After concluding non-conference action, the Duhawk baseball team headed in to conference play with an overall record of 6-4. All four losses on the season combined to be by 5 runs, meaning that the Duhawks have been in every game they have played. This effort may come as a surprise by some who follow the American Rivers Conference as the Duhawks were picked 6th by the coaches’ pre-season poll, but it doesn’t come as a surprise to the players.
“For the season so far, I feel like a majority of our success is based with the fight that this team has. We have pitchers that are constantly battling and our sticks have been a huge proponent to the success we have had,” senior captain Robbie Agerbeek said. “As for the remainder of our season, I am encouraged by the young arms stepping into major roles, and the lineup being solid from top to bottom. As long as we continue to battle and have good outings from our staff and good at-bats from our lineup, big things should be expected from this team.”
The first series occurred this past weekend, Sunday March 24, as the Duhawks took on the Prairie Wolves of Nebraska Wesleyan. The first game was played on a miserable day, as it was cold, windy, and gray with misting rain. In the game, Nebraska took the lead early in the 3rd inning off of a solo home run and eventually stretched the lead out to 4-0 heading into the eighth. Fortunately for the Duhawks, the team is never quite out of it as the experience in the lineup always presents the opportunity to rally and make the comeback. The other senior captain Austin Konagel sparked the bats as he hit an RBI double to left field driving in junior outfielder Bill Luzzo. Heading into the bottom of the ninth the Duhawks still trailed by 4, however, hope still remained as senior center fielder Danny Paluch drew a walk. This was immediately followed by another patient at-bat by Agerbeek who also drew a base on balls. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and scored later that inning. Paluch crossed over on a balk by the Prairie Wolves pitcher, and Agerbeek scored on a single by sophomore third basemen Dylan Pardoe. The final score was 5-3.
The second and third games of the series were played on Monday, March 25, and both had better outcomes for the Duhawks. The Duhawks bats went to work in both of the games scoring 7 and 8 runs respectively. In game two, the big inning came in the sixth. Until then the score was deadlocked at 2. But a string of hits by Agerbeek, Pardoe, and Luzzo scored a total of 4 runs in the inning. Continued excellence in pitching by sophomore Erik Edminster and first-year Ethan Peters held the Prairie Wolves in check. The final score in game two was 7-2.
Heading into the rubber match of the series the Duhawks knew how important it was to win the first series of conference play.
“It really is [important to win the first series of conference play], we didn’t play well in the first (game), but coming out here and taking the sweep (of the double header) was a MUST,” Coach Carl Tebon said. “This conference is so good from top to bottom, we can’t take any win for granted.”
The Duhawks flew to a three run lead after getting three runs in the third inning. The lineup was playing fundamental baseball of getting runners on, moving them over, and driving them in. With runners on first and third Cole Thompson got into a rundown between first and second. This got Luke “The Kid” Fennelly to use his wheels and force an errant throw as he scored, and allowed Thompson to move to third. Jake Oglesby drove him in on a ground out, and Agerbeek and Paluch teamed up together on another first and third to plate the final run on the inning. This was all the support first-year Curtis Lilienthal and the rest of the Duhawks pitching staff would need as they held the Prairie Wolves in check. The final score of the rubber match was 8-2.
Their next game is Friday, March 29, at 6 p.m. against Buena Vista in Storm Lake, Iowa.