This week was a week full of close rivalries. Everyone who knows the Midwest conference knows that the rivalry between Lawrence University, Ripon College and St. Norbert College is mighty and intense. Phrases like “Better Dead Than Red” fly out of Lawrence Athletes mouths whenever the other schools are mentioned. Needless to say, this week was a big one for our baseball team.
Their rivalry week began on Wednesday, April 25, with a doubleheader against Ripon College. Two weeks earlier, the boys split in their first doubleheader, with both games going into extra innings. Coming to the field on Wednesday, the guys knew it would be a tough fight, but they were very much prepared. The opener had a similar feel to the last two games. Unfortunately, Ripon had a big second inning, scoring nine unearned runs and taking an early 10-1 lead. Lawrence fought back throughout the game, riding on senior Matthew Holliday’s bat. Holliday finished 3-for-5 with a double and four runs batted in. Despite cutting the lead to 11-7, the Vikings took the loss for the first game. However, they came back with a vengeance.
The second game consisted of Lawrence knocking 18 hits for a 13-4 win. Sophomore Patrick McDonnell led this annihilation, going 4-for-4 with a dinger, a double, four RBIs and scoring twice himself. Behind McDonnell was a whole line up full of big bats. Sophomore Ethan Jones went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs; junior Nolan Spencer, senior Travis Weber, sophomore Reno Zemrak and sophomore Mike Brady all followed after with a couple hits each. A solid lineup drove in the necessary runs to support their senior pitcher, Kyle Duex, who threw some heat, going 7.1 innings deep, allowing only nine hits to pick up the win. Spencer says that, “Those games were as intense as they seemed. Conference games are always stressful but rewarding when we come out on top.” This doubleheader is a perfect example of how defense wins ballgames, but it’s always nice to tack on hit after hit. I guess it is true, we are better dead than red.
The guys had a lot of energy and motivation coming off of their split with Ripon on Wednesday. With this strong vibe, the guys headed out for an away doubleheader against St. Norbert College on Saturday, April 28. The first game was a strong battle through six innings with sophomore Brad Olsen on the mound. The seventh inning proved to be effective for St. Norbert, as they scored five runs, taking the first game 11-1. The Golden Knights pitcher, Carson Jacques, held the Vikings off to a two-hitter, with two strike-outs and two walks.
In the second game of the day, the Vikings still couldn’t get their bats going throughout the lineup. St. Norbert took the second game after scoring six times in the third inning and seven times in the seventh. Patrick McDonnell led his team again, going 2-for-3 with a three-run ding dong and five RBIs. Senior Cullen Ellis backed him up, also going 2-for-3. After dropping two games to the conference leader, the Vikings had to dust it off and come in Sunday for their doubleheader at home, fueled by the rivalry and ready to come at them with vengeance.
The Vikings came in swinging, building an early 4-2 lead that lasted through six full innings. Brady and McDonnell had a couple RBIs in the fifth, followed by a base-loaded walk of Matthew Holliday. St. Norbert came back, scoring two in the seventh and another two in ninth to put the Knights in the lead. Junior and pitcher Chris Shaw threw a solid six innings, allowing only four hits and striking out six, but that wasn’t enough to get the Vikings a win. St. Norbert took the day-opener 6-4.
The Vikings dropped the second game as well, losing 9-5. A few walks accompanied by a hit batter gave the Golden Knights the opportunity to score six in the first five innings. They added on another three, giving them a 9-3 lead after seven. There was a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the ninth after junior Nolan Spencer walked, Travis Weber doubled and Holliday knocked in a single to score Spencer. McDonnell drove in another run with a hard-hit ground ball. Even with Weber going 2-for-5 and Spencer going 2-for-3, the Vikings couldn’t scrape together enough runs to make the comeback in the second game.
This week of rivalry competition kept baseball very interesting. There was a lot of high-intensity baseball being played, fueled by the determination to crush the local conference schools. “We are all playing to the best of our ability this year and look to improve on our skills going forward,” says Spencer. Baseball will be at home Thursday, May 3, against Marian University, and again Saturday, May 5, against Beloit College. The boys are looking for a few solid wins at the close of their season.