Baseball, softball silenced against St. Thomas

Fielding mistakes, lack of timely hitting sink Oles versus conference rivals

Published April 9, 2017, 5:16 p.m. - 81 views


Both the baseball and softball teams start- ed this season at a torrential pace, with the former sweeping Crown College with a run ratio of 3:1 and the latter beginning 3-1, out- scoring its opponents 35-7 during the open- ing week. However, since moving into the conference schedule, both teams have failed to replicate their early hot streaks, managing a mere 1-5 record against MIAC opponents combined. Last weekend’s series against St. Thomas, a school that has maintained an iron grip on MIAC baseball and softball for the better part of 15 years, presented an opportunity for the St. Olaf teams to defini- tively prove that their early success was an honest representation of their improvement over a combined 25-45 record from a year ago. This was the Oles’ chance to quell any doubts that they could present a formidable playoff threat in a stacked conference.
Unfortunately, what resulted was anything but convincing. Ole baseball and softball got decisively swept 4-0 by a deeper, proven Tommie team thanks to a continued lack of offense, a noticeable lack of pitching depth and surprisingly unreliable fielding. Instead of ending the doubts, St. Olaf now faces more than ever, heading into the heart of its conference schedule without the momentum it worked so hard to build early on. Baseball’s first game against St. Thomas
Emily Carr ’19 blasts a solo home run in game one against the Tommies, but critical mistakes cost the Oles a victory was reminiscent of their upset victory against the Tommies last season, but costly mistakes in the field and a lack of timely hitting halted a second consecutive underdog success story. Jake Mathison ’18 continued his hot start on the mound, limiting St. Thomas’ lineup to four total hits and one earned run while striking out five in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.45 in 33 innings total this season. Mathison has proven himself to be the clear ace of St. Olaf’s pitching staff, and Saturday’s stellar performance only solidified his posi- tion atop the rotation even further. He put the Oles in a perfect position to pull off the upset.
However, the hitting and defense did nothing to support Mathison, costing St. Olaf a much-desired victory in a 2-1 heart- breaker. Despite compiling seven hits, the Oles stranded 12 baserunners, most notably during a disappointing fifth inning in which they loaded the bases thanks to a double by Mathison and two walks but failed to score. Joe Kieski ’19 and Sam Stuckmeyer ’19, breakout stars from 2016, went 0-for-5 combined with five strikeouts, continuing sophomore slumps in which they’re hitting a meager .229 and .235, respectively.
This ineptitude at the plate continues an unsettling trend of inconsistency. Over spring break, St. Olaf broke a three game los- ing streak in which it totaled six runs, routing Keuka College and Lawrence University with a combined 32 runs in three consecutive wins. Yet now the bats have once again gone silent. Their stars from a year ago are strug- gling, and it showed against St. Thomas.
Fielding inconsistency further crippled St. Olaf’s chances of victory, with the Oles com- mitting two errors to the Tommies’ zero. Third-baseman Dylan Blake ’20 overthrew first base in the bottom of the third inning, allowing the eventual winning unearned run to reach base. In an otherwise close game, fielding efficiency was the deciding factor. One team had flawless defense, and the other gave up runs because of it. Game two of the doubleheader only brought these issues further to light with- out Mathison on the mound. The Oles only managed five hits while pitchers Will Gustafson ’18 and Cameron Gray ’20 allowed eight runs over six combined innings in an 8-1 rout.
Softball fared similarly in its home opener against the Tommies, dropping a close first game 4-2 and getting overwhelmed in game two, 10-1. Starting pitcher Julie Graf ’20 continued an excellent first year with St. Olaf in the first contest, holding St. Thomas to six hits and one earned run with five strike- outs over a seven-inning complete game, bringing her ERA to an incredible 0.91 and raising her strikeout total to 131. Both those statistics top the MIAC – Graf is already one of the conference’s premiere pitching talents as a first year, and her future is brighter than most. Co-MIAC Athlete of the Week Emily Carr ’19, sharing the honor with Graf during an eye-popping second season at the plate, knocked a solo home run in the first inning, tying for the conference lead with four total.
However, like the baseball team, the softball team’s undoing was defense. The Tommies scored three runs on a two-out bas- es-clearing triple by Dana Connelly, taking a 4-1 lead that they would not surrender. This does not tell the whole story, however. The first base-runner of the inning reached first base on a throwing error by Kate Arneson ’19 – without this mistake, St. Olaf would have escaped the bases-loaded jam unscathed after St. Thomas’ Melissa Barry popped out to third. Instead, it lost three runs.
The second games for softball and base- ball, both blowout losses, suggest a concern- ing lack of pitching depth beyond Mathison and Graf that could severely limit the Oles’ potential if unaddressed. Nearly every con- test from this point forward for both teams is a double-header against conference opponents – after Mathison and Graf pitch in game one, who’s going to step up in game two? The Oles cannot consistently allow run totals in the double-digits. Otherwise, mathematically, neither St. Olaf team stands a chance of finishing with a winning record in conference, as winning the second game of doubleheaders presents a nearly insur- mountable task. As it stands, following the games with St. Thomas, the Oles look vulnerable. They must stabilize their hitting, fielding and pitching depth if they hope to make a playoff run this 

Last Updated 4/9/2017

About the Author

Ben Seidel, class of 2018 is a English major.

seidel1@stolaf.edu

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