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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grand Slam wins it for baseball

Matt Skelly '12 goes to bat in Tuesday's game against Simpson College. - Ami Freeberg

Last Saturday, Grinnell clinched home field advantage for the Conference tournament, though it came in a fashion no one could have anticipated. They did it winning 10-6 in ten innings against their rivals Monmouth. They then went on to sweep the day’s doubleheader and improve their record to 10-0 in Conference play, winning the second game 12-2.

Despite the numbers, the game they clinched was anything but painless. Going into the bottom of the tenth inning down 6-4, more than a little doubt trickled into the Grinnell clubhouse. However, the unease was promptly trumped as center fielder Matt Skelly ’12 got things rolling with a solid single, which was quickly followed up with a pair of base hits.  A wild pitch and walk to right fielder Paden Roder ’10 tied the score and loaded the bases.

With that walk the stage was set, and with one smooth swing of the bat by DH Nate Pierce ’10 and one grand slam later it was all over. The fat lady had indeed sung and Grinnell’s men were the victors. Pierce could barely believe his eyes, but more importantly he had to run around the bases, awaiting the chance to be at the center of the volcano of ballplayers that erupted the second he touched home plate.
“I was surprised more than anything, when I hit I thought it was just going to be a sacrifice fly ball, but when it got over the fence I was just really

excited…it’s hard to put into words,” Pierce said. “The situation that I got into where I had the bases loaded, was a great spot for me as a hitter, because I knew the pitcher had to come after me, allowing me to just put the ball in play.”

Propelled by this euphoric confidence, the team will look to continue their wave of superb baseball this weekend. Saturday they travel to Monmouth for a doubleheader, 1 and 3:30 p.m., and then play one game on Sunday against Central College at 2 p.m. at home. “I think we can win every game and more importantly, I know we will compete to win every game for that is one of our goals and our approach in every game,” said Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh.

The squad will also be looking to preserve perfection in Conference play, continuing their season of uncharted grand heights. “I believe this is one of the best if not the best Grinnell team that has ever played here,” said Pitcher Marshall Chavez ’10. “I had a brother on the team in the past and Grinnell baseball has certainly came a long way from in the past having kids who hadn’t even played baseball in high school to now having an incredible team loaded with depth.”

This amazing season may be due to the maturity of the senior group. Pierce weighed in on how he thought, when entering Grinnell as a first-year, that when his class reached their senior year, there was definitely the prospect of having a truly unforgettable season.

That said the team has not been able to make it out of the Conference tournament since he’s been here, but he looks for things to change. “We haven’t got over that hump [winning conference] and I think with the team we have, we can finish 12-0 in Conference play and win it all,” Pierce said.

Now that the boys know they’ll be hosting ‘the show’ they plan to bring plenty of champagne for everyone in attendance, and that includes the guys in the banana and Gumby suits. “While we may have some of the rowdiest fans in the Conference they always give us something to laugh about, especially when guys are dressed up as Gumby and a banana, it just keeps us very light hearted,” said left fielder Greg Suryn ’11.

In addition to having the home crowd, they will also enjoy the chance to play the tournament on their home turf. They know that if there is even a bit of wind, they can poke the ball upwards and see it fly over the left field wall, or if there isn’t then they can shoot for the gap between right and center and put the wheels on, explained Suryn.

“We have such a great field that was totally revamped last year, we know how the ball is going to bounce, how its going to roll, which will allow us to give up less errors and not give the other team an extra out,” Suryn said.

Observing these key advantages, the team also knows the tournament will be anything but a walk in the park. They will face stellar teams out of the North Division, such as St. Norbert and Ripon. However, another good piece of news is that the other team coming out of the South Division will be Illinois College, a team Grinnell has defeated four times this season.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle won’t be the teams they face, but balancing all the pressures that come with the end of a semester. “The biggest obstacles we face are ourselves, end of year studies and time management. But, baseball is baseball and we will have them prepared for whatever opponent we face,” Hollibaugh said.

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