Mierow, Jones key Brookfied Bulldogs' run
Former Tosa West star gets college career off to good start
It's not surprising that Brookfield Bulldogs veteran manager Jason Booth breaks into a big smile when you ask him about the two national champion University of Wisconsin- Whitewater players on his current team.
Austin Jones, an outstanding righthanded pitcher and outfielder from Wauwatosa West and our 2013 NOW Player of the Year, and Brookfield Central grad Mike Mierow, an excellent defensive catcher and clutch hitter, are two of the reasons the local Land O'Lakes Western Division team continues to play exciting baseball as the playoffs begin this weekend.
Jones and Mierow had different paths to the Whitewater varsity. Jones was the team's closer as a freshman, which shows as much about his mental toughness as his physical ability.
He was 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA with three saves in 19 games, and two starts. In 39.2 innings, he allowed 28 hits, 13 walks and 25 strikeouts and held batters to a .199 batting average.
"By closing games, it showed they had confidence in me to shut down a game," Jones said about his new role. "I was really good in pressure situations. They also didn't overuse me, which I appreciated and it was beneficial."
Jones, who admitted he missed batting, said it was unusual coming to the park not knowing if he was going to play.
"It was an adjustment not playing every day," he said. "But as a reliever at least I was available to pitch several games in a row. It was nice to come to the field knowing they might need me almost every day."
Mierow was grayshirted (UWW's version of being redshirted) as a freshman and this season — his third — he batted .346 in 43 games, all starts, with 23 runs scored and 32 RBIs. He had a .401 OBA, hit .348 with runners on base and stole 15 bases in 18 attempts.
The former Lancer talked about bouncing back after struggling at the plate his first time around.
"It was definitely an adjustment (playing college ball)," he said. "This year was way better after being awful last year. It was pretty brutal. Lot of it was confidence. You go, 0-for-4, 0-for-4 and suddenly you're 0-for-8 and you're thinking way too much."
His defensive numbers were awesome.
He handled the ball 293 times and had only two errors with 247 putouts and 44 assists to finish with a .993 fielding mark. He made base runners pay, throwing out all 15 runners who attempted to steal against him.
Mierow's experience helped Jones in his first year.
"It's awesome to play with Mike," Jones said. "He's a great guy, a heck of a teammate and a heck of a catcher. It was really nice having him around when I was going through the ropes. I had a lot of questions. It was really nice to have someone to answer them."
Mierow has also been impressed with Jones, on and off the field.
"Austin is an outstanding kid with a ton of talent," Mierow said. "He came in and was tough mentally. He showed what he had. He's a kid who in high school was the best in area. He is happier than heck to be here and he is a kid willing to learn, trying to learn as much as he can."
At Whitewater, the baseball team had some pressure on them, as first the football team and then the basketball team won their respective national championships.
"It definitely came up a lot," Mierow said. "The football and basketball players reminded us a lot, but we put it in the back of our mind so we didn't start putting pressure on ourselves. We never felt the pressure.
"We treated the postseason like a regular game. We could feel the intensity. Coach (John Vodenlich) did a really good job of keeping us focused. The captains did a good job as well. It was a lot of fun."
But Jones said he felt winning the "Triple Crown" helped motivate the Warhawks.
"There was a lot of talk about it from the guys on the other teams," he said. "Making history drove us to the title, but the important thing was winning it for ourselves; but making history was pretty nice also.
"I couldn't ask for better start to a college career."
So how did both players end up on the Brookfield Bulldogs team? One had a history with the team, the other didn't.
"My dad played here," said Mierow of his father Jeff. "Being from Brookfield I would come all the time and watch them.
"I love to be able to play in beautiful weather, all the guys love it. It's fun to come back here. I love baseball."
Mierow admires the players in their 30's, 40's and even 50's still playing.
"Don August, 54, (former Brewers pitcher who plays for Menomonee Falls) is still throwing. It's fun to play because they are so competitive."
He admires the veterans for another reason.
"You learn more from these guys," he said. "They know more than I do and they give the knowledge back to you."
As for Jones joining the Bulldogs, it was a matter of Booth reaching out to him.
"They called me last summer after the high school season," said. "I joined Jason for the playoffs. I played in one regular season game and the first playoff game."
"It's fun. It's nice to come out in summer. they want to win, I want to win. It's impressive. It keeps my blood pumping."
Booth, of course, is pleased with both his players.
"Austin is a really good kid, a great athlete, but he is a down to earth kid; the perfect teammate. He is committed to winning.
"He has only scratched the surface. He has tremendous potential for the future. Once he learns to pitch — to think, locate — his potential is unlimited."
Booth also praised Mierow as a hitter and a base runner.
"He too has all the tools and he has grown at the plate," Booth said. "He has taken a step up. This year we have seen a whole Mike Mierow. He has really learned."
Being a catcher has helped Mierow on the bases.
"He is an outstanding base runner; not a base stealer. He is really intelligent, gets good jumps, picks up things and turns it into an advantage. He sees it and he's off."
And for Booth and the Bulldogs, the additional of two national champions has been a benefit.
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