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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Despite slow start, Baseball looks strong in MWC

Coming off a slow start, partially due to poor hitting, the baseball team has won six of its last seven games, including four against Midwest Conference (MWC) foes.

The Pioneers defeated non-conference opponent Central College 3-1 on Apr. 17 and Illinois College three of the four games last weekend in two double-headers.

“Our offense was not as prepared to see the pitching we saw early and often,” said Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh. “As we gained more experience, made some offensive adjustments through video work and practices, our players have relaxed in the batter’s box. This has helped us score more runs and we continue to get better and better each game.”

Photograph by Joey Brown

Led by pitcher Will Pahos ’14, who allowed just one earned run in seven strong innings, the team earned a hard-fought victory against Central. John Spacapan ’15 hit his first home run of the season to lead the offensive output.

“It was a quality victory against a great team that beat us earlier in the year,” Hollibaugh said. “Any time we can beat an Iowa Conference opponent, it is a bonus.”

The team then played two grueling doubleheaders against Illinois College. The squad swept the first series with quality pitching. Ben Pope ’12 pitched a complete game to clinch the first win 8-4 and Andrew Kelley ’14 was solid in long relief in the second game for a 4-2 victory.

“When we’re playing four games in a weekend, it’s very helpful because it saves the relief pitchers,” said catcher Mike Nodzenski ’12 of Pope’s performance. “It’s very nice to have that one guy who can go 7, 8, 9 innings.”

The college’s record holder in home runs, RBIs, and total bases, Nodzenski added to his totals with a two-run homer in the first game.

“Mike is the same as always,” Pope said. “Pitchers are scared to pitch to him and runners are scared to steal second, which to be honest, is pretty nice as a pitcher.”

Kelley tossed a two-hit, seven-strikeout game in 5 2/3 innings to finish the sweep of the first doubleheader.

“I feel honored that he has the faith in me to put me out in any situation and knowing that I can get the job done,” Kelley said. “I thank Coach for that opportunity.”

Matt Skelley ’12 and Ronnie Gray ’12 led the team with two hits, respectively, in the second game.

On the very next day, the crew faced Illinois College once again in the second doubleheader. Drew Davis ’13 hit a walk-off home run in the eleventh inning to triumph in the first game 8-7. Nodzenski added to the offense, driving in five runs in three hits, one of them a home run. Michael Goldfein ’12 also had a three-hit game, while Kelley picked up his fourth victory of the season in a relief outing.

This game marked one of many close games that the team has played so far this season.

“It puts pressure on us to get the job done [in close games],” Kelley said. “But I feel like we’ve been handling the pressure pretty well and coming out with some wins.”

The Pioneers played another close game a few hours later, but with a different ending— losing 4-3 in the final game.

Though Grinnell scored first thanks to Goldfein’s two-run home run in the first inning and then in the fifth inning by Davis, the Blueboys scored four runs to steal the victory. Ian Sales ’15 picked up his first loss of the season.

“You have to tip your cap to Illinois College as they made the plays in the last game and out-executed us to earn a victory,” Hollibaugh said. “Sometimes that happens in baseball. We had our chances, we just didn’t get the job done and will be better for it moving forward.”

Although the team already matched their last season’s conference loss with one this early in the season, Hollibaugh is not worried at all about the future of the season.

“It is hard to beat any team three out of four times at any level,” he said. “[This experience] is what you want as a coach and [it] will be valuable later in the year. As long as we continue to get better each game, that loss will be more positive than anything else at this stage of our conference play.

The Pioneers will play their next conferences game in a doubleheader Saturday, Apr. 28 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at home against Monmouth. They will then play two games the next day against Coe College and Washington University in St. Louis.

As a senior, Nodzenski is excited to play against rival Monmouth.

“They’ve always been a rival for us,” Nodzenski said. “As a senior, there’s something about playing against the same team for four years. They’re usually a pretty tough team, so it’ll be fun to play them.”

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