Field Manager Dale Varsho has awarded the 2013 Eau Claire Express Most Valuable Player Award to Cal Poly junior Tim Wise after a season that saw the Express finish with a 33-37 overall record, including 21-15 in the second half.
Wise, who was coming off of an injury-riddled season with the Mustangs, hit .323 in 48 games, 16th-best in the Northwoods League (NWL) and first on the team with at least 35 at-bats. He was third-best on the Express with 61 hits in 189 at-bats, and had a hot stretch from July 21 to Aug. 3 that you will rarely see at any level.
Field Manager Dale Varsho was impressed from the time Wise stepped into the batter's box with the Express. "Tim has quick hands, not a lot of movement with the bat, and he hit the ball on a line drive the entire time," he said.
On July 21 at home against Battle Creek, Wise smacked three hits in five attempts at the dish to start a streak of 10 straight multi-hit games. In those 10 games, he was 27-for-47 (.575) and knocked at least three hits in six of the matchups to lead the Express to an 8-2 record in that span. It pushed his average from .257 to .342.
"I've never seen anything like it. Not in my nine years," Varsho said when asked if it was the hottest streak he has ever seen.
Wise reached base at a fantastic rate late in the season, as he reached successfully in 17 straight contests beginning on July 20. His on-base percentage checked in at .382, and he had 18 multi-hit games.
On Aug. 1, Wise was responsible for a quarter of the 20 runs the Express plated against Thunder Bay in a 20-12 victory by blasting a grand slam in a 10-run first frame. He finished with five RBI's in the game and he brought home 24 teammates throughout the year.
It wasn't all solid for Wise though, as the first-year NWL prospect started the season 0-for-13 and batted just .178 in a 12 game stretch from late June until mid-July. It was a tough start to summer ball after a junior season in which he swung at a .187 clip in 29 games.
"He might have been 0-for-13, but he hit the ball hard every time. Over the year he didn't get a lot of breaks, but he hit a lot of line drives that were outs. It's hard to fathom he hit .330 when he lost out on at least 15 more hits, easy, because he hit the ball hard," Varsho said. "The nice thing too is you never saw his frustrations. He never threw his bat, the outs never sunk in, and most people would have sunk a long time ago."
Wise was the so-called hidden hero on July 28 at home against Duluth with the Express trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and a runner on second, Wise laced one up the middle against a North Division All-Star pitcher for a game-tying RBI single, and two batters later, a walk-off homer occurred for a 6-3 win. The victory swung momentum towards Eau Claire for a playoff push.
"Very much a clutch player, I remember specifically he hit a line drive to left-center field on a 93 mph fastball," Varsho said of the moment.
Heading into his senior season with Cal Poly, Wise was able to get valuable experience on the defensive end by playing in the outfield and first base for Varsho. His versatility allowed the Express ninth-year Field Manager to keep him in the lineup rather than be stuck in a platoon in the outfield.
"One thing about Tim is that he never has a bad attitude, wherever he is playing. He's a quiet-natured kid who just wants to play. He played [first base] very well, and it might be his best position to be honest with you."
Wise, who is not able to return next season due to NWL eligibility guidelines, can be followed this spring at the Cal Poly baseball athletic site at www.gopoly.com/sports/bsb/index.