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ISSUE 117 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/30/2004

Oles balk against Gusties, prepare for MIAC leaders

By Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, April 30, 2004

Conventional baseball wisdom states that it is almost always harder for a team to win on the road. They must contend with travel, unfamiliar surroundings, opposing crowds and other disadvantages inherent to the game itself, such as the home team receiving the final at-bat.

Anyone who has been following the St. Olaf baseball team this season knows that they are anything but conventional. The Oles defied logic once again this past week. On April 21, they traveled to St. Johns and pulled off an impressive sweep of the Johnnies by scores of 3-2 and 6-5. Yet on Saturday, they dropped a pair to Gustavus at home 1-0 and 4-3.

Against the Johnnies in game one, ace Charlie Ruud 04 once again flashed the form that should make him MIAC Pitcher of the Year. Pitching on three days rest, Ruud turned in a gritty performance, going all seven innings, scattering six hits and allowing two earned runs while striking out six.

Offensively for the Oles, senior Danny Johnson had the big blow, a two-run homer in the second inning. St. Olaf then scored the go-ahead in the fourth on an RBI single by Brad Baglien 04. Baglien went 3-4 in the first game and is currently one of the top hitters in the conference with a .440 batting average.

In the second game, Jeff Hudson 06 went 2-3 with 3 RBI, including a two-run homer in the second. The Oles scored three more runs in the third, but the game remained tied at five going into the seventh inning.

St. Olaf was able to manufacture the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout by Dan Norsten 04. Joe Blankush 04 earned the victory with three innings of stellar relief.

"St. Johns is a good team," head coach Matt McDonald said. "To beat them twice on the road, especially after the rain delay [of 45 minutes], became even more important for us after Saturdays losses."

Heading into Saturdays doubleheader, Gustavus had a 5-7 conference record, compared with St. Olafs 9-1 MIAC mark. Not many expected Gustavus to emerge with more than a split.

In game one, the Oles just couldnt muster anything offensively. Gustavus Josh Spitzack was dominant, allowing only two hits while fanning nine over the course of the game. St. Olaf wasted a great pitching performance by Eric Tobias 06, who went the distance and gave up only six hits while striking out seven.

Unfortunately, the Oles did not fare much better in game two. Baglien was the lone offensive star, going 2-3 with a two-run homer and two runs scored. St. Olaf actually led 3-1 until the fifth, but Gustavus scored three runs to take a lead they would never relinquish.

"We just couldnt hit the ball on Saturday," McDonald said. "You can do everything else right, but if you dont get hits with guys in scoring position you wont win the game. Its as simple as that."

The team continued to slide Tuesday when they split with a .500 Hamline team. The Oles record has fallen to 10-4, placing them third in the MIAC behind conference-leading Concordia and second place St. Thomas.The Oles will, however, get a shot at both the Cobbers and Tommies before the MIAC tournament. The squad travels to Concordia Saturday and hosts St. Thomas on May 5.

Weve got a key road game coming up, and it is going to be a dogfight," McDonald said. "If were serious about being a playoff team, we just have to approach every one like its a life-or-death situation, no matter the outcome of the one before."

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