Knox baseball closed out their regular season with wins in both sides of a doubleheader against visiting Millikin University on Tuesday, May 8. The team has won ten of their last 14 games, including three straight victories to finish the year.
The Fire (16-17, 7-5 MWC) defeated the Big Blue 10-9 and 4-3, respectively.
Junior Ryan Stoens got the start in the first match. He surrendered a run and two hits in two 2-3 innings of solid work.
Knox got on the board in the second inning on hits by sophomore Erik Smoy, junior Kyle Walenga and senior David Jewell. The trio put the Fire ahead 2-1. In the top of the fourth inning, Millikin charged ahead 7-6, but led only momentarily.
Junior Caleb Weaver gave the Prairie Fire a decisive 10-6 lead after knocking a grand slam over the left-field wall.
Key performers included Walenga, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, sophomore pitcher Paul Mills, who earned the win in relief, and Weaver, who hit his sixth homerun of the season.
Head Coach Jamie Isaacson was ejected in the top of the sixth inning.
Isaacson noted (as published in the Galesburg Register-Mail) that Weaver has been particularly effective in the clutch. In Knox’s seven conference wins this season, Weaver has driven in the go-ahead RBI after the seventh inning four times.
In the second game, Knox managed to win after again falling behind early.
Junior Nikko Juarez yielded three-run homerun in the opening frame of his second start of the year. Five Knox pitchers combined for six innings of work, in which they surrendered just three hits and zero runs.
Sophomore Jackson White* earned the win for the Fire.
Key contributors in the second game included senior Dexter Brown, who finished 3-for-3, and Smoy, who was 2-for-3.
“Those were big wins for us, sure, but there are bigger wins to come,” Jewell said. “We aren’t satisfied and we know we can keep this rolling into the conference tournament.”
On Sunday, May 6, the Fire dropped an opportunity to secure home-field advantage throughout the Midwest Conference Tournament. Knox dropped two of three on the road to division-leading Grinnell College (16-18, 8-4 MWC). With a pair of wins, Knox would have secured home-field advantage throughout the Midwest Conference Tournament.
“As a senior playing my last year of collegiate baseball, it means a lot to finally make the conference tournament,” Brown said. “We’ve been building up to this the past three years. We just need to stay focused.”
Knox will play St. Norbert (21-11, 12-2 MWC) in the first round of the tournament at 9 a.m. Friday at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
Note: White is the Co-Sports Editor of The Knox Student.