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As the 2011-12 academic year concludes, let's take a look back at spring sports at Lakeland College.
The Lakeland College softball team enjoyed a season of ups and downs, highlighted by a 20-win season. The Muskies finished 20-19 overall, 14-10 in the Northern Athletics Conference.
The Muskies advanced to the NAC Tournament for the sixth straight year. The team posted a 1-2 record in the double elimination tournament with an 11-3 season-ending loss to Dominican University. Lakeland upset No. 3 seed Concordia University Wisconsin in game four of the tournament as head coach Chad Buchmann earned his 164th victory at Lakeland to tie the program's all-time wins record.
The team enjoyed an eight-game win streak early in the season, but suffered a five-game losing streak in the final days of the season.
The Muskies ranked fifth in the nation in triples hit per game, and also led the NAC. Junior Heather Haeflinger (Shawano, Wis.) hit a team-high 10 triples and ranked fifth in the nation in triples hit per game. For her efforts she was named second team All-NAC.
Lakeland finished second in the NAC in batting average (.318), slugging percentage (.449), on base percentage (.385) and walks (105).
Sophomore Sammy Rieder (New Holstein, Wis.) led the team in batting average (.398), slugging percentage (.610) and hits (49).
Junior pitcher Erin Henk had a phenomenal year. The Hoopeston, Ill., native finished the season 15-13 with 69 strikeouts in 194.0 innings pitched. Her three saves ranked first in the NAC and her 15 wins ranked third.
The Muskies return a core group of talent for the 2013 season as the team hopes to make a run at the NAC title.
The baseball team wrapped up its 2012 season on a sour note, losing three of their final four games. The Muskies finished 17-21, 7-15 in the NAC.
Lakeland got off to a promising start in Fort Myers, Fla., as they went 6-3, including two one-run losses. The Muskies continued their stellar play, winning five of six games after spring break, improving to 11-4.
The success was short lived as the Muskies were swept in back-to-back doubleheaders against Marian and Aurora, before splitting with Concordia Chicago. The Muskies eventually won four consecutive games, including their first-ever victory over Ripon College.
Unfortunately, the bats went quiet as Lakeland lost eight straight games and derailing their hopes of a return to the conference tournament. Errors and a lack of execution were the main reasons for the poor finish.
While it was a disappointing season for first-year head coach Michael Bachar, optimism abounds for the years to come.
Seniors Jess Nickel and Mike Ruzek led the Muskies at the plate. Ruzek led the team with a .386 average, collecting career highs in hits (56), doubles (17), home runs (3), runs scored (31) and RBIs (29). Nickel was second on the team with a .303 average, collecting 23 hits, scoring eight runs and driving in 10. Ryan Boettcher was second on the team in hits (39), while Matt Krueger was second in RBIs (22).
Ruzek set many single-season records, finishing sixth in hits, second in doubles, sixth in batting average, sixth in ERA (2.51) and eighth in on-base percentage (.462). The fifth-year senior also finished with some remarkable career totals. At the plate the Manitowoc, Wis., native is first in on-base percentage (.460), second in batting average (.382) and fourth in slugging percentage (.503). On the mound, Ruzek finishes second in strikeouts (178), third in innings pitched (221.1) and fourth in games pitched (39) and games started (29).
Ruzek, Derek Loomans and Andy Chitwood each finished the season with identical 4-3 records. David Cherney led the team with a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings of relief, while Ruzek's 2.51 ERA led all starters. Garrett Morris led the Muskies with 46 strikeouts, while Ruzek was second with 45. Boettcher and Trent Schwalbach each recorded a save while Loomans had the team'sonly two shutouts.
The Muskies hope to rebuild and put together a strong 2013 campaign. A young core and talented recruits have the coaching staff excited for what's to come next season.
The Lakeland College men's tennis team struggled throughout the season and finished 0-9 in the NAC Tournament.
The team had an early exit at the 2012 NAC individual Tournament on May 5-6 at Kohler Sports Core in Kohler, Wis. After a couple of first-round byes, the Muskies couldn't find a rhythm to advance.
Senior Andy Cheever led the team with a 4-4 record.
With a promising recruiting class, head coach Casey Carr is confident the Muskies will make strides quickly to become competitive in the NAC.