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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

Baseball on fast track to glory: Oles open with 14-4 mark

By Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ever had one of those nights when it feels as though morning arrives just seconds after your head hits the pillow? You might say that the St. Olaf baseball team has experienced a comparable phenomenon in recent weeks.

After playing just four games through the first seven weeks of its season (which began Feb. 1), the squad has competed in 14 contests since March 22 and finds itself at the halfway mark of their 38-game regular season.

The Oles went 6-2 during their eight-game spring break trip in Port Charlotte, Fla., and opened conference play with a 5-1 record after returning home. The team's current overall record stands at 14-4.

Although the team played a number of different Division III opponents from many far-flung locations around the country while in Florida, they opened the trip with a familiar foe: The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

St. Olaf managed a 4-3 extra innings come-from-behind victory over the nationally-ranked Pointers, propelled by a game-tying seventh inning home run by Andrew Schmeising '08. Schmeising's heroics paved the way for what would be a very successful week for head coach Matt McDonald and his Ole squad. After splitting a doubleheader with Washington and Jefferson University and losing to Worchester State, the Oles won their last four games in the Sunshine State.

After begrudgingly exchanging the beautiful Florida weather for the maddening unpredictability of springtime in Minnesota, the Oles continued their excellent play at home. Eric Tobias '06 pitched St. Olaf to a game one victory as St. Olaf split its MIAC season-opening doubleheader with Bethel April 1. The team has since gone 4-0 in its last two doubleheaders against Macalester (two 7-0 victories on April 5) and St. Mary's (6-1 and 8-1 wins last Saturday).

Senior starting pitcher Dan O'Malley has been impressed with his team's fast start.

"I think we've definitely played up to our potential so far," O'Malley said. "With a 14-4 record, we've set ourselves up very well to not only win the conference, but to also to gain an NCAA tournament bid."

Through the team's first 18 games, a number of players have accumulated some impressive statistics. Tobias, the team's ace, is 4-0 in five starts this season and has posted a 1.97 ERA to go along with 34 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched.

Schmeising leads all regulars with a .397 batting average, including a team-leading 12 extra base hits. Center fielder Brian Astry '07 is also hitting .347 and is 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts.

Through April 12, St. Olaf was tied for first place in the MIAC with conference rival St. Thomas.

A year ago, the team finished the regular season in second place (13-7 in the conference) before losing out in the MIAC tournament.

"Our hitters have been outstanding so far, and if we keep playing St. Olaf-style baseball - throw strikes and make all the plays in the field - we should be able to make some noise in the playoffs," said O'Malley.

The Oles will play host to fifth-ranked St. Scholastica this Thursday and will continue their MIAC season Saturday when they travel to Moorhead to take on the Concordia Cobbers.

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