…now that’s more like it.
Last week I wrote an article criticizing St. Olaf baseball’s costly fielding mistakes, lack of pitching depth and overall inability to hit in clutch situations against conference rival St. Thomas. Their stars simply weren’t performing as expected, and the team’s performance thus far lacked inspiration and urgency. After getting swept by University of Northwestern in St. Paul on April 4, the Oles had dropped five games in a row. What started as a promising season was quickly nosediving into another sub-.500 season.
Fast forward to this past weekend, when St. Olaf squared off in its conference home opener against Bethel University, a team ranked 25th nationally and fighting for the MIAC lead with an imposing 19-3 record. Bethel had previously dispatched both Concordia and St. John’s, outscoring its opponents 36-12 during its torrential 4-0 start to the conference schedule.
Bethel entered with all the confidence and momentum in the world, a nationally recognized foe, while St. Olaf limped into the contest with numerous gaping holes.
It wouldn’t matter. The Oles finally woke up against the Royals, shocking their opponents with a doubleheader sweep thanks to a jolt of offense and pitching support that had previously lay dormant. St. Olaf’s miraculous upset finally fulfilled some of its preseason promise, inspiring renewed faith that the Oles can permanently get back on track and make a playoff push with their young, talented core that keeps improving over time.
Jake Mathison ’18 once again impressed in game one, tossing his fourth complete game of the season, allowing only five hits while striking out eight Bethel hitters. One mistake in the second inning, an RBI double by Sam Horner, proved inconsequential as the Oles finally produced timely hitting in the bottom of the fifth. After St. Olaf tied the game at two runs apiece, Jake Ossell ’19 singled with the bases loaded, driving in two runs. Not to be outdone, Joe Keiski ’19, breaking out of an early season sophomore slump, tripled to center, clearing the bases and netting the Oles a 6-2 lead that would hold for the remainder of the contest. All of this came with two outs – St. Olaf emphatically overcame its hitting woes, the key difference in the upset win.
Game two continued the onslaught as the Oles scored 10 runs on 18 hits, helped by homeruns from Mathison and Ossell. Luke Dahl ’19, Dylan Blake ’20 and Ossell all went 3-for-5, providing St. Olaf with strong hitting depth through its entire lineup. Hanson Devine ’20 performed admirably in game two, tossing five and one-third scoreless innings. In relief for Hanson, Will Gustafson ’18 pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning with two timely strikeouts. Despite a late comeback by Bethel, the Oles hung on to secure a 10-7 victory and an increidible upset sweep over their rivals.
St. Olaf finally addressed its hitting slump and lack of pitching depth against a formidable conference opponent. If the Oles continue at this pace consistently, it’s reasonable to anticipate that they can overcome their slow start and reach the MIAC playoffs.