smart when he plays.” Porter said.

For UNO, the process stays the same even with a new face leading the Mavericks. Porter realizes the season is a marathon, not a sprint. The team will have time to find its identity before the grueling stretch of conference season.

Maverick fans will be watching UNO baseball in a new era. Replacing a long-time head coach is never easy, but one thing is for sure: Evan Porter sure has a bit of winning experience himself.

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