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Baseball opens at home Saturday

By Hayes Gardner

While many Grinnellians went on service trips or hit the beaches over spring break, the Grinnell baseball team spent their break hitting fastballs. The Pioneers traveled to Florida and St. Louis to play several different teams. Overall, Grinnell finished 5-9, though they played very tough competition.

“I wish we were 14-0, but the reality is, with our schedule, I feel pretty good with where we are at this point,” said head coach Tim Hollibaugh.

Competing against talented teams is part of the plan and the Pioneers do it every spring break.

“The whole goal is to play the toughest competition we can, so we’re better prepared for conference,” Hollibaugh said.

Other conference teams don’t play such difficult teams, which gives the Pioneers an advantage in conference play.

“Every year in Florida, we play way tougher competition than what we typically see in conference … the teams that they’re beating aren’t the same caliber as the teams we’re playing,” said catcher Matt Schaeffer ’14.

Though the Pioneers are 5-9, they’ve won four of the last seven games.

“The record doesn’t show how good we’re starting to play,” said pitcher John Essig ’16.

The team’s bats got off to a slow start, producing only 12 runs in the first five games.

However, the Pioneers posted more runs as break went on, including 16 runs in the penultimate game of break against Washington University.

“Offensively, it was kind of a slow start. We have a young team. And playing in Florida was the first time we went outside all year. Just trying to pick up the ball from a different pitcher’s arm slot compared to our own was kind of an adjustment, but I think we handled it fairly well,” Schaeffer said.

Hollibaugh sees room for improvement, but feels confident in his team.

“We’re in a good spot. We’ve still … gotta iron out some kinks, but in the end we’re right where we need to be, offensively. Defensively, we gotta get a little better and pitching, we gotta go after hitters a little more, but our pitching staff is deep,” Hollibaugh said.

The depth of the pitching staff could prove vital this year.

“We’re really deep with the starters,” Essig said. “And coming out of the bullpen, we’re really deep. I have a lot of trust in any of the guys.”

Grinnell will play most of their conference games in concentrated time spans, playing four games in two or three days, meaning it is important to have four starting pitchers who can win games. The Pioneers feel they have that in Essig, Will Pahos ’14, Sam Tinkham ’16 and Jason Ormond ’13, among others.

“Our pitching is really, really deep … I think our pitching staff is probably the deepest in the Conference and that’s gonna help us out a lot,” Schaeffer said.

If the pitchers can stay focused on their goals, Hollibaugh feels they can be very effective.

“Pitchers, instead of trying to go for a strikeout every time, [are] trying to hit their spots and change speeds. Because if our pitching staff can do that, we are gonna be un-hittable. I really believe that,” he said.

Grinnell’s conference season began yesterday as the Pioneers played a doubleheader against Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois (5-7, 14-8). The team’s home opener is tomorrow at 1 p.m. where they will play two games against Knox.

“Realistically, I feel good at where we are. And knowing how young we were going into the season … we’re in a good spot. We’re better than we were last year at this point, record-wise,” Hollibaugh said.

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