With sweep and series win in home openers, baseball and softball off to a strong start

| Senior Sports Editor

Just three days after patches of snow dotted the St. Louis region, the Washington University baseball and softball teams emerged from their respective gyms in forceful fashion this weekend. The No. 4 baseball team swept the Illinois Institute of Technology in three games to remain undefeated, while the softball team took two games from Westminster College and split two against Carroll University.

Baseball keeps on early season roll with demolition of Illinois Tech

Head coach Pat Bloom said it was a no-doubter. Senior captain John Brinkman knew the ball was gone the second his bat connected with it. Senior captain Brian Schutter estimated that the ball flew 380 feet, nearly 60 feet past the fence in left field.

Whatever you thought as the ball sailed through the air, Brinkman’s homerun in the eighth inning of the Bears’ game against Illinois Tech on Saturday was a statement. The hit put Wash. U. up, 13-3, mercying Illinois Tech and serving as the finishing touch on a rout that sent the Scarlet Hawks home demoralized, only to return the next day for two more discouraging losses.

Curran Neenan | Student Life

Sophomore Matt Bauer plants his left leg and hurls the ball home against the Illinois Institute of Technology, Sunday. Bauer threw three scorless innings in the Bears 10-0 shutout win.

It is rare to find a three-game series where one team scores the same number of runs in one inning that the other team scored in all three games total. That is exactly what happened this weekend, as the Bears outscored the Scarlet Hawks 37-4 and won the three games, advancing to 6-0 on the young season.

The Bears won the first game, 13-3, before surpassing that mark with a 14-1 win in the morning game Sunday and capping the weekend with a 10-0 shutout in the Sunday afternoon game.

Wash. U. took advantage of an inexperienced Illinois Tech team from the start when sophomore shortstop Caleb Durbin tripled to lead off the Saturday game for the Bears. On the next play, when he crossed the plate as junior outfielder Sean Robinson grounded out, the floodgates had opened. Durbin scored eight of the Bears’ runs on the weekend, going 6-12 and driving in six runs.

Durbin kickstarted the Bears’ offense, but the 37 runs were a team effort. Brinkman, who started at first base Saturday and second base Sunday, had eight runs batted in (RBI), while Robinson reached base 12 times.

“We just had a good flow going offensively,” Bloom said. According to Bloom, the success of the top third of the lineup—Durbin, Robinson and Brinkman—was crucial to the offense’s effectiveness. “When the top of the order is going well and they produce, then it’s kind of a trickle-down effect at times.

“I think we’re as potent offensively as we have been since I’ve been here,” senior catcher and captain Thomas Gardner said Sunday. He observed that plate discipline was key for the Bears, who walked 20 times and struck out just 13 times over the three games. “We were looking for pitches that we can drive, but we knew that some of the [Illinois Tech pitchers] can be a little bit rusty, so we just had to stay within ourselves and make them come to us. Not help them out too much.”

Wash. U.’s pitchers were also efficient. Senior southpaw Matt Ashbaugh went a strong six innings to open the weekend, striking out eight Scarlet Hawks while giving up just three earned runs on three hits Saturday. Junior Troy Bauer threw five shutout innings in the first game Sunday before sophomore Matt Bauer got the Bears off to a good start in the finale.

Still, it was the team’s relief pitchers who particularly impressed Bloom. “I would have liked to have seen our starters look a little bit better, but I thought our relievers really did an excellent job coming out of the pen and being able to have their full complement of stuff and help throw up zeros for us,” he said. Junior Tim Tague tossed four scoreless innings in the afternoon game Sunday, holding Illinois Tech to just one baserunner.

Overall, the Wash. U. pitchers struck out 34 batters on the weekend. Bloom observed that the pitchers did not throw as many breaking balls as they would have liked, but said they did a good job of locating their pitches.

The Bears face local foe MacMurray College at home on Wednesday at 2 p.m., but a major focus will be on next weekend’s three-game series against Coe College. The Kohawks eliminated Wash. U. from the playoffs last spring, so the Bears will have the opportunity for revenge.

Schutter said that the week of practice would be full of excitement and fun. “We’re not going to get uptight about anything because Coe beat us last year; it’s just going to make us that much more hungry to go out and beat them,” he said. “The goal isn’t just to win the series. It’s to sweep them, to really kick them in the teeth pretty hard.”

Walk-off victory in finale caps three-win weekend for softball

If there was a single player head coach Michelle Venturella would have chosen to start the bottom of the tenth inning of the softball team’s second game in Sunday’s doubleheader against Carroll College, it would have been either senior outfielder Amy Walsh or sophomore infielder Katie Gould, two of the team’s fastest runners.

Thus, when Gould lined out to shortstop to end the ninth inning against Carroll, it was not the end of the world for the Bears. Since Division III softball uses international tiebreaker rules, because Gould had made the last out she began the next inning in scoring position, just feet away from bringing the Bears even with the Pioneers after Carroll had regained the lead in the top of the tenth. On the next play, Gould sped around third to score on senior Mikaela Arredondo’s single up the middle. Then, minutes later, Arredondo herself scored when freshman Kayla Nommensen smashed a hard liner through the legs of the Carroll first baseman, putting the Bears on top, 5-4, in walk-off fashion.

The win was the Bears’ third of the weekend, after they swept a doubleheader against Westminster Saturday (winning 6-2 and 9-4) and fell in a shut-out, 5-0, to Carroll in the morning game Sunday. Wash. U. is now 3-1 on the season.

“It was huge,” Venturella said of the stunning comeback. “Just building some confidence early on to know that you can win those close ball games in those situations was great.

Walsh, Gould and Arredondo helped lead the Bears’ charge throughout the weekend. Gould, the leadoff hitter, had a hit in each game, including two multi-hit games and three RBIs. Arredondo, who started at third base in the finale after playing the first three games in left field, had a homerun and three RBIs Sunday.

With the exception of the Sunday morning game, Wash. U. pitching held the Bears’ opponents in check. Sophomores Madison Denton and Holly Stoner each hurled a complete game against Westminster, allowing just a combined nine hits over 16 innings. Denton threw 16 innings total over the weekend, but Venturella was quick to point out that she did a good job of keeping her pitch count low. Denton did not allow a walk all weekend long.

“She was really outstanding for us,” Venturella said.

Despite finding success the rest of the weekend, Wash. U. struggled in the early game against Carroll. The Pioneers’ best pitcher, Amanda Osterhus, seemingly perplexed the Bears. She tossed six scoreless innings, giving up just four hits and striking out 10.

“They had a nice rise-ball pitcher that we didn’t make the adjustments on early enough, and so we were taking our hacks at those pitches and we needed to actually be more disciplined, stay off of that and have a better shot at her low stuff,” Venturella said. She also praised the Carroll pitchers, observing that the Pioneers had put together a nice staff. “Anytime you have the chance to face a team twice each day, you know you’re going to see their best pitcher. You don’t always, but you always want to go against the best and see what we can do,” she said.

Venturella highlighted how a variety of younger players were involved throughout the weekend. Freshman Tami Wong reached base in all four games and had five hits, while sophomore Nicole Hay had hits in all four games and scored three runs.

The Bears head to Arizona next weekend for the NFCA Leadoff Classic. There, they will play six games in three days, including two games against ranked teams. They face No. 14 DePauw University on Saturday and No. 15 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Sunday.

Venturella said that the tightly-scheduled games will be a challenge for the Red and Green in terms of having enough pitchers. Still, she was optimistic about the team’s chances. “I think it will be a great step, as we again continue to play strong competition and get ready for, eventually, our conference season,” she said.

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