Koca, Mavericks make it 14 straight
Published: Friday, April 18, 2008
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011 16:03
At this time a year ago, Dustin Koca was fighting for playing time at Coastal Carolina, one of the premier Division I baseball schools in the country. He started eight games as a position player for the Chanticleers, and posted a 2.12 ERA in ten trips to the mound.
Now driven by desire to be home - Koca is a native of Papillion - and an even greater desire to play baseball, the senior has found a home at UNO.
"He contacted me and said 'Hey, I'd like to play for UNO,' and I said 'Hey, come help us win,'" said Head Coach Bob Herold. "The guy's a great player. He has professional potential as a pitcher, he's got a great eye at the plate and he's got power. He's a very, very confident guy and he backs it up."
Koca's entire arsenal was on display during UNO's six-game home stand this week.
In a 14-inning marathon victory over Minnesota Duluth on Sunday, Koca's left arm allowed just two runs on three hits in 10 innings of work.
In Monday's double-header, Koca's bat did all the talking. His three-run, six-RBI day's work was part of 11-10, 14-2 victories that completed a four-game sweep of the visiting Bulldogs.
Koca then managed to outdo that performance on Tuesday with seven RBIs and two fence-clearing blasts. The barrage came at the expense of the Fort Hays State Tigers, who were sent packing following 10-7 and 11-5 losses.
After Koca's lukewarm start in his new uniform, fellow Maverick slugger Bryan Frew knew it was only a matter of time before his new teammate hit full stride.
"He started off slow I think, but we all knew he could do what he's doing now," Frew said. "I played with him in high school, and I knew he was a great player.
"He should be in a better league, but we're happy to have him."
Thankfully for the Mavericks, Koca's not alone. UNO has nine players hitting better than .300. Third baseman Brian Strawn and center fielder Chris Weimer boast averages well over .400.
The Mavs lead the North Central Conference in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs and plate appearances, and in most of those categories it's not even close.
UNO's pitching, once thought of as the question mark of this team, leads the NCC in strikeouts and runs allowed per game.
The Mavericks have outscored their opponents 134-49 during their last 14 games, and they've won them all.
The streak is one that last year's College World Series team didn't come close to reaching, and it's one that, according to Frew, doesn't ever have to end.
"Right now, it feels like the only way we can lose is if we beat ourselves," Frew said. "If we play our game, hit strikes, pick up the ball--it feels like we can't lose. We're just playing with a lot of confidence right now."
It's all part of a will to win that, Herold noted, has not been lost on opposing teams.
"In three of the four games, [UMD] got ahead of us, and we came back and got 'em, and their coach said 'All I can say is you guys are absolutely relentless,'" Herold said. "Every time they think they got you, somebody else comes up with a big hit, or makes a play, or a guy comes up and strikes one of their guys out.
"I'm just real proud of our guys because they don't quit."
UNO (26-9, 8-0) now faces an excellent chance to stretch its winning streak to 18 games over the weekend. The Mavs will host NCC cellar-dweller Augustana (6-22, 1-7) at the Ball Park in Boys Town in a double-header on Saturday, then follow the Vikings up north for a double-header in Sioux Falls, S.D., the following afternoon.
Over the next two and a half weeks, UNO will play 19 more games, including 12 conference games, before hosting the NCC's final conference tournament May 8 through May 11.