The Oles must sweep Thursdays doubleheader against fourth-ranked St. Johns and follow up with a sweep of Northfields 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. Marys 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 years 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. Marys.
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 RBIs 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 years 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.