The Prairie Fire baseball team fell once again on Tuesday in a non-conference home loss to NAIA William Penn University (19-17).
The 9-0 defeat marked the fourth straight loss for the Fire, who dropped to 5-15 on the season.
Despite the final score, however, Knox trailed by only three runs after the sixth inning, thanks to a strong outing by freshman Pete Marquardt. Marquardt, who fell to 2-2 on the year, gave up just two earned runs and five hits in five innings.
“One thing we did real well was pitching ahead,” Marquardt said. “The pitchers were constantly in the zone and staying away from walking batters, which has been a problem for us this season.”
But, as has also been a problem for much of the year, the Fire struggled to put the ball in play.
In a complete game shutout, William Penn pitcher Steve Enriquez (5-1) threw seven strikeouts and gave up just two hits. For the Fire, those hits came from sophomore Michael Schroeder, who was 1-3 on the day, and freshman Dustin Armstrong, who also finished 1-3.
“It’s really difficult to put runs on the board when two or three guys strike out in an inning,” infielder Schroeder said. “If we can get a few more guys to start putting the ball in play with two strikes, we are going to be a much better team.”
Schroeder added, “No matter what happens, we have to find a way to stay positive and be ready to compete each day. Getting down on ourselves and going into games expecting to lose is a great way to lose ballgames.”
Freshmen pitchers Bryan Leslie, Jackson White and sophomore Gabe Ayers followed Marquardt in relief, giving up a combined three earned runs and three unearned. Knox finished the day with three errors, two of which resulted in runs for William Penn.
“[We] played hard through the mistakes. Our pitchers were great today, and unfortunately our infield didn’t back them up the way they deserve,” Schroeder said. “I was really proud of the composure the pitchers showed despite the errors that were happening behind them.”
Marquardt agreed that Knox baseball still hasn’t reached their potential this season.
“We just have to come out and compete on a daily basis and we’ll see where it takes us from there,” Marquardt said. “We have the talent and as soon as we put it all together, watch out.”
Knox was coming off of a split last Wednesday night against Robert Morris University-Springfield. Knox won the opener 5-3 before falling 11-1 in the nightcap. On Saturday, Knox traveled to Grinnell for a conference doubleheader. Grinnell won 4-1 and 9-1.
The Prairie Fire take on Monmouth College (13-7 3-1 MWC), in a doubleheader this Saturday, April 16. First pitch is at 12 p.m.