After some early season blowouts, it looked like the Prairie Fire baseball season was spinning out of control. Back-to-back one run losses to Monmouth College Saturday afternoon, however, showed Knox can compete with the upper echelon of the Midwest Conference.
In game one, the Fighting Scots (15-7, 5-1 MWC) downed the Prairie Fire 6-5 in ten innings. Monmouth got on the board in the third inning with an RBI single by second baseman Ryan Crandall. But the Prairie Fire (5-17, 0-6 MWC) clawed back, tying it in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by sophomore shortstop Michael Schroeder.
Down 5-2 going into the ninth, the Prairie Fire rallied back with three runs to tie the game. Monmouth won on a Ross Donnan single in the top of the tenth, which topped off a furious two-out rally.
Game two was a pitchers’ duel between Knox senior Colin Davis and Monmouth’s Larry Milsteadt. Davis scattered ten hits—mostly singles—and two earned runs in seven innings of work. Though Milsteadt was erratic, issuing six free passes in 8 2/3 innings, he struck out nine and limited the Prairie Fire to five hits.
Knox was down to their final out in the ninth, trailing 2-0, when Schroeder worked a walk. After Schroeder stole second, freshman Michael O’Connell reached via error. A pinch-hit single from sophomore C.J. Foster cut the Scots’ lead in half. With the tying and go-ahead runs on base, freshman Erik Smoy tapped a grounder back to the pitcher, ending the game, 2-1.
The big picture
Knox’s pitching, after a tumultuous start, is beginning to come around. After being massacred by Grinnell in a doubleheader last month, the Prairie Fire limited the South Division-leading Pioneers to only four runs in the first half of their doubleheader April 9.
Despite the positive showing against South Division contenders Monmouth this weekend, the offense continues to disappoint. The second half of the doubleheader Saturday was the tenth time in the 2010-2011 season that the Prairie Fire were either shutout or limited to one run.
Knox is last in the conference in batting average, runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. In order to compete with such woeful offensive output, the Prairie Fire will have to capitalize on at-bats with runners on base (the team has posted a .249 batting average with runners on compared to .236 with the bases empty) and in scoring position (a healthier .261 average).
Knox’s defense, after a difficult start, has stabilized. The team posted only two errors in the doubleheader against Monmouth.
Robert Morris games washed out
On Wednesday, Knox was set to play Robert Morris University-Springfield. But Mother Nature, as is so often the case during the spring season, intervened, forcing the game to be canceled. There has been no word yet if the game will be rescheduled. Earlier this season, the two teams split a doubleheader in Springfield, Ill.
Upcoming schedule not easier
Knox won’t have to wait long before getting another crack at Monmouth, as the Scots will come to Blodgett Field for a doubleheader on Saturday. Game one begins at 1 p.m., with game two immediately following.
On Tuesday, the Prairie Fire will host nationally ranked Augustana College. The 13th ranked Vikings (19-6, 8-4 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) will visit Blodgett Field, with the first pitch at 12 p.m.