As St. Olaf Baseball begins their season, their minds are set on making a trip to the MIAC playoffs for the first time since 2009. Last year, the team finished 15-21 overall with a conference record of 5-15. With many returning juniors and seniors, the team is optimistic things will go better this year.
Head coach Matt McDonald enters his 25th season with a career record of 551-361, bringing back a group of talented players. St. Olaf returns its top three hitters from last season in outfielder TJ Rogers ’21, outfielder Sam Pressman ’20 and infielder Dylan Blake ’20. In his first year on campus, Rogers hit a team-leading .395. Rogers received an award for being the toughest batter to strikeout in all of Division III baseball, only striking out once in all 114 at-bats. Meanwhile, Pressman posted an average of .377, along with his team leading .972 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Blake batted .346 and was second on the team with 25 RBIs.
Additionally, seniors Luke Dahl ’19, Jake Ossell ’19, Sam Stuckmayer ’19 and Thomas Peterson ’19 will look to make an impact during their final season at St. Olaf. Last season, Stuckmayer led the team with six home runs, including three in a single game against Macalester. In addition to a group of talented freshmen, St. Olaf welcomes transfer Tommy McDonald ’20 from Division II Minnesota State University-Mankato where he hit above .300 in two seasons with the Mavericks.
On the mound, St. Olaf will rely on starters Hunter Barber ’21 and Hanson Devine ’20. Barber led the team with four wins last year to go along with a 4.80 earned run average (ERA), while Devine was second on the team in innings pitched and posted a 4.07 ERA. Out of the bullpen, juniors Luke Feigel ’20 and Elliot Syverson ’20 seek to build on their performances from last year. Feigel led the team in saves with a 2.30 ERA, while Syverson contributed 22.1 innings with a 3.63 ERA.
In a preseason MIAC coaches poll, St. Olaf was picked to finish eighth out of the eleven-team conference. St. John’s was picked to win the conference, with St. Thomas and Bethel in second and third, respectively. Only the top four teams make the conference playoffs, so if St. Olaf is to make it to the postseason, they will have to exceed current expectations.
Kicking off their season with a trip to Tucson, Ariz., the team has come out swinging with a 3-2 record. They split a doubleheader against Aurora University, which made the NCAA tournament a season ago, in addition to wins over Carthage College and Northwestern College (Iowa).
In the handful of games, Pressman and Blake are tied for the team lead with eight hits, both batting over .500.
After returning from Arizona, the team will travel to Auburndale, Florida and play eight games from March 21-27. The team, then, returns to kick-off conference play with a doubleheader in St. Paul against Hamline on March 30, before their home opener against Augsburg on April 3.