Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Plaza Excelling at Wisconsin-Whitewater

Plaza worked his way into the UW-W rotation and never looked back. (photo on right courtesy of
PALATINE, Ill. – One wouldn’t think a baseball player who barely played in high school could work his way up to playing for a powerhouse Division III baseball program. Scott Plaza is defying those odds.

Plaza excelled on the mound for the Harper baseball program in the 2012 season.  Plaza’s success grew in the past year, as he recently completed his junior season with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks and continued growing as a pitcher and college student.

Plaza came to Harper having received minimal playing time in high school, but he immediately became a frontline starting pitcher for the Hawks. In the 2011 season, Plaza went 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA as a freshman in what he called a time of maturity when he learned how to pitch at the college level.  At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he had the size but needed the proper coaching to hone it in.

“My Harper coaches really stressed fundamentals and helped me mechanically,” Plaza said. “They taught me how to play the right way, and I’ve never had arm problems to this date.”

His improvement came to light in the 2012 season. The staff ace, Plaza befuddled NJCAA hitters, going 6-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings, earning him First Team All-Conference N4C, First Team All-Region, and Team MVP honors.

Academically, Plaza received a Scholastic Athlete Award and graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree and Associate in Science Degree.

While Plaza was being overlooked by Div. I and II baseball programs looking for harder throwers, he knew he wanted to continue playing baseball and found a destination in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W).  A perennial Div. III powerhouse, the Warhawks and head baseball coach John Vodenlich gave Plaza a home to continue playing the sport he loved. While Div. III programs cannot offer athletic scholarships, Whitewater’s affordable education and opportunity to play baseball made it a no-brainer for Plaza.

Plaza discovered that the transition to a four-year university isn’t always seamless because he missed being at home and had an increased workload. However, he acknowledges that Harper prepared him well for his first year at UW-W.

“The quality of education at Harper really prepared me for what I’ve seen at Whitewater. From a baseball standpoint, I felt well-prepared to play at the next level by Cliff (Brown) and the assistant coaches,” Plaza said.

This spring, the UW-W baseball program went 35-9 and won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, and Plaza played a big role in the team’s success. While he did not begin the season in the starting rotation, Plaza emerged as a force on the mound as the season went along. In 11 appearances and six starts, Plaza went 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA and stuck out 28 batters to just five walks in 51 innings pitched.  He will return for his senior season, where he is expected to be the leader of the pitching staff.

Plaza made the Dean’s List in his first semester at UW-W and is studying to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education. He hopes to someday teach at the high school level. This summer, he will be working at InZone, Harper’s summer enrichment and sports camp for ages 8-14. He will be pitching for the Lombard Orioles of the Chicago Suburban Baseball League.

Looking back on his Harper experience, Plaza wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I will recommend Harper until the day I die to anyone. I figure this is the best choice I could have made to spend my first two years of college here,” Plaza said. “You get the same quality of education, and on the athletics side, I came here (to Harper) and got a chance to play right away. The coaches give you the ability to be successful and grow as a player.” 

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