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ISSUE 116 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/2/2003

Baseball chases title, needs help from MIAC foes

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, May 2, 2003

With only four games left and the men’s baseball team trailing conference leader St. Thomas by two full games, a fourth consecutive season atop the MIAC is very much in doubt. Should the Tommies, who ranked 14th in the latest national poll, hold on and take the championship trophy back to St. Paul, it would mark the first time since the Y2K scare that the MIAC title has left the Hill.

The Oles must sweep Thursday’s doubleheader against fourth-ranked St. John’s and follow up with a sweep of Northfield’s non-hill dwelling college on Saturday to a have shot, albeit unlikely, at extending their MIAC dominance.

Should the Oles run the table they will become temporary fans of Hamline and Concordia. The Pipers and the Cobbers need to team up and take at least two games between them from the Tommies. Should St. Thomas get swept by one of these teams, or split with both, their overall record would fall to 16-4, which would be identical to that of the Oles.

The tiebreaker is uncertain; the two squads split games by the identical tally of 7-4. The Oles could also use additional help from St. Mary’s or St. Thomas in taking one game from the Cobbers, who are currently tied with the Oles for second place in the MIAC standings.

This year’s MIAC title race could go any number of ways, making it one of the most memorable in recent memory and one with potential to write its own chapter in Minnesota collegiate sports lore.

To create this log jam finish the Oles had to correct some early season woes.

After a disastrous spring break trip that featured losses in seven of the nine games contested in the states of Texas, Iowa and Kansas, the Oles returned to winning form and won 13 of their last 15 games, all but two coming in conference play.

Recently, since splitting with St. Thomas by the aforementioned score, the Oles racked up sweeps of Bethel and Augsburg and a split with the Cardinals of St. Mary’s.

The April 22 games against the Royals featured two low-scoring pitching duels. Charlie Ruud ‘04 scattered 11 hits over seven innings to earn a 4-1 decision in game one while Matt Green ‘05 permitted only seven hits in the complete game 3-1 win. Mike Ludwig ‘03 and Joe Pavelko ‘04 provided the offensive firepower in game one, each going 2-for-3 with a homerun.

In their tussle with the Cardinals things did not look to be going the Oles’ way. Falling behind 1-5 in through four innings the team put up a combined eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings to garner a 9-6 triumph. Newcomer Jeff Hudson ’06 recorded four RBI’s with a 3-for-5 performance to propel the comeback win. On the mound, Jon Haugen ’04 earned the victory by working a perfect 2 1/3 innings and posting four strikeouts.

Game two, however, was a total heartbreaker. Tied 2-2 in the 11th inning, Haugen surrendered his first run of the day, after taking the reins from Eric Tobias ‘06 in the fifth inning, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 win. The Oles were not without opportunities, however, as they pounded out 11 hits but stranded 13 runners in the contest. The two runs that crossed the plate were courtesy of a two-run homer by Brett Thoreson ’06 in the second inning.

There appeared to be a bit of a hangover from the emotional loss as the Oles struggled to a 4-1 win over the visitors from Augsburg College. Any questions of a letdown, however, were answered in a 27-2 shellacking of the Auggies. Brad Baglien ‘04, Tony De La Hunt ’05, Ludwig and Hudson all went deep in the dominating win.

What does the future hold for Ole baseball? It is almost certain that the Oles will participate in the MIAC Championship tourney that pits the top four teams against each other in a weekend of competition in Northfield and nearby Dundas.

Yet it is not what is known, but what is unknown that is intriguing about this year’s team. Will the Oles finish strong and ride their strong defense and excellent pitching into the MIAC championship? No one knows what the future holds, but maybe, just maybe, it could include another championship.

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