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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Baseball team starts conference play after trip to Florida

<ta's fluctuating early spring temperatures, the first month of Carleton's baseball season has been full of highs and lows. In the 22 games the Knights have played, from preseason Metrodome matchups to spring break games in Florida to their first two conference doubleheaders, the team has at times performed with the promise many see in it and at others slipped into the lackluster play that plagued it last year. Heading into Saturday's home contests with St. Mary's, Carleton holds a 9-13 overall record, but the Knights have won their last three games.

After winning only two of their six non-conference games at the Metrodome in early March, the Knights drove south for their first taste of outdoor baseball in Fort Pierce, Fla. The trip began in encouraging fashion as Carleton posted comeback wins over Centenary College and Grinnell on their first day in the Sunshine State, having completing the thirty-hour bus ride in the early hours of the same morning. Things plummeted downhill from there, however, with the Knights dropping their next five games before salvaging the trip by taking two of three from Lawrence University, including an 11-0 thrashing in the team’s final game before returning home. Off the field, the Knights enjoyed some of Florida’s finest attractions, from beaches to alligators to MLB spring training.

Back in Minnesota, Carleton quickly started the conference season on the wrong foot, dropping two close games to Hamline at the Metrodome’s MIAC Baseball Showcase by scores of 9-7 and 9-5, respectively. In the first game, senior ace Ethan Guevin carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and the Knights built a 6-0 advantage thanks in large part to two doubles from freshman Alex Wirta, but the roof caved in during the Pipers’ next two trips to the plate as the Knights’ pitchers lost command of the strike zone and Hamline scored five runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth en route to the comeback win. In game two, Carleton continued to hit the ball, led by senior Jay Melson’s 2-4, 3 RBI performance, but the pitchers were unable to quiet the Piper bats and the Knights returned to campus in empty-handed frustration.

After two postponements during the term’s first week, Carleton finally opened its home season at newly rechristened Mel Taube Field last Friday, splitting a MIAC doubleheader with Augsburg by scores of 3-0 and 7-6, respectively. The Knights’ hitters were unable to solve the Auggies’ Sam Weber in the opener, striking out twelve times and wasting a strong pitching performance from Guevin on the way to the shutout loss.

Game two provided much greater drama, however, as the teams traded one-run leads for much of the contest and the Knights were able to secure the victory with some late game heroics. Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Carleton capitalized on two Auggie errors when Wirta delivered a two-out, two-run single to left, giving the Knights a one-run lead. After a scoreless sixth for both teams, though, Augsburg jumped back in front 6-5 in the top of the seventh when this time a Carleton error led to two unearned runs. The Knights would not be denied their first conference victory, though, as freshman Clay Dewey-Valentine beat out an infield single to start the bottom of the inning, then scampered all the way home with the tying run on a majestic double off the right field fence by Melson. After an intentional walk, Ryan Hultstrand sacrifice bunt, and another free pass, Guevin came through, this time at the plate, with a sacrifice fly down the right field line that was just deep enough to score Melson and give the Knights the walk-off win.

Carleton continued its winning ways at home on Tuesday with a sweep of non-conference foe North Central University, winning 8-4 and 11-5. Junior leadoff man Russ Fujisawa reached base in five of his seven plate appearances on the afternoon and sophomore Jacob Anderson went 2-3 with 3 RBI in game two, including his first collegiate home run, to lead the Knights.

Thus far, the Carleton offense has been catalyzed by the fiery Fujisawa, who leads the team with a .415 batting average (27-65), a .542 on-base percentage, and a .662 slugging percentage. Also standing out has been freshman center fielder Erik Fabry, who has moved into the cleanup spot and batted .359 (23-64) with 10 RBI. Guevin has dazzled both at the plate, hitting at a .357 clip (10-28) and on the mound, where he has posted a 3.62 earned run average in a team-leading 27.1 innings pitched. Freshman left-hander Paul Dimick has also been impressive on the bump, posting a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings of relief work.

The Knights will look to continue their recent success on Saturday when they host St. Mary’s (4-16, 0-8 MIAC) in a doubleheader beginning at 1 pm on Mel Taube Field behind the Rec Center.

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