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ISSUE 116 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/9/2003

Baseball falls shy of MIAC title: Men finish season second, look for strong showing in tournament

By Peter Gloviczki
Staff Writer

Friday, May 9, 2003

With a second place showing in the MIAC standings, the St. Olaf men’s baseball team finished the regular season with a record of 16-4 in the conference and 23-12 overall.

This year marks the fourth consecutive season that the Oles have finished either first or second in conference play.

The team will now work to build upon their success in the conference tournament, which begins May 9 at Sechler Park in Dundas, Minn, where the Oles will face Concordia.

"We all hold very high expectations of each other. I think it's part of what has made us so successful in the past … The one goal that has eluded us for those three [MIAC] championship seasons is the conference tournament championship," infielder Jon Cornell ’03 said.

Coming into the MIAC conference tournament, the Oles are riding a strong winning streak as they swept Augsburg, St. John’s and Carleton to close out the regular season.

With the arrival of the tournament, they must now work to maintain their success, and will look for their seniors, Cornell, catcher Matt Karnas and first baseman Mike Ludwig, to provide leadership.

Pitcher Charlie Ruud ’04 believes that these individuals are an integral part of the team.

"The impact of the seniors is crucial," he said. "Whether in the game or not, they are the leaders who everyone else looks to for an example of what St. Olaf baseball is about."

While the work of the team’s seniors is important, the Oles also feature a strong pitching staff.

"Our strength this year again lies in pitching," pitcher Will Huepenbecker ‘05 said. "We have a young and talented staff that includes 2 first-team All-Conference pitchers."

Indeed, the St. Olaf pitching staff has been led by Jeff Jasperson ‘04 and Ruud, both of whom received first-team All-Conference recognition in 2002. Jasperson and Ruud have proved extremely durable, throwing 46 and 1/3 and 57 innings respectively.

With a record of 6-2, Ruud has also maintained a stellar earned run average of 1.35 runs per game through May 5.

The pitching staff will look to maintain its success as the Oles seek to bring the conference tournament championship home.

The pitching staff, however, is just one of the elements the team feels is necessary for a strong performance in 2003.

The Oles also posses one of the league’s top defenses. They commited a mere 41 errors during the regular season, compared to their opponents’ 71. The team also boasts a strong fielding percentage of .963.

With that kind of defensive ability and consistancy, the Oles will look for a solid defensive effort in order to bring success for the remainder of their 2003 campaign.

While the Oles can certainly bring the lumber on any given night, they put up 27 runs in a late season beating of Augsburg, the teams knows that offense gets the notieriey and praise, but it is defense that distingusihes good teams from great teams.

"Our lineup is very strong this year and the key to victory for us will be to play error-free defense," Huepenbecker said.

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