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The Scarlet & Black

Baseball squeezes in three Conference wins

Niko Takayesu ’17 runs the bases against Coe College on Tuesday, April 15. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

Halfway through the season, the baseball team has accumulated some amazing wins and some unfortunate losses. And at this point in the season, the clubhouse is ready for a turnaround and last Saturday’s home double-header against Monmouth College might have done the trick.

Down 7-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning in the first game, the Pioneers scored six runs to tie the game. Then in the bottom of the ninth, with runners on first and third base, Ryan Penaflor ’16 dropped in a squeeze bunt to drive in the winning run, leaving the score at 8-7.

“[Saturday’s games were] the most exciting games I’ve been a part of,” said Andrew Kelley ’14, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the victory. “It was nuts. Our team has had a little bit of a struggle offensively this year, but they just erupted with six runs in the bottom of the eighth out of nowhere.”

Monmouth got off to a fast start, leading 5-0 after the top of the fourth inning. Anthony Mack ’16 smacked a home run in the bottom fourth to get the Pioneers on the board. Even though the Fighting Scots extended the lead to 7-1, Grinnell never gave up and pulled off an improbable comeback.

“We started to figure out what they were throwing [and] in what locations,” said head coach Tim Hollibaugh. “Hitting is contagious. Once Teague [Towner ’17] started it off, [the other guys] started to believe.”

In the second game of Saturday’s double-header, Grinnell, yet again, won in a come-from-behind fashion. Monmouth scored three runs in the first inning, but Grinnell responded with another flurry of runs The Pioneers scored six runs in the fourth and never looked back, eventually winning the game 8-4.

“The recent games just showed us that we have a chance to win our conference because we can compete with these guys,” Penaflor said. “And even if we’re at a deficit, we can still come back.”

Niko Takayesu ’17 runs the bases against Coe College on Tuesday, April 15. Photo by Aaron Juarez.
Niko Takayesu ’17 runs the bases against Coe College on Tuesday, April 15. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

Two days prior to last Saturday’s exciting finish, Grinnell played Monmouth College in Illinois in another double-header. The Pioneers lost the first game 2-6, but triumphed in the second game 4-1.

According to Hollibaugh, the idle weekend prior to last week’s matches was the reason for the stagnant offense, as the team only produced three hits in the first game.

“I think we came out in that first game a little rusty,” he said. “But in the second game we bounced back with a better approach and a better understanding of what we needed to get done.”

In the second game, the table was turned and Monmouth struggled to produce runs. Sam Tinkham ’16 struck out five in five and two-thirds innings to pick up the victory, while Kelly pitched the rest of the game to pick up his third save.

Unfortunately the results weren’t similar on Tuesday’s game against Coe College. The Pioneers fell 7-3, leaving them with an overall record of 10 wins and 12 losses.

“I’m really proud of the effort. We competed well … but Coe was just better than us, and that’s part of the competition,” Hollibaugh said. “It’s just good to play, though, at the end of the day and to be able to get that game in keeps us more game-ready.”

Despite the loss against Coe, the sentiment of many players is optimistic. These past few games should be helpful moving forward, as the players shake off the rust.

“I think we kind of settled down after the big win,” Penaflor said. “But it seems like we’re getting there. We need to get our situational hitting together.”

With momentum on their side, the Pioneers will hope to come out winners in their two double-headers against Illinois College in Springfield on Saturday and Sunday.

“Before [last] weekend’s games, we had a players’ meeting, where Ian Sales [’15] gave us a presentation reminding us that we are one unit,” Penaflor said. “He gave us a saying: ‘One team, one win.’ It just reminds us that even though we come from different backgrounds, we can still come together and win.”

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