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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Baseball ends with one loss, one-hitter, one seed

By David Kim

The Grinnell Baseball team clinched the number one seed in the MWC Championship this weekend at Beloit College.

After their May 7 loss to Monmouth, which ended a 21-game winning streak against conference opponents dating back to last season, the Pioneers bounced back by sweeping Illinois College the next day. Pitcher Will Pahos ’14 led the team, throwing a one-hitter with eight strikeouts.

“Our guys have taken the same approach to every game with a focus on executing and working to win,” said Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh. “Will did a phenomenal job of attacking the hitters while changing speeds. One of our philosophies is out or on in four pitches and of the 26 batters he faced, only four of those went above four pitches.”

Mike Nodzenski ’12 led the team’s offense, hitting six of 10. Greg Suryn ’11 had four hits and Ryan Fletcher ’11, Matt Skelly ’12 and Colin Tremblay ’14 had three each. While the team combined to score 20 runs against Illinois College, Suryn credits Pahos’ outstanding pitching performance for the team’s victory and momentum.

“As an outfielder this is like heaven,” he said. “Every inning was short and sweet since he was getting ahead early in the count and not throwing many balls. It is definitely one of the most dominating performances I have seen during my time at Grinnell.”

With a .625 batting average, seven home runs and 19 RBIs this week, Nodzenski earned the MWC Performer of the Week honors.

The last time Pahos pitched against Illinois College, he allowed nine runs, six of them earned runs, in just 3 and 2/3 innings. He was determined not to let it happen again.

“Last time I pitched against [Illinois College] before Sunday, they tagged me for nine runs. So when coach told me I was going to get another start against them, I wanted to prove to [Illinois College] and to my team that I could beat them,” Pahos said. “With the defense I have playing behind me, my game plan from the start was to attack the strike zone and just let them hit it to the defense.”

After playing two games against Monmouth on May 7, the team had to travel to Illinois to play two more games the very next day. Despite their fatigue, the players ended the regular season on a high note. Hollibaugh is not surprised by his team’s performance.

“This is a resilient group and a strong team,” he said. “We have been smart with how we have practice to try and keep them fresh. We also cannot discount the time each player has invested to prepare for our season—so they have been working all year with a greater focus on being champions.”

Nodzenski broke the school record for most RBIs in a game in the opening game against Monmouth with nine. He also tied the school record for most home runs in a game with three. The Pioneers scored 18 runs that game.

“It was just a really good day to hit,” Nodzenski said. “The ball was carrying well and the wind was blowing out. I got a few pitches to hit and made solid contact.”

The Pioneers had already won the MWC South title and clinched the number one seed on April 30, the last time they played Monmouth. Despite the accomplishment, the Pioneers finished the season with a focused and determined mentality.

“There hasn’t been any difference in our approach since we clinched,” Skelly said. “Coach Hollibaugh is very adamant about getting better each day and he hasn’t let us relax much when it comes to that.”

The Pioneers will play Ripon for the second year in a row in the opening round on Friday, May 12 at Beloit.

With more depth in their pitching and with their offense on a roll, this year’s balanced team is confident that they can win the Conference.

“I believe we have become a more balanced team this season which has enabled us to be in virtually every game,” Hollibaugh said. “The ‘X’ factor in all of this again is the competition we have faced. This alone gives us a certain level of confidence that continues to grow in every game we play.”

Another aspect that the team believes will help them is the role of new players. Pahos’ strong performance against Illinois College confirmed this notion.

“I have tried to help the team every time I have been on the mound,” he said. “I know, especially as a first-year, that I just need to play my role on this team, whatever that may be. As the season has gone on, I feel like I have gained the trust of my teammates and coaches to throw strikes and give us a chance whenever I go out. I have had a number of rough patches this year, and there is still a lot of work that I need to put in to continue to get better.”

The team went undefeated against Conference opponents last year, but lost in the Championship game of the MWC tournament. The Pioneers believe the result will be different this year.

“Winning the South Division this year was nice, but the team expected it and knows there is more to accomplish,” Hollibaugh said. “[The players] will be prepared mentally and physically going into the tournament. The keys are without a doubt not changing our approach, keeping the game simple and playing within our abilities.  If we can do that, the games will take care of themselves.”


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