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ISSUE 121 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2008

Rival hitters down baseball: St. Thomas deals baseball first two losses of the MIAC season

By Eric Monek Anderson
Sports Editor

Friday, April 18, 2008

Darkness threatened as St. Thomas finished the second win of a doubleheader sweep over the St. Olaf baseball team Wednesday evening at Mark Almli Field. The Tommies, who split the 2007 MIAC regular-season title with the Oles and won the league tournament, followed up a 12-9 victory in the first game with a 15-13 triumph in the see-saw nightcap.

The losses dropped St. Olaf to 13-8 overall and 3-2 in MIAC play. In game one, the host Oles carried a 9-8 lead into the top of the seventh inning, but starter Todd Mathison '09 and reliever Alex Beckman '09 couldn't hold the lead. St. Thomas benefited from two errors in the top of the fifth that led to four unearned runs with two outs.

The inning helped erase what had been a 7-2 St. Olaf lead after three innings. The Oles knocked around St. Thomas' Lonnie Robinson, who shut down the St. Olaf bats in last season's MIAC tournament. Mathison, who carried a 2.22 ERA into the game for the Oles, surrendered 10 runs, though only six were earned. Second baseman Luke Gagnon '08 led the way on offense, going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and four RBIs. Tyler Johnson '09 also homered in the game.

Game two again proved an offensive showcase. Five runs in the top of the sixth inning extended the St. Thomas lead to 14-8. St. Olaf came right back with four in the bottom of that inning, but couldn't muster another rally. In a unique Minnesota moment, each team closed down the game with pitchers named Erik Olson ('11 for the Oles).

Neither team's starter lasted past the third inning. Johnson added his second homer of the doubleheader for St. Olaf, a three-run shot in the third. Right fielder Tyler Jones '10 went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base. Starting pitcher Alex Sommer '09 and four relievers left the Oles with a deficit they couldn't quite overcome against the Tommies, who remain undefeated in the MIAC.

Earlier in the week, the baseball team resumed normal MIAC play after an extended weather break. During the stretch, three games were canceled, one postponed and one doubleheader against Bethel ended after the first game because of darkness. Monday, St. Olaf hosted Augsburg, sweeping aside their opponents with flair. A nine-run fourth inning propelled the Oles to an easy 18-1 victory in game one.

Starter Andy Dimick '08 allowed just one hit in the second game for a 4-1 win. St. Olaf broke the tie in that game with three runs in the fifth. Josh Maus '08 led off the game with a homer.

"I'm not surprised we scored 18 runs," starter and winner Paul Johnson '08 said of the first Augsburg game. "Everyone was antsy to play. The bats just came alive."

Paul Johnson '08 gained the win on the hill for the Oles in game one. During the glut of cancellations, Johnson was scheduled to start at least three separate times. He said the team's chance to play Monday "was a huge relief."

For players, the feeling was almost like another opening day. "I was super excited to get out there," Johnson said. "We'd been practicing way too much, preparing every day like we had a game the next day. Then our hopes would get crushed day-by-day."

The Oles fell prey to snow, then wetness and finally to extremely cold conditions as head coach Matt McDonald '87 sent regular updates to his players on any given day's status.

At least now, St. Olaf can count on playing a steady stream of games. Saturday the Oles travel to play Hamline at Midway Stadium in St. Paul at 1:00 p.m., home of the St. Paul Saints. Their next home doubleheader will be Tuesday against St. Mary's at 2:30 p.m.

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