Baseball has losing record while unbeaten in MWC

Records define team’s rankings as well as indicate how well the team is playing. For the Grinnell Baseball team, their current record 9-11 does not say much. If anything, it is only the beginning. Having played tough non-conference opponents, including a Division I team, and being undefeated in Midwest Conference play, the Pioneers are confident they will bring the Conference championship trophy home this season.

They played two games on April 2 and on April 9 against Knox College. In the second game of the April 2 doubleheader, the team set the record for most runs and RBIs in a game scoring 21 runs and driving-in 20 of those runs to break the RBI and single game runs scored records that were set in 2009 and 1992, respectively.

“It’s really neat to see that we’re coming together as a team and contributing to beat the record,” said Greg Suryn ’11. “It was refreshing to see that the games we played in Florida paid off in our first few conference games.”

The team travelled to Florida during Spring Break and competed against tough teams, including Division I Dartmouth and other teams ranked in the Division III Top 25. Although the team left Florida with a losing record of 3-8, the experience still benefitted the team.

“We showed we can compete with really good teams and it’s going to set us up well for the conference because teams aren’t going to be as strong as those we played in Florida,” said Matt Blumenreich ’13. “If anything, it’s going to have positive impacts. It’s going to make us realize what we did wrong and we can improve from that.”

That experience paid off in their most recent game against Central College on April 12. The team won 15-13 in a tough come from behind victory after being down 5-0 in the first inning.

“It was a windy day, which is never good for the pitchers,” said Kainoa Inafuku ’14. “The field was tough to play on too, but we stayed together and picked each other to win the game.”

After loading the bases with two walks and a batter being hit by a pitch, Inafuku hit a single to drive in two runs. The Pioneers scored three runs in the ninth inning to overtake the lead and eventually win the game.

Early in the week, Mike Nodzenski ’12 tied the school record for most home runs in a career with 23 on Monday. He tied Paden Roder’s record, which was set from 2007-2010.

The Pioneers look forward to continuing their over-.500 winning percentage season for third consecutive season and their undefeated conference record for second consecutive season.

Along with Inafuku, the first-years have elevated their games to become a crucial part in the team’s latest success.

Inafuku is the only first-year player to have started every game and is batting .275 so far. Jackson Markey ’14 has started nine games for the Pioneers while pitcher Will Pahos ’14 leads the team in wins with three and Andrew Kelley ’14 has the team’s two saves.

“I like what I’ve seen so far from a very talented group of first-years,” Ben Pope ’12 said. “We also have several talented first-year catchers, but it’s hard for them to get playing time when Nodzenski, the conference player of the year last year, is the starting catcher.”

According to Suryn, the first-years seemed to be nervous in the beginning of the season, but experiences in Florida helped them very much.

Depth in pitching, something the team lacked last season, also improved the team’s overall play.

“We didn’t really know who our third and fourth pitchers were last year, which hurt us during the conference tournament,” Pope said. “This year we have at least four pitchers to rely on, which should help us tremendously.”

Despite the recent success, the Pioneers are not getting too excited about it and are still looking to improve in every aspect of their game.

“We want to focus on each phase of the game the right way, do the little things and not get ahead of ourselves,” Inafuku said. “Staying focused and executing will help us reach our goal to win the conference.”

The team will play two doubleheaders this weekend at home. First against Illinois College on Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and Wartburg College this Sunday, April 17 at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30, when they look to keep their confidence high and continue their winning streak.

“Lot of times in baseball, wins and losses come down to doing all the little aspects of the game correctly and not making the errors,” Suryn said. “In my four years here, this is one of the most solid teams we’ve had and most depth we’ve had. If we go out there and play, I’m confident that we’ll win.”