The Grinnell College Pioneers took their yearly trip to Galesburg last Saturday to finish out the season series against Knox.
The Prairie Fire were swept in Grinnell the previous week and with time quickly becoming short needed to get on the board in conference play. Despite flashes of a long-dormant offense and some individual pitching bright spots, Knox dropped both ends of the doubleheader, 17-3 and 9-3 in game two.
The lead half of the day saw Knox’s Daniel Feldman, senior, taking the mound for the Fire (0-6, 7-13). Ever the battler out on the hill, Feldman had a disappointing day, throwing 2.2 innings and giving up four hits and four earned runs, six total. The pitching once again was the bane of Knox, allowing 17 hits and 14 earned runs spread through four pitchers. It proved to be a deficit insurmountable, as the game was called after seven innings due to the mercy rule.
Game two was handed over to the old hand of junior Colin Davis. Though 1-3 on the year, Davis was the Fire’s best hope to get off their losing skid. It proved not to be, though. Despite a solid outing, allowing seven hits and four earned runs through six innings, he was forced to take the loss. Seniors Aaron Juarez and Spencer McNeil finished the final third, Juarez with an inning’s work of two hits and two runs, one earned, and McNeil going two, no runs on two hits and a strikeout.
The offense continued its silence throughout the day, combining through the two games to go 20-for-63 but scoring only six runs. Aggressiveness was once again the problem and the skipper knew it was a work in progress.
“At times our youth gets in the way,” Prairie Fire head coach Jami Isaacson said, “because it’s hard for us to compete pitch by pitch and that’s what college baseball is all about.”
The offense that did happen was powered in part by senior Joey Graeff, going 2-for-4 with a home run and a walk on the day, while junior John Fletcher had two hits and two RBI’s and freshman Kyle Walenga both had three hits on the day. The big hit eluded the team, with 17 men left stranded.
“Sometimes this game is tough,” Isaacson said, “and right now it’s real tough.”
Monday night held a welcome change for Knox, facing Eureka College in a night game at Galesburg High School.
Senior and team captain Tyler Hopfauf took to the hill and was vintage. Hopfauf gave up only four hits and two runs while striking out four. The bullpen really showed up to work that night, with freshman Matt Lee throwing an inning and a third of shutout ball and striking out one before handing it over to the night watchmen in Juarez and McNeil. Juarez was a little off, giving up two runs on two hits in 1.1 before handing it to McNeil for 1.1 innings of shutout ball to seal the win.
The offense was on the same page as the D on Monday, highlighted by junior right fielder Jordan Ball batting the cleanup and going 3-for-3 with three RBI’s to power the offense. Sophomore David Jewell drove one in, while sophomore Dexter Brown was 2-for-3 with two runs scored on the day, helping the bottom of the order produce.
With the 5-4 win, Knox would hope to take any momentum it has to Saturday, as Monmouth comes to town for a doubleheader. With both teams grinding through tough seasons, it has the makings of a rough, knockdown drag-out fight as only Monmouth and Knox can bring.