Category Archives: Baseball

Bouncing back

The Thunder’s four-game winning streak came to an end last Friday as the men dropped a doubleheader to Carroll. Wheaton tallied nine hits in both of the games, but were seemingly unable to string together more than a couple hits at a time, resulting in only four runs over the course of the doubleheader. The lack of run support was particularly felt in the second game, as the Thunder lost 1-2 in a game that went 11 innings. Freshman pitcher Alex Hanvey earned a No Decision despite a fantastic performance on the mound, going seven innings while allowing only six hits, one earned run and walking one batter.

After the two losses on Friday, the Thunder bounced back on Saturday with two victories in a double-header against Carthage. Senior pitcher Daniel Bayer threw a complete game in the opener, allowing seven hits, two earned runs and striking out six. Senior John McKenna led the offensive charge with two hits in the game, including a homerun and three RBIs.

The second win came off an eight inning outing by sophomore pitcher Michael McCraith, improving his record to 6-1 as a starter this season. In his last four starts, McCraith has thrown 28 innings, surrendering just eight hits and two earned runs while striking out 32. This game also saw every Thunder hitter reach base at least once over the course of the game, as they went on to win 7-2.

Wheaton’s conference record is now 8-6, and they sit right in the middle of the CCIW standings at fifth place. Thunder fans will be supporting the team on Saturday, April 22 and Tuesday, April 25 at Lee Pfund Stadium as they take on Augustana in a three-game series before playing North Central on Tuesday. Both Augustana and North Central are ahead of Wheaton in the conference standings, so wins against them over the next few days are extremely crucial.

Power surge

It was a busy and successful week for the Thunder baseball team as they played six conference games in six days, dropping the first two to Elmhurst before winning four straight against Carroll, North Park and Carthage.

The offense has been spectacular, scoring 50 runs over the course of the week largely due to a massive power surge from the entire team. The Thunder hit 13 home runs with eight different players going deep. To put that in perspective, last year the team hit 12 home runs over the course of the entire season. Senior Peter Newman and sophomore Brett Albaugh combined for seven of those home runs, with Albaugh adding three doubles on top of that.

The defense looks to have recovered, as well, with the Thunder averaging one error per game over the recent span. Wheaton’s conference record is now 6-4, putting them fourth in the standings. All of this bodes well for the rest of the season.

“Our hitting has been outstanding and has really backed up our pitchers in a big way,” senior Johnny Schmitz explained. “It’s fun to watch them roll knowing that no matter what happens on defense, the offense will pick them up. We’re putting ourselves in a good position to be the hottest team going into the conference tournament at the end of the year.”

As we head into Easter weekend, the men will take on Carroll University in a doubleheader on Friday at Lee Pfund Stadium before heading up to Kenosha, Wis. on Saturday to take on Carthage in another doubleheader. Things are looking bright and the hope is that the team can continue to combine their recent hitting success with their elite pitching as the conference tournament draws nearer.

Baseball wins 5-0

The Thunder suffered two tough losses at Millikin in a three game series this weekend before picking up a 5-0 win off of a stellar pitching performance by sophomore Michael McCraith.  

McCraith threw a complete game shutout, allowing only a single hit in the top of the second inning and tallying 10 strikeouts. In his past two appearances, McCraith has thrown 15 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

Pitching a complete game is a laborious task, and McCraith threw over 120 pitches in his outing. Despite this, McCraith said he was “surprised when [he] saw the pitch count … it felt more like 95.” His exceptional performance came in a game where the Thunder needed a win, and was a great note to end on.

The losses this week were particularly tough because they were seemingly preventable. Wheaton’s offense and pitching have been solid this season, but their defense has been a liability. The Thunder are on pace to commit 33 percent more errors this season compared to last (92 this year, 69 last year). Wheaton committed a total of five errors in the two losses to Millikin, as well as another five in the 9-1 loss to Edgewood last week.

This mitigates the impact of the significantly improved pitching from last year, in which the Thunder are projected to allow 28 fewer earned runs. If Wheaton is able to shore up their defense for the remainder of the season, they can fully capitalize on their improved pitching and ultimately win more close games. The 5-0 victory on Saturday, with zero errors, was a step in the right direction and should be a welcome confidence boost as the team heads into their next set of conference games.

No errors here

As the Thunder baseball team begins conference play, there’s a different feeling in the dugout this year.

“This team has the best chemistry of any team I’ve been on at Wheaton,” senior captain Kyle Trivits said. “In the past, if guys didn’t get a hit or made an error, it would carry over. Now we pick each other up.”

This season, Wheaton’s pitching has been doing much of the heavy lifting. With a team earned run average of just 3.40, the Thunder bats typically don’t need to put up many runs in order to win. In the past six games since returning from their Florida trip, the team’s ERA has been even lower, at 1.33.

This means that for every nine innings the Thunder play, they have only allowed 1.33 runs to be scored without an error by Wheaton’s pitching staff. Since a team wants the lowest ERA possible, this is a massive improvement from the Thunder’s 4.88 ERA during the 2016 season.

Understandably, this bodes well for the team heading into conference play, as they face staunch competition from the likes of North Central, Illinois Wesleyan and Augustana, all of whom have received top 25 votes this season. Wheaton has also received votes in the past two weeks. All of this has Trivits optimistic for CCIW play.

“We expect to be in the conference championship,” Trivits explained. “In the past, we just wanted to be in the playoffs.”

Wheaton split a doubleheader this past weekend at home against Northland College and Bethel University, beating Northland 5-1 and losing to Bethel 1-0. Pitching again reigned supreme as the Thunder surrendered only one earned run over the course of 18 innings, with strong performances from sophomore pitchers Michael McCraith and Christian Bolhuis.

Bethel’s singular run came on an error in the eighth inning, but errors plagued the Thunder throughout the game, totaling five in all. Wheaton bounced back on Tuesday in their first conference game of the season as they were victorious against North Park by a score of 6-3. Sophomore center fielder Nick Mailman led the offensive charge with two RBIs and two runs.

The pitching prowess of the Thunder came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night as the men lost to Edgewood College by a score of 9-1.

This week the Thunder will look to get back on track as they resume conference play with three road games against Millikin on Friday and Saturday.

Baseball Preview

Less than a year ago, Wheaton’s baseball team was wrapping up its season with a bit of a disappointing chip on its shoulder. Before the season started, the team was picked to finish fourth in the CCIW. Yet the Thunder unfortunately finished the season with a 10-11 record, missing out on the fourth and final CCIW playoff spot by one game.

This year, the goal is the same, but the CCIW coaches’ expectation has been lowered. For the 2017 season, the team was recently picked to finish fifth in the league, behind teams like North Central, Illinois Wesleyan, Augustana and Carthage.

The team returns many of its impact players from 2016 including CCIW Newcomer of the Year, sophomore centerfielder Nick Mailman, and Second Team All-CCIW honorees, senior outfielder Jacob Zeller and senior pitcher Nick Johnson. Recent CCIW Pitcher of the Week, senior Daniel Bayer, will also be relied upon on the mound.

In terms of additions, the team has bolstered its lineup with nine freshmen. However, possibly the most crucial and impactful offseason addition is the regaining of outfielder Johnny Peltz. The senior was a member of the team in 2014 and 2015, but did not play last year due to his desire to focus on football. In 2015, Peltz’ excellence at the plate was on full display with a .331 batting average and a First Team All-CCIW selection.

“I expect us to be good and have a successful year,” said senior pitcher John Schmitz when asked about his expectations for the season. “Our pitching has been great, and even though our hitting has been struggling as of this past weekend I know we are going to pick it up for conference and be the team to beat.”

The team is already off to a hot start with a 9-4 record and the Thunder’s first appearance on the d3baseball.com honorable mention list of best teams in the nation since 2012. Whether the team will continue this momentum into the CCIW season has yet to be seen, but Thunder baseball fans are certainly hoping so.

Golden gloves and hearts

It seems more Wheaties than ever traveled far and wide this spring break to experience the breadth of beauty around the world. Some chose to lay out on the beach or poolside, relaxing and resting to return rejuvenated for the final quad, while others went across the globe to serve the world and promote Christ and his Kingdom. This past spring break, the men’s baseball team did a little bit of both while also serving up some high heat and offensive fanfare in a seven-game trip to Florida — and they have the tan lines to prove it.

The guys travelled just north of Fort Myers to Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte along the gulf coast for a beautiful week of baseball away from the gray Midwest. Somehow they were able to find time amid the 63 innings of baseball to serve the local communities and show off their golden hearts to match their golden gloves. Half the team spent time working with Edgewater Church as they partnered with various ministries and painted the church’s facilities. The other half of the team worked with Crossroads, a home for foster children who have spent the last years bouncing around from home to home. The team spent their day off playing even more baseball with the kids at Crossroads and investing in their lives.

The team was also given personal time to rest and relax in Florida, hoping to find some motivation after losing their first two games on a seven-game trip. Some hit the beach for some relaxation, while others were able to spend time with family that had made the trip. After a little vitamin D and revitalization, the Thunder seemed to find their mojo.

Wheaton won five games in a row after the day off with a total point differential of 26 runs. This week sophomore pitcher Chris Bolhuis and sophomore outfielder Nick Mailman were named CCIW Pitcher of the Week and CCIW Hitter of the Week, respectively. Beyond some spectacular individual performances, the team, filled with promise and potential, is clicking on all cylinders, ready to lead off a large home stretch this Friday at 5 p.m. at Pfund Stadium.

To the ballpark

It’s that time of year again when families flood to ballparks donning the caps of their favorite teams for the great American pastime of baseball. Brats with ballpark mustard, peanuts and cracker jacks and, of course, homeruns and 6-4-3 double plays fill parks and stadiums with energy and excitement as the winter begins to thaw across the nation. Wheaton’s own baseball team began their 2017 season this past weekend with a trip to Dixieland to play Sewanee: The University of the South for a three-game series over the course of two days.

 

The Thunder dropped their first game of the season in a tough 5-10 loss to the Tigers with senior pitcher Daniel Bayer on the mound. Yet the team rebounded in the second part of the doubleheader with a dominant display of offense in a 15-4 victory as sophomore pitcher Christian Bolhuis took the win. The team showcased a healthy lineup with 17 hits including four home-runs across the 14 guys who batted during the game.

 

Saturday morning, Feb. 25, the men finished off the series with a W in a hard-fought 13-11 victory with another 17-hit game. Senior Jacob Zeller led the team in offensive production this weekend with six runs, eight hits, five RBIs and three stolen bases.

 

As a senior leader on the team, Zeller shared his thoughts about the team’s expectations for the season: “Every year our goal is to win conference and this year we have a great team. This is the best team in my four years; no one’s spot is safe, our ‘backup’ guys could easily be our starters and there’s a lot of competition on the field.”
The competition is fierce, the baseball pants and eyeblack are out and the Thunder are primed for a strong trip to Port Charlotte, Fl. for spring break before returning to their home baseball diamond off Geneva Rd. to compete for the CCIW.

Coach Lee Pfund remembered

If there was ever a legend in Wheaton athletics, it was LeRoy Pfund ‘49. Known to many as “Coach” or simply “Lee,” Pfund joined his Savior on Thursday, June 2 at the age of 96.

Ripe is a fitting description of his life: ripe with experience, with opportunity and with adventure. Pfund spent eight seasons in professional baseball. After being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals, he made his debut as a 26-year-old pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, playing alongside Hall of Fame teammates Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. A knee injury cut his season—as well as his professional playing career—short, so Pfund made his way to Wheaton College as an undergraduate.

Though his window of professional baseball had shut, the door to Pfund’s legendary days at Wheaton was opening. The same year that Pfund graduated with his bachelor’s degree, he commenced his unprecedented coaching career at Wheaton.

According to Wheaton’s athletic website, Pfund is the “winningest coach in Wheaton history for both men’s basketball and baseball,” finishing his career with 362 and 249 victories, respectively.

During his tenure as men’s basketball coach from 1951 to 1975, Pfund led the Crusaders to 58 consecutive wins in the College Conference of Illinois, a conference record. As the head baseball coach from 1948-59 and 1961-74, he delivered Wheaton’s only CCI or CCIW championship.

Pfund continued to serve his alma mater even after ending his coaching career. He became a professor of physical education and went on to be the executive director of the Wheaton College Alumni Association for 12 years before retiring in 1987.

Prior to retiring, he received the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater award in 1977 from the Alumni Association. In 1985, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame from the Wheaton Athletics Department.

Pfund’s impact resounds on campus even today. Every year, the men’s basketball team hosts the Lee Pfund Classic Basketball Tournament and the baseball team plays in the stadium that bears his name. In April of this year, Pfund’s jersey number, 17, was retired. He had worn it as skipper of the baseball team.

Through his dynamic careers as a baseball player, a passionate college coach and a professor, Pfund left his greatest legacy as man of faith in all seasons of life. A former student, Rick Havens ‘69, paid tribute on the athletic website’s obituary: Pfund “showed everyone the love of Christ. … Coach walked the talk.”

The memorial service for Pfund was held July 11 at College Church. He is survived by three sons, John, Kerry and Randy, and two sisters, Ruth Muzzy and Phyllis Hiley.

Up and down week for Thunder

The Thunder have found themselves having to play small ball a lot lately. The Thunder haven’t had a home run since April 2, when senior Josh Kimmel homered in the fourth inning of a 15-11 victory over Millikin.

The Thunder have played seven games since. In their past four games, they have scored a grand total of 20 runs, 10 of those have come without a base hit, and nine have been unearned. Suffice it to say, they’ve been very opportunistic and good at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes.

The Wheaton baseball team had a very mixed week, dropping two out of three against Augustana over the weekend, before coming back and beating Carthage Wednesday night. Since opening conference play with three straight wins over Millikin, the Thunder have gone 3-3 in their past six games, all against conference opponents.

Sloppy play doomed the team on Friday, as they committed five errors en route to a 12-8 loss. The Thunder then played a doubleheader against Augustana on Saturday, taking the first game 5-4. Junior John Schmitz dazzled in relief, allowing one run and striking out seven in an unprecedented eight innings of relief work.

The game went to extras tied at three, and Carthage went up 4-3 in the top of the 10th before Wheaton loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, tied the game on a walk to senior Andrew Laucella and won on a squeeze bunt by Kimmel. The night cap didn’t go as well for the Thunder, as they fell behind 4-1 in the sixth, and ultimately lost 4-3.

On Wednesday however, the Thunder were able to bounce back nicely against Carthage, as they took advantage of stellar pitching and defensive miscues en route to a 4-0 win.

Wheaton junior right-hander Daniel Bayer was dominant throughout the night, striking out nine and throwing a complete game shutout against a Carthage team batting .345 on the season. The Thunder also took advantage of two consecutive throwing errors on bunts.

“Daniel had a great pitching performance,” head coach Matt Husted said. “He was dominant today, did a nice job and I can’t say enough nice things … We just shut them out, back to back games … that is an impressive feat.”

With the win against Carthage, the Thunder improve to 17-9 on the season and 6-3 in conference play, tying them with North Central and Augustana and placing them one conference win behind Illinois Wesleyan for the CCIW lead. The Thunder next play Friday, as they welcome in the Elmhurst Blue Jays for a 6:00 p.m. game at Pfund Stadium.

Thunder baseball is rockin’ and rollin’

The Thunder began CCIW play this weekend with three games against Millikin University, followed by two games against Carthage College. Wheaton went 4-1 in the five games and swept its season matchups against Millikin.

On Friday, Wheaton overcame a quick 2-0 deficit behind strong performances at the plate from freshman DH Brett Albaugh and sophomore third baseman JD Carpenter, and won 12-2.The Thunder offense again exploded on Saturday, this time for 15 runs. Carpenter and sophomore right fielder Jacob Zeller each drove home two runs, with Zeller crossing the plate three times before the game was suspended for inclement weather. Wheaton then held on for the win Tuesday once the game resumed. Tuesday’s second game was lower scoring than the prior two, but senior second baseman Jon Metz led the Thunder to victory by going two for three and scoring twice.

Wheaton then traveled to Kenosha, Wis. on Tuesday, where they played a doubleheader against Carthage. They split the games, losing the first one 5-2 before winning the second match 10-0 behind a complete game shutout by freshman pitcher Christian Bolhuis.

With their strong performance this past week against CCIW rivals, the Thunder now find themselves atop the CCIW standings. Much of the credit goes towards the team’s strong, humble leadership.

While many teams treat their freshmen players as lesser teammates, Wheaton’s baseball team treats them as equals. Freshman first baseman Clay Morrison has experienced this first-hand. He said, “They have really led by example and put the team ahead of their own interests.”

Among other examples, Morrison described senior Kyle Mellinger throwing batting practice to the freshmen the day he was named team captain — a rare display of exemplary leadership.

With a quick start to CCIW play, the Thunder find themselves ahead in their conference. The team will look to continue their strong play this upcoming week, and the effect of the team’s leadership on the Thunder’s success cannot be understated.