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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
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Baseball winds up

Sam Tinkham ’16 throws during a live pitching drill. The Grinnell baseball team plays their first game against Westminster College this Saturday in Fulton, MO. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Sam Tinkham ’16 throws during a live pitching drill. The Grinnell baseball team plays their first game against Westminster College this Saturday in Fulton, MO. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.

By Hayes Gardner

Despite freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, it’s once again baseball season in Grinnell. The Pioneers will, if conditions permit, play their first two games tomorrow in Fulton, Missouri against Westminster College in a doubleheader. Grinnell, who has been to the MWC Tournament the last four years and won the South Division the last three years, hopes to repeat that feat this year.

While the Pioneers will look to ride the arms of some familiar pitchers this season, they’ll be carried by some new batters.

Of the top seven hitters for batting average from the 2012 season, only one is returning. In addition to average, the Pioneers lost power from last year’s squad, only returning two players who hit more than three extra base hits.

“We lost a lot of hitters. We lost an All-American. We lost our shortstop and the bulk of the middle of our order, but I don’t necessarily think we’re going to have a huge drop in offensive production,” said starting pitcher Will Pahos ’14. “It’s going to be a different looking offense, but it’s still going to be a productive offense… It’ll make for a pretty fun brand of baseball.”

Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh agreed.

“It’s just going to be a different look. We’re going to have to grind out at-bats and be aggressive on the bases,” Hollibaugh said.

At this point in the season, the lineup is far from set.

“We’ve got 21 varsity and JV games before our first conference game, so we have a while to figure out the lineup,” Hollibaugh said. “It’s going to be a battle. There’s plenty of competition at every spot.”

Some of this competition will be from a very talented first year class.

“There were definitely big losses and coming in [to this season] there was a little concern,” said Kainoa Inafuku ’14, Grinnell’s top returning hitter. “But early on, in the off-season, in the fall, we realized that we had something with the freshman class.”

First years Anthony Mack, Jake Beecher and Coby Klar will all see time in the infield early on in the season, while Matt Godinsky and Adam Renfro, both also ’16,could get at-bats from the corner outfield spots.

“Anthony Mack…is our starting shortstop as of right now and I believe he’s going to be a main person in our lineup,” Inafuku said.

The Pioneers do have several upperclassmen who will lead the team, including two-year starter Drew Davis ’13 in center field. However, hitting for power may be an obstacle.

“I hope we can find power. I don’t know if this team can find power,” Hollibaugh said.

Similar to last year, the Pioneers’ strength this year will likely be when the other team is at the plate.

“Defensively, this is probably the best we’ve ever looked. On the mound this is the deepest [team] we’ve ever had, in terms of quality and quantity,” Hollibaugh said.

The Pioneers return most of their pitching staff from last season, including workhorse Pahos, who threw for 59.1 innings last year, Andrew Kelley ’14, who led the team with a 2.96 ERA, Andrew Platt ’13, Jason Ormond ’13 and Max Jacobson ’14.

Three first years will also figure into the pitching mix this year: Sam Tinkham, John Essig and Graham Fisher.

“We did lose [Ben] Pope [’12], but I think our pitching’s going to be stronger this year, just based on the improvements that we’ve made and the freshmen that we have coming in,” Pahos said.

Inafuku noted the hard work the team put in this off-season, staying more focused than they have in years past.

“What we’ve been trying to do since the off-season is change the work ethic on the team. In the past, we worked hard when it was time to practice,” he said. “We’re coming to realize that if we want to be a great team and if we want to make that next step, you have to put in more work than just two or two and a half hours of practice.”

The team will be able to see the progress they’ve made, starting this weekend, when the season begins.

“We might not start off hot, but honestly I believe that the way this team is and how tightly-knit we are, I think that no matter how we start, we’ll be there at the end, in a position to win [Conference],” Inafuku said.

“It should be fun,” Hollibaugh said.

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