After beginning the season 2-1, the Oles have reeled off a school-record tying 14 consecutive victories, including two conference doubleheader sweeps of Macalester and St. Mary's, to improve their overall record to 16-1. St. Olaf is now ranked sixth in the national ABCA (American Baseball Coaches Association) Division III poll.
Monday afternoon, the Oles were finally able to play their long-awaited MIAC home opener against the St. Mary's Cardinals. The doubleheader, postponed twice due to inclement weather and a frozen Mark Almi Field, saw the Oles extend their winning streak with victories of 21-1 and 7-1.
"We're running on all cylinders right now," starting pitcher Paul Johnson '08 said about his team's hot start. "Every aspect of the game is working for us."
St. Olaf's red-hot bats stood in stark contrast to the cool April weather on Monday. The Oles jumped out to a 12-0 lead after two innings in game one, more than enough run support for the undefeated Todd Mathison '09 (5-0 in 2007 and 14-0 in his collegiate career). Andrew Schmiesing '08 went 5-6 with a home run, three doubles and four RBIs in the win, while eight other Oles contributed multi-hit games.
Game two against the Cardinals featured a similar plotline. Johnson, an All-MIAC honoree last year with a 6-2 record and a 2.35 ERA, tossed his best game of the young season. Johnson struck out seven and allowed just three hits in the complete game victory, and Schmiesing's second homer of the day broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning. Chris Terrazas '07 also went 3-4 with an RBI double.
Mathison was named the MIAC's Pitcher of the Week for his efforts against the Cardinals, while Schmiesing is now hitting .453 in 2007 with a team-leading 21 RBIs.
While offense has been a consistent part of the current win streak, Johnson emphasized the key role St. Olaf's hurlers have played thus far in the spring.
"As a pitching staff, we've done a good job so far this season," Johnson said. "We've been keeping the walks down and the strikeouts up. The key has just been going after every team right out of the gates, regardless of where they're ranked, and not letting up."
Mother Nature also complicated matters in the Oles' conference season opener against Macalester, originally scheduled for March 31 but not played until April 2. Mathison, who has not allowed an earned run in 43.1 MIAC innings during his career, threw a three-hit shutout in the 3-0 game one win, while first baseman Tyler Johnson '09 homered and drove in three runs in the 8-1 nightcap victory.
St. Olaf's relatively late spring break also hindered the team somewhat in their early competition. The team played seven games in just five days during their annual trip to Port Charlotte, Fla. over the break. The Oles went a perfect 7-0, earning wins over UW-Oshkosh, Union College (New York) and DePauw University (Indiana).
"I think we've accomplished some great things as a team so far, but we have these types of expectations every year," catcher Patrick Wadzinski '09 said. "Our goal now is just to continue to play like this throughout the season."
Wadzinski also said that the unseasonably cold weather has not been a concern for the defending MIAC champions.
"The vast majority of our players have lived and played here [Minnesota and Wisconsin] for our entire lives," Wadzinski said. "We're used to these conditions and will be ready whether it's snowing or 75 degrees and sunny."
St. Olaf will look to set a new school record for consecutive victories Saturday against the Concordia-Moohread Cobbers. Weather permitting, the first game will begin at 1 p.m. at St. Olaf's Mark Almi Field.