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ISSUE 121 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/9/2008

Baseball cruises past Bethel: Second-place Oles win 17-3 in final regular-season test

By Eric Monek Anderson
Executive Editor

Friday, May 9, 2008

After a typical delay, and with another dominant performance, the St. Olaf baseball team closed its regular season with on a 12-game winning streak. They beat Bethel Wednesday 17-3 in the third attempt to make up the second game of a doubleheader against the Royals originally scheduled for early April.

The Oles were able to play, and win, the first game of the scheduled MIAC doubleheader, but the game lasted 13 innings and darkness forced out the second game. Twice rescheduled and canceled by weather, the teams nearly missed finishing the regular season.

With only a couple days before the MIAC Tournament, which often exhausts a team's full pitching staff, St. Olaf started little-used Erik Olson '11. He allowed two runs in the first and lasted three solid innings as head coach Matt McDonald '87 gave four relievers one inning of prep work apiece. Alex Beckman '09 swiped the win in one inning of relief.

McDonald was also able to rest his regular offensive lineup after they scored nine runs in the third to extend their lead to 12-2. Subs Brett Hoffmann '09 and Corey Nelson '09 made the most of their chances, each smashing solo homers in their only plate appearances. Todd Mathison '09, the reigning MIAC Player of the Week, also hit a two-run homer to go with three hits and three RBI.

Other impressive performers included Sam Baltes '10, Tyler Johnson '09 and Nick Fuerst '09, each with three hits. Fuerst also added three RBI and leads the Oles with a.452 average.

Bethel was eliminated from the MIAC playoff picture Monday, and left starter Ethan Formo '11 in for the entire game. Formo surrended all 21 St. Olaf hits for 17 runs, 15 of them earned.

The win helped St. Olaf finish with a 20-7 regular-season record against Midwest Regional opponents, a record that helps determine their chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional if they don't win the upcoming MIAC Tournament outright.

Saturday the Oles played a more traditional doubleheader at St. John's, the team that ended St. Olaf's 16-game winning streak from a year ago. Though the Johnnies succumbed 3-0 to a brilliant pitching performance from Mathison in the first game, their offense proved scrappy in delaying the Oles' 11th straight win for 10 innings. St. Olaf scored two in the final frame to triumph 11-9.

While the first game was devoid of extra-base hits for either side, starter Mathison allowed only four hits, walked none and struck out seven Johnnies in a seven-inning, complete-game effort. He also contributed two of the Oles' seven singles and two RBI to support his own cause. Carson Jones '10 also stole two bases and scored a run.

In the nightcap, St. John's quickly broke one streak, the Oles' string of 40 consecutive scoreless innings, with two runs in the first. As the two teams traded runs, St. Olaf led 8-6 entering the home half of the seventh. Despite a rare relief appearance by ace starter Paul Johnson '08, the Johnnies plated two runs to tie the score. After each team scored in the ninth, a two-run double from Tyler Johnson one inning later completed his five RBI day and put the game out of reach.

Paul Johnson gained the win after providing three solid relief innings, as Beckman preserved the win with his second save in the bottom of the 10th. Both Mathison and Johnson have ERAs well under 3.00.

Their streak intact, St. Olaf will enter the MIAC Championships with high confidence as the second seed. The other three teams in the three-day event held in Northfield and Dundas will be no. 1 seed St. Thomas, no. 3 seed Hamline and no. 4 seed Gustavus.

St. Thomas features an 18-2 record in the MIAC, with their only losses coming to Hamline. The Tommies swept St. Olaf earlier this year in a high-scoring doubleheader at the Oles' Mark Almli Field and beat St. Olaf four of five times in 2007.

As for the other opponents, the Oles split with Hamline and won two close games with Gustavus. The weekend provides a host of interesting matchups. St. Olaf will open the tournament Friday 3 p.m. against Hamline. They will play at 7 p.m. later that evening; in Dundas if they win, and in Northfield if they lose. The tournament is double-elimination.

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