Last week, St. Olaf baseball managed two convincing victories against Crown College, outscoring its opponents 12-4 over the course of a double-header. The bats came alive with explosive power from Sam Stuckmeyer ’19, who launched a three-run homer to clinch game one for the Oles, and timely hits, most notably a go-ahead two-run single from Jake Ossell ’19 off the bench, which gave St. Olaf leads that it would maintain thanks to strong pitching performances from Jake Mathison ’18 and Jesse Retzlaff ’20, who combined for 10 innings of scoreless baseball and 14 strikeouts.
However, upon their return to U.S. Bank Stadium this past weekend for another double-header against Midland University, the Oles regressed considerably, silenced at the plate despite stellar pitching performances.
Game one was a nail-biter to say the least. Heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the score remained gridlocked 0-0, a tense pitching duel between Mathison and Midland’s Torrey Escamilla. Eventually, it was ultimately the Warriors that caught up to Mathison, getting the better of the Ole ace when Alex Bee laced a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to hand St. Olaf its first loss of the season. Mathison’s performance isn’t to be understated – tossing six scoreless innings without allowing a single walk against a considerable foe is no small feat, and it demonstrates tremendous poise and command of the strike zone that will certainly prove to be beneficial for the Oles down the stretch.
Having an ace of Mathison’s caliber is a valuable asset, but St. Olaf won’t be winning anytime soon regardless of who’s on the mound if it doesn’t support its pitchers with runs – against Escamilla, the bats simply disappeared. Though the Oles posted more base hits than their opponents, with five to the Warriors’ four, they hit into two double plays and committed two errors, ensuring that their rallies quickly evaporated while perpetuating Midland’s. Furthermore, none of St. Olaf’s hits went for extra bases.
Game two instilled a sense of déjà vu as Midland once again plated the game’s only run in the final inning to defeat St. Olaf, who handed the Warriors the game with a critical error on a sacrifice fly ball while being unable to muster any answer on offense. The pitching staff continued to perform with excellence – between starter Kade Cronin ’17 and relievers Retzlaff, Sam Pressman ’20 and Will Gustafson ’18, hurlers only allowed four hits.
However, the bats remained absent. Stuckmayer and Ossell, heroes of a week ago, went a combined 0-for-7 at the plate, and besides Travis McDonald ’20, nobody compiled a multi-hit game during either contest. The Oles now sit at 2-2, and although they fought valiantly against a strong opponent, this hitting drought brings some concerns regarding their capabilities with the bat. These doubts must be quelled quickly if St. Olaf is to seriously compete in its conference opener against the fearsome St. Thomas, a mere two weeks away.