The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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

Baseball lost all that power, plays small ball

Last weekend Grinnell’s baseball team braved a tornado threat and the mucky mud of March to play three games in Fulton, Missouri. The team went 1-2. Saturday found the squad losing 1-4 to Buena Vista University. On Sunday, they fell to Westminster University 8-9 and then beat Buena Vista 3-2 in their second game on Sunday.

T.J. Goetz '14 focuses hard on hitting a ground ball during indoor practice in the Bear Fieldhouse Wednesday night as head coach Tim Hollibaugh, right, looks on. Photo taken by Ben Brewer.

In the second game against the Buena Vista Beavers, the Pioneers rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the sixth inning on a two out RBI double by Greg Suryn ’11, a wild pitch that scored Mike Bogard ’12 and then an error that brought in Matt Blumenreich ’13, which proved to be the winning run. The Beavers were a superb early test for the Pioneers, as they are the Iowa Conference pre-season favorites.

The team played a closely contested match versus their host Westminster on Sunday, where they outhit them 16-9 and mounted a 7-1 lead. The Pioneers saw strong performances from Michael Goldfien ’12, Suryn and Mike Nodzenski ’12, who each had three hits. They also had a flash of Jackie Robinson-type play when Drew Davis ’13 stole home in the first. Still, the relentless Blue Jays pecked away at the lead with two runs in the fourth, three runs in the fifth and two more in the eighth for the victory.

The biggest adjustment for the team throughout the weekend was getting used to not using BESR bats and being restricted to BBCOR rating bats. The team will be using Tpx Omahas, Louisville Sluggers and a few using Easton Surge Division III officials decided to adopt this new protocol to protect pitchers from being hit on comeback liners. As a result, there will probably be a serious reduction in offensive output. The adjustment could turn out to be a Division III Baseball pitchers’ new best friend.

“With the new bats I think overall pitchers might see their ERA dip down a little bit, and there will be a lot of pressure on pitchers to field bunts and make plays, be quick, have good footwork on the infield,” Bogard said.

The team will look to improve their offense in the games ahead as they continue to develop and understand what different game situations require.

“We got to get better on offense, we’re young so we were anxious. We have some experience, but not as much as other teams, so we had some guys who were pretty excited about their first chance to compete,” said Coach Tim Hollibaugh.

Grinnell also shows quite a bit of youth in their pitching as they have six underclassmen in their rotation. This will make for some growing pains, but the team is confident that their youth will mature quickly.

“Our pitching over the weekend was good, but our relief pitchers have to be confident that they can throw breaking balls across the plate rather than around it,” Hollibaugh said.

In addition to the challenge brought on by playing with a new bat, they had to cope with the graduation of Paden Roder ’10, Brian Sollo ’10, Chad Tadabuki ’10 and Nate Pierce ’10, all starters last season. Considering a good portion of the offensive production last season came from those bats, the team is facing a drop in power. To counter this, they will adopt a small-ball, Minnesota Twins mentality.

“Last year we hit two homers per game, in the first three we didn’t hit one, so we don’t have as much power but we are more athletic and definitely have more ability to steal bases,” Hollibaugh said.

The team will also look to expand on the strong defensive showing they put on in Fulton, an area that was a concern at times last season. This is something that the team will also have to focus on, as they may not score as many runs with their hit-and-run and bunt type offense. The bats will also produce slower grounder, requiring the infield to be quicker in their responses.

“We have a very quick team. We have Drew Davis ’13 in center and Kainoa Inafuku ’14 at short, who are both lightening quick. So we will be playing more of a small ball steal bases type game, then a power ball one,” Suryn said.

The Pioneers will hope to draw on their success in each area of the game in the 14-game Spring Break trip in Florida. Though, before the first game on March 20 against Amherst, the team has a home game Mar. 16 at 3:30 p.m. against William Penn.

During their Spring Break trip the team will play a host of tough competition including several top Division III schools and the Division I Dartmouth College. They will have to rely mightily on their youth to mature quickly and fulfill their potential.

“I want to see the maturity of our younger players and how we can keep it together, as we will be playing teams that will mostly have juniors and seniors,” Suryn said.

While the team prepares themselves for the trip with the mindset that they will win every game, they know that it could be quite the opposite. Regardless, the team will continue to live by their mantra, which is to trust in their ability, and know that if they have competed and beat the top competition before, they can do it again.

“We have to be relaxed and patient, with the schedule we have we could come back 2-12 in Florida for all we know because of who we play,” Hollibaugh said. “But the whole goal is to get better game by game, so that by the time we hit Conference we are ready to play.”

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