It had been nearly three decades since the Knox baseball team last swept Monmouth in a season series. That all changed on Saturday, April 21, when the Fire (12-14, 5-2 MWC) won both games of a doubleheader at Glasgow Field, 16-2 and 3-2.
In the first game, 6-foot-2-inch freshman pitcher Kenny Blanchard (4-1, 6.75 ERA) tossed his most convincing start of the year. He held the Scots hitless through 6 1-3 innings despite an upset stomach, as reported by the Galesburg Register-Mail.
“I actually was just really nervous before the start of the game. The nerves just got the best of my stomach,” Blanchard, who was unaware of his no-hit pace until the fifth inning, said.
“Coach I was calling mostly fastballs and I was trying to hit my spots to the best of my ability,” Blanchard said.
Junior Gabe Ayers carried the Fire in relief. He fanned four batters in 2 2-3 innings, while surrendering just two hits. Ayers is currently tied for the Midwest Conference lead in relief appearances (14).
On offense, junior Caleb Weaver, who transferred this year from Carl Sandburg College, provided yet another dynamic performance.
He finished the game 4-for-6, with five RBIs and a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Weaver is batting .388 on the year and leads Knox in several offensive categories, including RBIs (31).
Other contributors included sophomore Erik Smoy, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and junior infielder Mike Schroeder, who drove in four runs in as many at-bats. Knox finished the game with 16 hits, while holding the Scots to just three.
“I was seeing the ball really well on Saturday,” Schroeder said. “I was really trying to keep hitting it to the right side of the field. That seems to be where I have the most success.”
But after yielding an offensive burst in game one, Monmouth (10-19, 2-6 MWC) returned in the second match with a revived sense of purpose.
Freshman Nathan Grady (1-2, 7.02 ERA), who started the game for Knox, delivered six strong innings of work. Grady surrendered just one earned run on two hits.
“When I’m up on the mound I don’t see the batter,” Grady said. “I focus on my catcher [junior Ryan Hoffman] and his glove. He tells me what to throw and where to throw it, and that’s what I do.”
The Fire have won six of eight and now trail division-leading Grinnell College by just 1.5 games. With seven regular season games remaining, Knox needs just one more win to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2008.
Knox will play Illinois College in a doubleheader at Blodgett Field on Saturday, April 28 at noon.
The team will host “Jim Isaacson Day” to honor its associate head coach, Jim Isaacson, who will retire after this season. The Fire will also honor their three seniors, David Jewell, Dexter Brown and Kyle Grimes.