Sports / The Prairie Fire / April 16, 2008

Monmouth looms as team knocks off rust

The Knox baseball team looks ahead to another match between the biggest rivalry in the Midwest Conference, as Monmouth College makes the trip to Blodgett Field this Saturday for a doubleheader. With last Friday’s games against Grinnell cancelled, the team needed the chance given to them Tuesday, in a tune-up game of sorts against Millikin College in Decatur, Ill. Ultimately the Fire fell 2-0, though it was a pitcher’s duel throughout and the team looks ready for the Scots this Saturday.

“It was kind of nice to regroup,” said junior pitcher Sam Almohandis. “It let us get back to basics, and our practices have been much more intense. We have to win [this Saturday].”

Almohandis has taken up the role of closer for the Fire this year and was as coach Jami Isaacson said “lights out” on Tuesday against Millikin.

In addition to Almohandis, freshmen Jordan Ball and Colin Davis, who are slated to start the Monmouth games this weekend got some work in. Each pitched three innings, with Davis coming in for relief in the fourth, and Almohandis closing the last two innings. Ball threw a four hit, two run outing, with a strikeout and a walk, facing 12 batters. Davis let up only one hit in three innings, walking two. Almohandis faced six batters, letting nobody on base, and striking out one.

Offensively, the Fire were stymied though not for lack of trying. The Fire had a chance in the fifth to get some runs across, as the Millikin pitcher, Jeff Neisslie, walked two batters after striking out two, but junior Kevin Malone grounded out to end it. Another chance came in the sixth, as senior Paul Bennett doubled, but again Neisslie pitched too well to allow any more hits.

In the ninth, junior Nate Ayers put some metal on the ball, driving a double, which gave the Fire a chance. But the Knox balls fell in the wrong places, as the final batter, junior Ian Pope, flied out to left field.

“The conditions were tough,” said Isaacson after the game. “We played well, pitched real well, fielded well. We hit the ball hard the opposite way, they just had gloves on.”

In another chance to warm up for Monmouth, the team faces Carl Sandburg College in a JV game on Thursday, April 17, which looks to give some playing time to other men on the team.

“It’s a chance for some guys to get some innings in,” said Isaacson. “Hopfauf, Feldman, McNeil, let them log some time.”

Sandburg it seems, has been working hard to make it to the next level and Isaacson knows they should be respected.

“They’ve come a long way in a short time,” he said. “They have a great offense, and their pitching and defense is coming along.”

Still, this will not distract from the important conference games two days later.

The match up against Monmouth looks good on paper, as the teams stack up pretty equally in all respects.

“They have three guys, [Jake] Bice, [Ryan] Preola and [Ryan] Stubler, in the middle of their order, who can hurt you,” said Isaacson. “They always seem to be in scoring position.”

Isaacson is well acquainted with their pitching staff as well.

“I coached them this summer in Legion games,” he said.

Monmouth currently sits at first in the South Division at four and two after sweeping Illinois College on Monday. With two wins, Knox can pull into a tie with IC for second.

“This group has had some success with this Monmouth club,” Isaacson said. “I don’t see why they can’t have it again.”

It’s the rivalry is back at Knox and the whole school looks forward to what should be the sporting event of the season.

Merritt Rohlfing

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