A troublesome five-run fourth inning doomed the Oles in their 7-3 game one loss to the Blue Devils, but Mathison dazzled a powerful Stout squad in game two. The 2006 All-American pitcher allowed just five hits and one run over seven innings of work, and St. Olaf scored three runs in the second to escape with a 3-1 victory.
"I wanted to make it obvious early on that I have three different pitches," Mathison said. "Stout is a free-swinging team and I wanted to get ahead in the count."
A number of tough breaks sunk the Oles in the first game of their doubleheader matinee in Minneapolis. Five straight Blue Devils reached base in the fourth inning, with a lost fly ball, infield single and catcher's interference call setting the stage for a bases-loaded double. Johnson, the Oles' de facto ace entering 2007, lasted just four innings and allowed five runs.
"Some of that is bad luck and some of it is just the game of baseball - - we've got one of the best defensive outfields in the country, but even the major leaguers lose balls in the lights sometimes," head coach Matt McDonald said. "Stout is a good hitting team, so eventually they were going to get a big hit."
Andrew Schmiesing '08 crushed an RBI double high off the baggie in right center field in the bottom half of the fifth to drive in his sixth run of the young season, but it would not be enough for the Oles.
The onus fell on Mathison, an undefeated 10-0 in his college career entering Tuesday, to right the ship for the 2006 MIAC tournament champions. Mathison made quick work of the Blue Devils (game two lasted just one hour and 30 minutes), throwing strikes and using an array of off-speed pitches to keep the Stout hitters off-balance all day.
RBI singles by Tyler Johnson '09 and Justin Tobias '09 helped the Oles plate three in the third inning, which was more than enough offense for Mathison. Luke Gagnon '08 also reached base three more times in game two, and has only been retired two times in 13 plate appearances this year.
"Gagnon and Schmiesing have been hitting very well [batting averages of .857 and .467, respectively]," McDonald said. "I'm confident that we're going to be a better offensive team this year that we were in 2006."
St. Olaf, sporting a 3-1 record through four games, now has an almost two-week break until they take the field March 20 against Wartburg College.
"We're going to concentrate a lot on the mental approach at the plate during the next couple of weeks," McDonald said. "It's tough to go back inside for so long before playing again, but after we play Wartburg, there are hardly any practices left - - it'll be pretty much all games, all the time."