The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Pioneers face rivals in conference showdown

The wind has been blowing favorably for Pioneers on the baseball diamond—so favorably it pushed four balls out of the park in their game against Illinois College last Saturday.

“There were really fortunate hitting conditions,” said Mike Nodzenski ’12, who hit three homeruns against the Blueboys in Jacksonville, Ill. “The wind was blowing out and [Illinois College] was a little short on pitching so we were able to take advantage of that and put up some good numbers.”

In addition to Nodzenski’s three home runs, Mark Wilcox ’09 knocked out one home run, while the Pioneers had a total of 20 hits for the game, toppling the Blueboys 18-9. The Pioneers (20-9) attribute their success to increased practice in situational hitting.

“Especially in the close games, situational hitting has been the reason why we’ve pulled off the win,” Ben Mendoza ’09 said.
“Situational hitting being like getting our bunts down, getting the big two out RBI hit, scoring a run that needs to be scored in like the 8th inning—which is huge, which is what happened [against Simpson].”

In Tuesday’s game, facing non-conference opponent Simpson College, the Pioneers traded runs with the Storm for much of the game. But tied 5-5 in the eighth and two runners on, the Pioneer’s bats came through again. JP Prouty ’10 managed to score the winning run off of a clutch sacrifice fly by Nodzenski.

“It doesn’t matter if we go into the ninth with a one run lead,” said Mendoza. “Ben Pope [’12] is our closer, so we know that he’ll get the job done.”

The win over Simpson was the 20th of the season for Grinnell, a school record. In addition to their hitting, the Pioneers have also been able to rely on their solid pitching staff all season.

“Our pitching staff is so deep that it’s really hard as a pitching staff to lose a game,” Marshall Chavez ’10 said. “I don’t think we’ve really lost a game by more than two runs this season. Our staff is pretty top notch.”

With consistent strength on the mound and growing power behind the plate, the Pioneers are in good standing for their final regular season games this weekend. They travel to Monmouth on Saturday and host the Fighting Scots on Sunday to determine the Midwest Conference South Division Champion and a chance at the MWC tournament May 8.

“This weekend will be huge because we’re tied for first place with Monmouth right now,” Mendoza said. “The goal is to go to conference up north and win conference which will take at least two wins this weekend.”

Though the Pioneers hope to come back victors, they’re trying to take the rest of the season just one game at a time.

“We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves and not look ahead of that Monmouth series,” Nodzenski said. “You know, the arch rival with the conference championship on the line. We’re looking to take at least three out of four games this weekend and then just go from there.”

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