Lakeland started the trip with a 1-4 record after splitting on opening day against Penn State Altoona and dropping their next three decisions to 13th ranked Ohio Wesleyan, Massachusetts College and St. John's Fisher (NY).
The Muskies played two exciting games against Penn State Altoona, losing the first game with two outs in the ninth on a lost ball in the sun and winning the second game on a walk-off homerun by Brian Swanson. Swanson's homer was the only one hit on the trip for Lakeland, which was playing in the cavernous ballparks at the old Texas Rangers spring training facility.
In game number one of the season on Saturday, March 6th, Lakeland had 11 hits but committed 3 errors for the difference. Mike Bachar, Tyler Schmitt and Levi O'Kimosh led the way with 2 hits each. O'Kimosh tied a Lakeland record by hitting two triples in one game. Justin Petrack had a key hit late in the game that gave Lakeland a 4-3 lead with a two-run double in the eighth inning. But the Muskies couldn't hold the lead and lost the game on the last play of the game with two outs on the ball lost in the sun. Jared Neuman picked up the loss while Dan Rauwerdink pitched 5 strong innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1.
In the second game Swanson's two run homer capped a three run, ninth inning
rally to lead Lakeland to a 6-4 victory over Altoona. The homerun concluded
a 4 hit day for Swanson while Matt Cook added 3 hits and 2 RBI's and Bachar
added 2 more hits. Jon Bintner picked up the win in relief of Jon Aerts by pitching
6 strong innings and allowing only 1 unearned run while striking out 4 and walking
Lakeland battled Ohio Wesleyan (ranked 13th in the country) pitch for pitch but fell 2-0 despite the fine pitching efforts of Steve Plucinski and John Lackinger. Plucinski gave up just one unearned run and struck out seven in five innings, while Lackinger allowed one earned run in 3.1 innings of work while punching out five. Bintner came in and got the last two outs for Lakeland. The Muskies only managed five hits against a strong Wesleyan pitcher and stranded eight runners for the difference in the game.
Lakeland lost their third in a row to Massachusetts College with a disappointing
10-8 defeat. The pitchers struggled by allowing 9 walks overall and 1 hit batter
for the difference. Brett Anschutz started and allowed 5 runs on 5 hits, while
walking 3. Mike Rauwerdink came on in relief and started strong before allowing
4 runs (3 earned) to take the loss. Rauwerdink struck out 6 and walked 2 while
giving up 3 hits. The Muskies out-hit Massachusetts 12-9 and had four players
pick up two hits. Plucinski led Lakeland with a double and a triple while Bachar
added a double.
The young team probably played their poorest game of the trip in their next outing when they fell 7-1 to St. John's Fisher. The bats struggled again as Lakeland managed just four hits and left nine more runners on base to waste a solid pitching effort by Curt Hendricks (6 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 8 hits, 4 K's, 2 BB's) in his first career start.
After an off day Lakeland regrouped and the bats stayed hot as Lakeland pounded St. Mary's (MN) 11-3. Dan Rauwerdink was strong on the mound again to move his record to 1-0 with 6.2 strong innings allowing just the 3 runs on 8 hits, while striking out 7 with no walks. Jared Neuman finished the game with a solid 2.1 innings of relief. Schmitt led the offense again with 3 hits, including a double, while O'kimosh and Bintner added 2 hits apiece. Bintner and Shane Hansen each had 2 RBI's.
The Muskies came back the next day to sweep a tough Mt. Union team 12-4 and 6-5. In the first game the bats stayed the course as the Muskies collected 19 hits and scored 11 of their 12 runs in the first three innings. Jon Aerts picked up the win by pitching seven strong innings (7 hits, 2 ER, 4 K's, 1 BB) and Schmitt led the offensive explosion with four hits, including two doubles. Plucinski added three hits and Swanson added three RBI's.
In the second game Lakeland sat on an early 6-0 lead and barely escaped with the victory. Mt. Union made a run in the ninth to make it 6-5 and had the bases loaded with one out. But Hendricks came in and slammed the door with two strikeouts to pick up the save and secure the win for Mike Rauwerdink who was making his first career start. Rauwerdink pitched 6.1 innings and gave up 3 runs on 4 hits while striking out 3 and walking 4. Shane Hansen had three hits to lead Lakeland and Plucinski chipped in with two more hits including a double and a triple and had 3 RBI's.
Lakeland concluded the trip by dropping two one-run contests against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season. First, the Muskies lost 7-6 to Benedictine University (IL) after a rally fell just short. Lakeland fell behind 7-0 and had numerous opportunities to tie the game but couldn't take advantage of them. Offensively, Bachar, Hansen and Mike Gappa each had two hits while Gappa added two RBI's. Plucinski had the worst outing of his career giving up all 7 runs (6 earned) in four innings while striking out 6 and walking 3. Lackinger pitched well in relief again, allowing just 2 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings of work.
The Muskies finished off the trip by dropping a 1-0 decision to Endicott University (MA) as the bats fell silent. Lakeland managed just 4 hits to waste another strong outing by Hendricks who gave up 1 unearned run in 6 innings while allowing just 4 hits, 1 walk and picking up 6 strikeouts. Brett Anschutz finished the game with 2 strong innings in relief.
Overall the Muskies hit .302 on the trip and finished with 20 doubles, 5 triples and the 1 homerun. They also were successful on 18 of 24 stolen base attempts but grounded into 11 double plays.
The pitching was equally successful with a 3.70 team ERA while striking out 74 and walking 40 in 87.2 innings. Opponents hit .275 and managed just 18 extra base hits. The pitching also took advantage of solid defense as the Muskies finished with a fielding percentage of .952 on the trip.
Individually, the offense was led by Schmitt who finished at .438 with 14 hits in 32 at bats including 3 doubles and 5 stolen bases. Bachar started all 10 games and hit .385 (15 of 39) and also had 3 doubles and 5 stolen bases. Catcher Matt Andrews hit .318 (7 for 22) and Plucinski hit .310 (9 for 29) with 3 doubles and 2 triples and led the team with 9 RBI's. Swanson finished second on the trip with 7 RBI's.
Several pitcher turned in good performances as well with Lackinger (0-0, 1.08
ERA), Bintner (1-0, 2.08 ERA), Hendricks (0-2, 1 save, 2.13 ERA), Dan Rauwerdink
(1-0, 3.09 ERA) and Aerts (1-0, 3.60 ERA) leading the way.
The injury bug saddled Mitch Heinemeyer as he sat out the majority of the trip with a hamstring injury.
After nearly a week off the Muskies will return to action on Saturday, March
20th, verses Division I Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, IL at 12pm in
a doubleheader. Lakeland will follow that up with a double header at Dominican
University in River Forest, IL on Sunday at 12pm.