May 10, 2011

BRENDAN HALL: Last weekend was sweep!!!

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Editor's note: Baseball senior Brendan Hall is a student-athlete contributor to UNCBears.com. He willl write periodic updates throughout the baseball season, bringing fans up to date on what exactly is going on behind the scenes with Coach Iwasaki's new program.


Whelp, school is officially over! I, along with six other baseball studs, became Northern Colorado alums after graduating from this fine institution this past weekend.

And what a weekend it turned out to be, as we paired our academic awesomeness with a slugfest of a series against North Dakota at Jackson Field. The Sioux and your Bears combined to score more than 100 runs -- yes, 100 -- on the weekend, and we won all four games, coming back from seven down in the finale to win 14-13!

Sunday was special for numerous reasons. It was Mother's Day, of course, and, thankfully, this year's Mother's Day fell on Northern Colorado's Senior Day, so my mom and grandma, who rarely get to games, were in attendance. I felt extremely fortunate to be able to celebrate with them and have them in the stands for a game that I will never forget and be telling stories about for the rest of my life.

Let's set the stage: North Dakota led 9-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh inning before we put up three runs in our half and seven more in the eighth to lead 12-9 ... only to see the Sioux score four in the ninth to regain a one-run lead.  

But Jarrod Berggren (AKA Jar-Bear) clutched up and led us off with a single in the ninth, and the rest is history. 

Ben "Pack-Attack" Packard came up next and went no-doubter-boomba-big-fly on the first pitch, and we walked off with a win! I mean, seriously, what a way to send off the seniors! Thanks Pack. I heard at practice Monday that the roar from the crowd after Packard's shot could be heard nearly four blocks away from Jackson Field.

That's just awesome!

What also made Sunday's win special was that it was our third straight home sweep of a Great West Conference opponent, giving us a perfect record at home in conference this season. That was the perfect way to top off our schedule.

Anyway, let's delve a little in the 2011 senior Bears, shall we?

T.J. Berge
T.J. is just a sell-out type of player, and that's a good thing. He's our second baseman and is always giving max effort, even diving after balls up the middle that he has very little chance of getting. That's the only way he knows how to play, and it jacks me up as a pitcher to see that type of mentality.

T.J. can play a little bit, too. He's in the top ten of numerous offensive categories in UNC baseball history and is probably the only guy I see going into the Northern Colorado Hall of Fame from the 2011 class.

And he is a first-balloter in my book.

T.J. "Bergilicious" Berge? Great career at Jackson Field, dude, and props to having the closest look-a-like costume ever with your Hollywood Hulk Hogan attire. Well played, sir.

Marcus Valenzuela
Marcus and I have a special bond because he was also a Santa Ana Don before coming to Northern Colorado. He worked his tail off to crack into the starting lineup and has made the most of his last college season.

Watching Marcus hit a home run at New Mexico State earlier this year almost put tears in my eyes because it represented the culmination of a career that was put on hold -- perhaps finished -- before he showed a lot of perseverance and dedication. It all came together in that one swing. He has had numerous hits since that weekend, but that moment in our season will forever hold a special place in my heart.

"Wompzilla?" it has been an absolute pleasure playing with you this year, buddy.

Bret Fanning
No doubt, Bret is the hardest worker on our team. He suffered an arm injury at New Mexico last year, and I thought at the time he was maybe finished playing baseball. Arm injuries aren't easily mended, so it was going to take a lot of rehab, a lot of will, and a lot of commitment to get back between the white lines. But he did it and has been a key player for us this season.

Bret is a guy who leads by example and is the type of player I want to recruit when I become a coach. A lot of people said "can't" when talking about his situation, but Bret knew he could. The kid gives up himself at least once a game, whether he is selling-out in center field or putting down a sacrifice bunt.

If anyone wants to see how the game of baseball should be played, check out Bret Fanning.

Josh Boyer, Chris Carlberg and Joe Sawicki
Finally, we get to a very special group of individuals in Boyer, Carlberg and Sawicki. I'm addressing these guys together because they are my roommates, and we've been through a ton together at 1821 Sixth Avenue, Greeley, CO 80631 (address any mail to: The Bear Den)

These guys are the warriors who hold down "1821." They are my closest buddies on the team, hands down, and they put up with me, I put up with them, and at the end of the day I wouldn't want to live with any other group of guys.

Joe is the captain of the ship, having the longest tenure in the house and the sickest room. Josh and Chris hold down the basement and are just awesome guys.

I think what makes this group particularly special is that we are all pitchers. We go through the same workouts every day and pull for one another in a special kind of way. It is going to be tough to leave "1821" and these dudes, but I know, without a doubt, they will be lifelong friends.

Love you guys. Let's go out on top and get some rings!

Alright, alright, enough of the mushy stuff. The Bears are playing at Chicago State this weekend in more Great West action, so stay posted at uncbears.com for game times and results.

FEAR THE CLAW!

B. Hall