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Baseball Splits Earlham, Thiel to Go 3-2 Over Week

by Ben Fried

The resilience of the Yeomen finally shone through this week. On Saturday, the Yeomen lost the front end of a doubleheader versus Earlham College but came back in the second game to defeat the Quakers 8-7 in extra innings. The Yeomen delivered a repeat performance on Tuesday versus Thiel College, when they followed a tight 4-3 loss with an emotional, come-from-behind victory in an 18-15 slugfest. On Wednesday the Yeomen survived a late-inning barrage by La Roche College to emerge victorious from another high-scoring affair, this time by the final margin of 13-10.

Senior co-captain Matt Burns took the mound for Oberlin in the first game against Earlham. Burns, who has experienced control problems at times this season, got off to a rocky start. He allowed a walk, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches in the first, resulting in three Quaker runs. Burns gave up only three hits the rest of the game, but walks continued to be a factor. Every Quaker that scored after the first reached base by drawing a walk.

The Yeomen tied the game at four apiece in the bottom of the fourth, and from then on the game was deadlocked. The two teams each added a run in the fifth before Burns and Earlham starter Eric Whitaker set down a string of zeros on the scoreboard that lasted until the ninth inning. The Yeomen had an excellent opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the seventh when junior Anthony Gilbert reached third base with one out. But two consecutive fly balls to rightfield stranded Gilbert at third, and the game went into extra innings.

Burns completed the game, but his first-inning wildness returned in the ninth. Earlham scored the go-ahead run without the benefit of a base hit. Two walks, two wild pitches and a hit batter enabled the Quakers to take the lead for good, 6-5.

Oberlin bounced right back in the second game, putting an end to a 17-game losing streak that had spanned over a month. The Yeoman offense came alive in the third inning, when a three-run homer off the bat of sophomore Ross Golowicz and a two-run RBI single by junior Andy Smith turned a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 lead. The Yeomen's lead was short-lived, however, as Earlham came back to score three runs off first-year starter Zach Pretzer in the top of the fourth. Earlham added another run in the fifth off senior Ray Cagan to tie the game at seven.

Much like the first game, neither side scored again until the ninth inning. Golowicz relieved Cagan in the sixth and proceeded to pitch four shutout innings for his first victory of the season. He allowed only two baserunners and prevented the Quakers from mounting any serious threat. Golowicz even scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, when Cagan singled to center field and drove him in from second base.

The Yeomen followed up their dramatic extra-inning victory with an even more spectacular show at Thiel on Tuesday. Oberlin took another tough one-run loss to open the day. Cagan, who has played third base for the majority of his college career, made his first start of the season and pitched a complete game in a losing effort. The senior allowed only three hits and four runs (two earned) over six innings of work. His performance was all the more impressive considering that he had not thrown a single pitch until the fourth week of the season.

"I've been really surprised," Cagan said of his developing role as a pitcher. "The team has really backed me up. They've been very supportive and played great defense behind me."

The offense came up a little short for Cagan on Tuesday, however, as the Yeomen fell 4-3. Before the game ended, a brawl broke out that was incited by the incessant and unsportsmanlike trash-talk leveled at Cagan by Thiel's players. Senior Mike Fradin was ejected and suspended two games for his role in the fight. Cagan appreciated his teammate's display of support. "Mike did a great job of sticking up for me and for the whole team," he said.

The second game was a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions. The two teams combined to score 33 runs in an emotional contest that was intensified by the previous game's fight. "The fight seemed to really motivate the team," said Cagan. "It may have lit a fire under us that could explain the run-scoring explosion."

Thiel scored the first six runs of the game, reaching sophomore starter Greg Wells for eight hits over four innings. The Yeomen got a run back in the fourth before mounting their first serious comeback in the fifth, when Oberlin brought home three runs to make the score 6-4. Smith had the key hit of the inning, driving in two runs on a single up the middle with two out.

Thiel took a commanding 12-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth, scoring six runs off Wells and Golowicz. Unfazed, the Yeoman responded in the sixth with their biggest offensive explosion of the season. The Yeomen cranked out six hits and batted around eliminating the Tomcats' lead in one fell swoop by scoring eight more runs. The biggest contribution came from Golowicz, who tripled with the bases loaded and nobody out.

The Tomcats came storming back in the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs to take a 15-12 lead. Burns came in to relieve Golowicz with one out. Working only three days after his complete game against Earlham, Burns allowed one run before ending the inning.

The Yeomen continued to pound Thiel's pitching in the seventh, unleashing a barrage of singles that eventually buried the Tomcats under a three-run deficit that might as well have been six feet of soil. Burns clamped down on the Tomcats' hitters in the bottom of the inning to earn his second victory of the season.

Oberlin's 18 runs against Thiel doubled their previous season-high, but Wednesday against La Roche the Yeomen proved their offensive outburst was no fluke. With Burns on the mound again, the Yeomen took a 3-1 lead to the bottom of the seventh. Then the Yeomen batters laced three doubles and three singles in a seven-run explosion that almost put the Redhawks away for good. Burns left after the seventh, however, and the Redhawks stormed back furiously, cutting the lead to three in the eighth inning. But the Oberlin offense picked up the slack, and Cagan came in to save the game for the Yeomen, who won by a final of 13-10.

Burns earned his third win of the season, allowing only three earned runs in seven innings despite pitching for the third time in five days. "I certainly have thrown a lot over the past week, but with enough desire and Advil anything is possible," said the Yeomen's ace. "It's strange, but when we're putting up eight or nine runs, my arm just doesn't hurt as much."

Burns attributed his team's offensive success to the experience the Yeomen picked up against divisional powers Wooster and Allegheny. "Early on in the season when we were facing the best pitchers in the conference, a lot of guys were still making adjustments at the plate," he said. "Now, not only are we seeing more hittable pitching, but most of the guys have settled in and are figuring out ways of using their particular talents more effectively."

The Yeomen will look to continue their two-game winning streak this weekend when they venture to Hiram College for a three-game conference series. On Wednesday the Yeomen welcome the Grove City College Wolverines to Dill Field for a doubleheader. Play begins at 1 p.m.

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 22, April 28, 2000

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