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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton baseball starts strong, looks ahead to promising year

<rleton baseball team opened the 2009 season in encouraging fashion Monday, splitting a late-night doubleheader with academic rival Grinnell at the Metrodome. The Knights took the first game 2-0 behind strong pitching from senior Ethan Guevin and freshman Alex Wirta and a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth by senior third baseman Jay Melson. The second game proved to be a higher scoring affair as Carleton fell 10-9 in nine innings after squandering leads of 6-1 and 9-6 during the contest.

Melson, an all-MIAC selection last year, starred offensively in both games. After his decisive blast in Game 1, a towering drive that nearly scraped the Dome’s roof on its way into the first rows of seats in left field, the third baseman added an RBI triple and another round-tripper, this one a solo shot, in Game 2. He also showed his patience, drawing three walks over the two contests. Other offensive standouts on the evening included Wirta (2-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 HBP), freshman center fielder Erik Fabry (4-8, 2B, 2 RBI, SB), and junior left fielder Russell Fujisawa (3-7, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB).

On the mound, Guevin, the staff’s unquestionable ace and another 2008 all-MIAC stud, delivered five shutout frames in game one, taking a no-hitter into his last inning of work when he yielded two harmless singles, and walking only one. In the sixth, he switched spots with second baseman Wirta, and the fun-sized freshman phenom flew through the final two frames, allowing only one hit and walking none to earn the win in his collegiate debut. In Game 2, the Knights’ hurlers were hit harder, but did limit the damage by only handing out three walks in the contest.

Another heartening sign for the Knights was their solid defense, as the squad committed only one error over the entire evening after averaging nearly 2.5 miscues a game last year. Particularly impressive Monday was Fujisawa’s running, over-the-shoulder catch in left to retire the first Grinnell hitter of Game 1, sending a message to the Pioneers that this was not the same Carleton team they beat 11-0 in Florida a year ago.

Indeed, the Knights will look to build on Monday’s performance as they strive to turn the page from last year’s frustrating 10-27 (3-18 MIAC) campaign. Key to the squad’s success will be its depth. While head coach Aaron Rushing will expect from captains Guevin and Melson the impressive numbers that earned them all-conference in 2008, many other players will have to come forth as reliable contributors.

Behind Guevin on the mound, a slew of Knight pitchers will be counted on for quality, strike-filled innings. The whip-armed Wirta will see plenty of action on the bump along with sophomore righty and Quiz-bowl hero Michael Servis, senior quarterback Shane “Showtime” Henfling and shutdown reliever Jake Riss, junior junkballers Sam Cross-Knorr, Geoff King, sidearmer Dan Matthews, and lefty Aaron Troyansky, and sophomore flamethrower Jacob Anderson.

The lineup will feature the mighty bat of Melson in the three hole along with the speedy, angry Fujisawa leading off. Guevin and Wirta, in between pitching performances, will prove their versatility by sharing time at second base and near the top of the batting order. Outfielders Fabry and senior Cameron McDonald-Hyman will be relied on for production in the middle of the lineup, while sophomore David Ames will anchor shortstop and the bottom third of the order. First base, meanwhile, remains up for grabs as sophomore strongman Brad Eckelmann, King, and junior “Denim” Dan Lojovich will battle for at-bats. Catcher also remains undecided, as a trio of New Englanders – freshman Clay Parrish of Connecticut and sophomores David Heifetz and Grant Bowen of the great state of Massachusetts – duke it out for playing time. Joining them also will be sophomore backstop Trevor Hill, who is defensively disabled for the first half of the season by a shoulder injury but will utilize his consistent swing as a designated hitter.

This breadth of talent promises for an exciting and improved 2009 season for the Knights. The team continued its non-conference schedule Thursday night with another Metrodome doubleheader against Bethany Lutheran, and will play again on the big boys’ field Sunday night against Luther in a doubleheader beginning at the ungodly hour of 11:15 pm. After finals, the squad will pack into a coach bus for Spring Break, making the trek to the thriving metropolis of Fort Pierce, Fla. for ten games in ten days before returning home to the chills of Minneosta for its conference season.

Assuming the snow continues to melt, the Knights will host Augsburg on Wednesday, April 1 for the opener at recently renamed Mel Taube Field. If Monday’s game was any indication, a new name for its field could be a sign of newfound success for the program.

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