With Flunk Day around the corner, the Knox baseball team on, Tuesday, April 17, evoked a phrase heard all too often during spring term: this could be huge.
Knox (9-13, 3-2 MWC) defeated Monmouth College in both games of a doubleheader at Blodgett Field, winning 11-8 and 10-9, respectively. The victories gave the team its first three-game winning streak of the season.
In Game 2, Knox trailed the Scots (9-17, 2-4 MWC) 9-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, but scored four runs to force extra innings. Juniors Mike Schroeder and Matt Lee and senior Dexter Brown led off the inning with three consecutive singles. Junior Caleb Weaver then drove in two runs with a one-out double, followed by a game-tying double by sophomore Erik Smoy.
The teams clashed for 12 innings before senior David Jewell drove in the game-winning double off Monmouth pitcher Zach Myers.
“Whenever we play Monmouth, it’s always a blast,” Jewell said. “I don’t know if I could hate them anymore than I already do and I’m sure they feel the same way about us. So to be able to beat them twice on our home field in front of our home fans is an awesome feeling.”
Sophomore Bryan Leslie earned the win in relief for Knox, as he surrendered just three hits in five scoreless innings.
“It was a long day and I knew they were probably tired,” Leslie, who also credited the Knox defense, said. “I knew if I just threw strikes, my fastball and change-up would have enough movement on it to get them to get guys out.”
He said in addition, “It’s been fun seeing our fielding and hitting come together to win us some games and it will be some good momentum going into their place this weekend.”
Fire players who contributed to the win included Smoy, who finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs, sophomore Phil Tallman, who ended the game 2-for-4 with two runs, and Brown, who finished with three hits, three runs and an RBI.
“I think what these games have done for us is really got everyone to buy into how good we are and how good we can be. Our team chemistry and unity is going to keep the momentum, it’s more of a question of how far it can take us,” Jewell said.
Knox also trailed late in the first game, but overcame an 8-4 deficit heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Fire’s offense came alive. Knox scored five runs with the help of two-run singles by juniors Ryan Hoffman and Schroeder. The Prairie Fire drove in two more runs in the eighth inning.
Freshman Kenny Blanchard bolstered Knox’s efforts by holding the Scots scoreless in the final two innings. Monmouth pitcher Luke Gschwendtner took the loss after giving up two runs in less than one inning of work.
Offensive leaders included Schroeder, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Hoffman, who was 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs, and Tallman, who ended the day 3-for-5 with two runs.
“I’ve been working on a new batting stance that I feel much more comfortable at the plate with. I was just trying to put the ball in play and find a way to get on base for the middle of the order,” Tallman said. “[And] after the way we came back in both of these games against Monmouth, we know what we are capable of doing as a team.”
Knox defeated non-conference opponent Robert Morris College 6-3 on the road Thursday, April 12. Leaders included Brown, who finished 3-for-5, and sophomore Mike O’Connell, scored the deciding runs.
In their second non-conference matchup in six days, Knox fell 7-2 to Augustana College on the road Wednesday, April 18.
The Fire will take on Monmouth College at Glasgow Field at noon on Saturday, April 21.