BELOIT—Beloit College’s batters continued to up slowpitch softball-like numbers on Sunday as they lead NCAA Division III in slugging percentage.
After scoring 34 runs in Galesburg, Ill., and yet having to settle for a Saturday split of a doubleheader with Knox, the Buccaneers teed off again at home and easily swept two from the Prairie Fire, 19-5 and 19-1. Both games went seven innings due to the 10-run rule.
Game 1 started a lot like Saturday, with the game tied heading to the bottom of the fourth inning 5-5. By the time the Bucs were through batting, however, James Wicker had tripled in two runs, Brett Kiger homered to drive in three and Matt Crandall homered to drive in two more. Beloit scored nine runs in the inning to lead 14-5.
“Kiger’s home run was probably the turning point,” Beloit head coach Dave DeGeorge said. “That kind of opened the floodgates. He’s really been on fire for us.”
The Bucs (17-3, 12-2) have now hit 29 home runs this season and Kiger has six of them. The sophomore from Beloit Memorial is hitting .397 with an on-base percentage of .537 and slugging percentage of .828.
“All these kids have grown up in the launch-angle era and we work on it,” DeGeorge said. “We have the Rapsodo analytic devices and at practice we can hit balls off tees, pitching machines and live pitching and it will tell you what the launch angle was. They start to groove a swing that will be on plane with the pitch and allow the ball to carry.
“When I played everyone taught you to swing down. If you swing down on a pitch that is going down the ball is probably going to go down. The reality is that you probably want to swing with a plane that is pretty level with the pitch coming in. Our guys are pretty good at it.”
While the Bucs are driving extra-base hits all over the yard, Beloit’s pitching hasn’t prevented a lot of opponents from doing the same.
That’s why the relief performances of Zachary Miller (1-0) and Drew Freitag were so noteworthy Sunday. Miller came on in the first game after starter Tommy Murray had allowed four hits and four runs in 2 2-3 innings. His biggest downfall was five bases on balls. Miller allowed only two hits and one run over the next 4 1-3 innings with zero walks and three strikeouts.
Freitag was scheduled to pitch in the nightcap, but DeGeorge hoped for a longer outing from AJ Parnell first.
“When one of your best pitchers (Jacob Sligar) is out for the year and the other (Parnell) isn’t feeling right, that makes a difference,” DeGeorge said. “We really need to get him back to 100 percent.”
Parnell only faced five batters and retired two. He left after allowing two hits, a walk and a run. Freitag came on and pitched 4 1-3 innings of two-hit, scoreless ball with two strikeouts. Sam Hall and Logan Long each pitched a scoreless inning as well.
“Drew did very well last week against St. Norbert, too,” DeGeorge said. “We’ve really needed him to deliver and he has.”
Six Bucs had multiple hits in the first game. Leading the way were Bronson Balholm with two hits in four trips, a homer, three runs scored and two RBIs. Freitag was also 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI, but the biggest cheer was for backup infielder Jimmy Yanow, who smacked his first career home run with a man on in his only at-bat in the sixth.
In game two, Kiger was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Garrison Ferone got a hit in his last at-bat to extend his hitting streak to 28 games, dating back to last season.
• SATURDAY RECAP: In the annals of toughest losses, Beloit’s 16-14 loss to Knox in Game 1 Saturday has to rank among the worst. The Bucs took a 14-9 lead into the bottom of the ninth only to surrender seven runs.
At least Beloit bounced back to win game 2, 20-11.
Beloit outhit Knox, 18-17, in the first game. Balholm was 3-for-6 with three runs scored. Ferone was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI and O’Leary was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and five RBIs. Beloit had four home runs, by O’Leary, Nick Schmidt, Kiger and Austin de la Cruz.
The Bucs had 17 hits and Knox 14 in game 2. Balholm was 3-for-4 with four runs scored and two RBIs. Kiger was 2-for-55 with a run scored and three RBI.
Matthew Starr (2-0) picked up the win, despite allowing nine runs in five innings. Miller worked two scoreless innings and Wicker allowed two runs in two innings.