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ISSUE 121 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/21/2008

Baseball's offense sputtering

By Eric Monek Anderson
Sports Editor

Friday, March 21, 2008

The St. Olaf baseball team scored just three runs in 14 innings en route to a doubleheader split with Mayville State University of North Dakota.

Tuesday's games at the Metrodome began at 10 p.m. and stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Perhaps the late hours put the St. Olaf bats to sleep, as they were shutout in the second game 4 -- 0 after winning the first 3 -- 2 on a late rally.

In the first game, Mayville State's Dan Knox shut down the St. Olaf bats through six innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 10 Oles.

But three sophomores helped push St. Olaf ahead. After Tyler Jones '10 walked, Sam Baltes '10 doubled him home. Kyle Olson '10 followed with an RBI single, while Tyler Johnson '09, who went 2-for-3 in the game to pace all hitters, knocked in the winning run with a single of his own. Knox wasn't the game's only dominant pitcher.

Todd Mathison '09, a two-time All-MIAC pick in his first two seasons, threw a complete game two-hitter. Mathison struck out six and allowed two unearned runs that were manufactured largely by four St. Olaf errors.

The late comeback was already the second of the season for the Oles, who benefitted from a bumbling Wartburg squad for a seventh-inning win in their first Metrodome game of the year. This comeback, save for a wild pitch, was generated almost completely by the beleagured St. Olaf offense.

Mayville State, which has played 17 games already this season, boasts a record of 5 -- 12 after the doubleheader against St. Olaf.

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, which actually began Wednesday morning, the Oles and Comets switched offensive roles. This time it was St. Olaf mustering just two hits. Carson Jones '10 and Mathison managed a single and a double, respectively.

Though the Oles couldn't manage any runs, Mayville State got off to a booming start with Erik Scott's solo homer in the first off St. Olaf starter Alex Sommer '09. Scott later added a two-run triple in the sixth inning.

Three Comet runs in that inning extended the margin to four runs. Despite their meager offensive output, the Oles managed three stolen bases. Josh Maus '08 had one, while Carson Jones swiped two bags.

Head coach Matt McDonald '87 used seven pitchers in the second game after using only Mathison in the opener. Three pitchers who hadn't appeared yet this season saw their first action of the year as the team prepares for a spring break trip to Florida during which they will play 10 games in five days.

"The general goal of the team for the games at the Dome was to get back into the swing of things as well as to try out new things before heading down to Florida and before conference play," pitcher Paul Shrewsbury '10 said.

"For pitchers it was working hard inside and soft away to hitters. For hitters, it was to see the ball early and react to what was thrown."

McDonald has tried several different lineups and rotated most of his traveling roster in for at-bats in efforts to spark the team's bats. The Oles have scored no more than four runs in any of their six games and have been outscored 20 -- 18 despite their 4 -- 2 record.

Shrewsbury pointed out that the team still has a winning record. "The offense is struggling a little but that's baseball," he said.

"They're all working hard in improving seeing pitches -- -either asking for the pitchers to throw a certain type of pitch to them in the cage or mentally seeing the pitch as they work on the hitting fundamentals."

The Oles depart Friday for Port Charlotte, Fla., where they will play Union College, Keuka College, UW-Whitewater, Oakland City University and Otterbein College. While in Florida, they will use an off day to visit Minnesota Twins' prospect and former teammate Andrew Schmiesing '08 at Minnesota's spring training camp in Fort Myers.

The Oles, defending co-champions of the MIAC along with rival St. Thomas, begin conference play April 2 at Concordia-Moorhead.

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