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The Scarlet & Black

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

Baseball learns lessons from annual trip

The baseball team spent the first week of spring break playing baseball in Orlando, FL. Held between March 16 and 23, the Florida trip gave the Pioneers an opportunity to play against opponents outside of the Midwest Conference and region. The Pioneers won four of nine games.

The standout of the trip was shortstop Anthony Mack ’16. His performance in Florida, particularly the offensive burst in a double-header against St. Olaf College in which he hit two home-runs, earned him the NCAA Division III National Hitter of the Week recognition.

“It was one of the games where I felt the most confident out of frankly any of the games we have played this year,” Mack said.

The Pioneers started the trip on a strong note, winning the first game against Vassar College 13-4 and the first of the double-header against Clarkson University 5-4. In the Vassar matchup, Mack went 4-for-5 to spark the offense.

In the second game of the double-header against Clarkson, Grinnell fell just short 4-3 and then lost the next three games as well. The other losses came against Amherst College and a double-header against Ripon College.

But Mack’s bat still remained hot to help the Pioneers bounce back against St. Olaf. The Pioneers took the double-header series, 5-3 and 7-1, snapping the four-game losing streak.

“It was frustrating because we knew we could play well, but we were coming up short,” said Kainoa Inafuku ’14. “[The St. Olaf game] was a must win in terms of morale.”

Head coach Tim Hollibaugh viewed the victories against the Oles as very important and telling of the squad.

“For us to bounce back and come up with two victories versus Saint Olaf College, that was really big,” Hollibaugh said. “That shows we have the ability to bounce back after a couple of tough losses, and that is a good sign of maturity for this team.”

The Pioneers finished the annual trip with an 11-1 loss against University of St. Thomas, ranked number 13 in Division III. Hollibaugh, Inafuku and Mack all viewed this contest as the toughest game of the trip.

“Top to bottom, they are one of the best teams I have seen in my entire life,” Mack said. “They are one of the teams we are trying to be like.”

Inafuku believes playing good teams helps the Pioneers grow because they allow the team to see things they do well and things they do poorly.

“One of the things we noticed was not only timely hitting, but also finding a way to score runs when you have opportunities,” Inafuku said. “The good teams we played tend to not let these opportunities pass them by.”

Max Jacobson ’14 pitched two innings in Wednesday’s game against Simpson College on April 2. Photo by John Brady.
Max Jacobson ’14 pitched two innings in Wednesday’s game against Simpson College on April 2. Photo by John Brady.

Despite the loss, Inafuku and Mack were encouraged by the Pioneers’ performance.

“We had a lot of opportunities to put runs across that would [have] changed the game.” Inafuku said.

In a pleasant surprise, many of these opportunities were created by players such as shortshop Teague Towner ’17 and outfielders Matt Godinsky ’16 and Steven Petritis ’15.

“Baseball is tough because you fail a lot,” Inafuku said. “Sometimes as young players, you press too hard, and I am impressed with how the freshmen handled their playing time in a very mature way.”

Despite ending the Florida outing with a loss, the squad was very positive about the overall trip. According to Mack, the 26-hour bus ride from Grinnell to Florida, provided opportunity for the players to bond with each other. Traditionally, the team dynamic much improves after the spring break trip.

“When you put the whole team on a bus, stick them in a room together, and pretty much have no other contact for two-weeks, there will be a steep incline in the positive environment,” Mack said.

According to Hollibaugh, the trip was also a productive one because of the experience the games provided.

“Anytime we compete, we get a better sense of what we need to improve on,” he said. “That is the most important thing we use games for.”

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