Oakland A's slugger Jason Giambi was once quoted as saying, "The trick to hitting well is to feel sexy at the plate."
Finally, Oberlin hitters may have found their groove. The Yeomen gained just their second win of the season, but it couldn't have come at a better time, as the wind was almost entirely out of their sails. The 12-11 triumph came at the expense of nearby rival Case Western Reserve, in a non-conference win over a conference team.
Though hitting may have won the game, the big story may have been the nearly heroic pitching by sophomore hurler Eben Askins. Askins threw well over 100 pitches, taking his team into the seventh inning with an 11-7 lead. In his six-plus innings, Askins scattered nine hits and four earned runs. More importantly, he walked only two batters, well below the team average of 5.77 per game.
The Yeomen provided run support for Askins in a form they have rarely achieved this season. For a team averaging about three runs and six hits a game, Wednesday's outburst of 13 runs on 19 hits was exceptional. The highlight may have been first-year Greg Wells' 390 ft. blast to left- center. Wells was one of eight Yeomen batters to manage two or more hits on the day. He finished with three runs and three RBI.
Despite falling behind early, the Yeomen this time kept their composure and responded to the effort their pitcher was giving, scoring four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Sophomore Andy Smith and first-year Chris Irish both had two hits and stole two bases, while sophomores Tom Francavilla and Sean Nagle had three hits a piece. Senior David Schummers had two hits and four RBI, to go along with a pivotal bunt late in the game.
Askins left the bases loaded in the seventh for junior Matt Burns, who had some trouble getting through the seventh and eighth, allowing two of Askins' runners to score, and allowing three unearned runs in the eighth. Senior Carson Keeble came in to retire the side convincingly in the top of the ninth, leaving Oberlin one last chance to tie or win the game in the bottom half of the inning.
Smith started the inning with a single. Schummers executed a textbook bunt to move Smith into scoring position. First-year slugger Greg Wells walked, perhaps a result of the home run he had hit earlier, and Sean Nagle smashed a double up the middle, continuing his hot hitting, and set the stage for one of the most unusual endings to a game in recent memory.
With runners at second and third and no outs, Case Western decided to walk sophomore Mark Sackmann intentionally after their pitcher fell behind in the count. As the pitcher readied himself to throw ball four, Sackmann squared around to bunt, either for fun, or perhaps to disconcert the pitcher. Whatever he did worked magic, as the pitcher mysteriously heaved the ball several feet above the outstretched glove of the catcher. The ball rolled to the backstop, and Wells strolled in with the winning run.
Coach Eric Lahetta was in good spirits after the win. He pointed to the resurgence of Nagle as key factor in the victory. "We moved Sean from the three to the four hole, and he responded real well. Wells was batting clean up, but he is a fastball hitter. Sean seems to hit the curve pretty well, so we switched them, and both have been hitting better since then," Lahetta said. Nagle pushed his average to .351 on the year, second only to team leader Irish.
Lahetta also pointed to some key errors as a point of concern, as it has been all year for the Yeomen, who commit more than two errors for every one by their opponents. "We had a lot of two-out errors, which really hurt. If those plays are made, then we get out of the inning and try to score some runs," he said. The Yeomen committed five errors against Case.
What seems to matter more than anything is that the Yeomen won a game, snapping a 23-game losing streak. Said senior Matt Schick, "I'm just happy we won."
The Yeomen will host a doubleheader with Kenyon at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and they hope to put a winning streak together for the first time this season.
Take your base: An Oberlin batter watches as ball four sails harmlessly over the plate. (photo by Wes Steele)
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 22, April 30, 1999
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