Sports / The Prairie Fire / April 8, 2015

A weekend to forget for Knox athletics

The men’s baseball team was met with a formidable challenge over the weekend in a doubleheader against rival Cornell, which they managed to split. The weather was forgiving, and provided a sunny 60 degree day. The batters, however, were far from sympathetic and the pitchers did not get a break. The Prairie Fire won the first game, 8-­5, and lost the second, 21­-2.

Cornell freshman Walker Breard fouls a pitch off junior Jeremy Gogoel en route to a 21-2 Knox loss. Breard was two-for-four on the game with three RBIs. (Williams Shen/TKS)

Cornell freshman Walker Breard fouls a pitch off junior Jeremy Gogoel en route to a 21-2 Knox loss. Breard was two-for-four on the game with three RBIs. (Williams Shen/TKS)

Notable performances came from freshman Matt McCaffrey, who went four-for four with a home run in the 8­-5 victory, and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Drake Sykes, who added to McCaffrey’s damage by recording two hits, two runs and a scoreless inning on the mound. Although McCaffrey is just a freshman, it looks as though he could very well be the bat the Prairie Fire have been lacking if he can keep up his current rate of production.

Overall, the doubleheader was a slugfest, as the two teams garnered a total of 36 RBIs, six home runs and 45 hits. In the latter half of the day, it was the Rams that contributed most to the home run category, posting four home runs­­, two of which were allowed back-­to-­back. Couple that with the eight-run inning allowed en route to Tuesday’s 12-3 loss to Illinois Wesleyan, and the Prairie Fire appear to be backpedaling.

The weekend proved far from ideal on the Knox softball field, where the team dropped both games of a doubleheader to Lake Forest by a combined score of 39-3 (14-0 and 25-3, respectively).

Both games were halted after five innings as the league-leading Foresters put on a dominant performance on all sides of the ball. The Foresters now have by far the best record in the MWC at 17-3, with a 4-0 conference record as well.

Lake Forest took the first game with a dominant pitching performance, as the Prairie Fire were no-hit and only managed three runners on base via a pair of walks and an error.

In the second game, Knox pitchers allowed a staggering 17 hits and eight walks, while the defense committed five errors. Against #20 Augustana on Tuesday, the Prairie Fire did not fare much better, losing their two contests 10-1 and 12-1.

The Erin Rutledge era has gotten off to a slow start, as the Prairie Fire have come out of the gate 0-16 in addition to going winless in their six conference contests to date.

The softball team huddles during a game against Lake Forest. (Sean Treacy/TKS)

The softball team huddles during a game against Lake Forest. (Sean Treacy/TKS)

Still, it is important to remember that two thirds of the team is composed of underclassmen, and a new coaching system takes time to come in to place. Look for there to be bumps in the road this season, amidst a lot of growth as a team.

As for baseball, if you ask any athlete whether s/he thinks scoring a lot of runs or winning ball games is more important, they’ll probably respond that at the end of the day, the win is what matters most. The Prairie Fire split the weekend 1-­1 with a powerful team at the top of the conference, and thus they should take pride in their W and move on a little bit hungrier.

There’s plenty of season to go. Illinois Wesleyan was a non-conference opponent, and should be treated as such; the focus now is on regaining traction in the MWC.

Fortunately for the morale of Prairie Fire athletics, men’s tennis was able to score a resounding 9-0 win against Illinois College following a tough defeat against rival Monmouth.

As has been the case throughout the course of the year, the Prairie Fire were led by seniors Walter Palmer and Karl Ruzgas, this week’s winners of the Prairie Fire performer of the week and MWC tennis performer of the week, respectively.

The two combined to lose only two games against the Blueboys en route to their #1 and #2 wins in singles, as well as a #1 doubles victory.

Tags:  drake sykes erin rutledge karl ruzgas matt mccaffrey walter palmer

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Gavin Crowell
Gavin Crowell is a junior with interests in neuroscience and psychology. He has been playing baseball ever since he could walk, playing throughout his childhood and winning two IHSA regional titles in his three years of varsity baseball at Walter Payton College Prep. He currently plays on the Knox College Ultimate team. Gavin is an Illinois State Scholar and has been involved with writing throughout high school. This is his third year working with TKS. Over the summer after his sophomore year, he had a sports internship at the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago's second largest paper.

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