Baseball team begins season in Arizona

Baseball team begins season in Arizona

by April Sigmund

The Simpson baseball team ended with a 6-5 record at the RussMatt Greater Phoenix Invitational held March 3-9.

The Storm started off strong with a doubleheader sweep of Rockford on March 3, winning the first game 8-2 and the second 7-0.

Sophomore pitcher Aaron Young pitched five strike-outs in six innings for the second game’s shutout, followed by senior pitcher Chris Dorff’s two additional strike-outs to close the game in the seventh inning.

“Our pitchers threw exceptionally well for having been inside for several weeks prior to game time,” head coach Ben Blake said.

Sophomore pitcher and outfielder Brett Crable’s two-RBI triple in the fifth gave Simpson its first points on the board. Crable ended with three RBIs and junior infielder Ethan Hale had two hits with an RBI.

The trip also provided the team with a chance to play in relatively unfamiliar territory.

“That was basically the first time we took ground balls off of grass and took fly balls out of the sky instead of being in the gym,” junior outfielder Tyler Pawletzki said.

The invite was also the Storm’s first performance since their opener at the Ozarks Baseball Classic held February 17-19, so preparation was key.

“We did the best we could with the weather to get prepared for these games,” Blake said. “We spent quite a few weeks indoors, but luckily we had four or five days outside on the football field and our game field.”

The Arizona heat combined with multiple games per day eventually took a toll on the Storm, as they went 1-4 in the final five games.

“There were people that just had cuts and bruises everywhere,” Pawletzki said. “You could tell by the end of the week that people were starting to drag because the sun gets you for being outside all day.”

Blake agreed that playing so many games was a challenge, but the team learned a lot from the experience.

“We played pretty well the whole time, but I could actually see that our guys were tired in the last half of the week,” Blake said. “We played seven games (49 innings) in three days, had a day off and came back and played six games (45 innings) in the last three days, but we got through it and will be better for it.”

Junior outfielder Pedro Rosa agreed the pain is worth it.

“It took a toll on a lot of our bodies, especially our pitchers, but I think for the most part it got us in shape for conference,” Rosa said.

Rosa, a transfer, said the trip also provided a chance for team bonding.

“I came in as a transfer this year so after the trip I definitely felt more connected and closer to the guys,” Rosa said.

Pawletzki agreed that traveling strengthens team unity.

“Whenever we go on this trip our chemistry as a team definitely gets stronger because everyone gets to hang out and get to know each other,” Pawletzki said.

The Storm ended the invite with a 4-3 walk-off loss to Marian (Wis.). After a Marian error in the sixth, the Storm scored two unearned runs for a 3-2 lead. Marian came back, tying the game in the bottom half.

Sophomore pitcher and infielder Michael Chia was 2-for-4 with a double while sophomore pitcher and infielder Tyler Craig, Pawletzki and Crable all had two hits. Young struck out nine in the game. Matt Bromley hit a walk-off, RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to give Marian the win.

As Blake and the team look on toward the rest of the season, all are excited to begin outdoor practices and keep improving. The tournament proved helpful in pointing out the team’s successes and areas to improve as it progresses into the conference season.

“I think we have a lot of talent and have the potential to be pretty good, depending on how we progress on the mound, at the plate and on defense,” Blake said. “Our biggest key will be taking care of the small stuff: eliminating little mistakes, timely errors, base running mistakes and strike-outs for example.”

The Storm open Iowa Conference play Friday, March 23 when they host Loras at McBride.