AUBURNDALE, FLA. – The warm weather continues to work wonders for the St. Thomas bats.
The Tommies crushed the University of Chicago in a Saturday doubleheader on the second day of their spring break trip to Florida, rapping out 34 hits en route to 13-5 and 14-3 wins under sunny skies and with temperatures in the high 70s.
No. 1-rated St. Thomas (8-1) cruised to its fifth and sixth straight wins in stifling the Maroons the day after a 17-1 romp over Lawrence University. In the process, Coach Chris Olean gave two younger pitches their first career starts.
Roy Larson, a senior shortstop from Eagan, starred in the first Chicago game. He hit a three-run homerun in the third, a two-run triple on a fly ball lost in the sun in the fourth and a one-run single in the fifth.
“I’m getting more at-bats, playing day after day, and it gets easier,” Larson said of his six-RBI performance. “I prefer to be outdoors, too. There’s nothing wrong with the Metrodome (where the Tommies played their first six games), but everything just feels better out here.”
Freshman Mark Dominik from Hill-Murray started on the mound and led 4-0 before running into trouble in the fourth, when he gave up four runs on four hits and two walks. St. Thomas responded in the bottom half of the inning with six runs on five hits, including Larson’s triple. Kris Edwards (junior, Edina) finished the game and picked up his third win to move to 3-0.
In between games, Olean urged his players to keep the pressure on their opponents, citing the blown 4-0 lead. “You have a tendency to take your foot off the pedal,” he said. “Stay intense.”
The Tommies got the message. They scored in the first four innings to jump out to a 12-2 lead, highlighted by a seven-run, seven-hit third when 12 batters went to the plate. They racked up a season-high 19 hits, going down in order only in the fifth. Five players had two or more hits, led by sophomore Justin Novak with four singles in his first start.
Tony Eicher picked up the win in his first start. The junior from Eden Prairie gave up only four hits and two walks in six innings while striking out five Maroons.
Senior rightfielder Matt Olson, who struggled Friday with an 0 for 5 game, reached base seven times against Chicago. The Anoka graduate had two hits, two walks, was hit by a pitch and scored four runs in the first game and had two RBI singles in the second.
“We’re swinging the bats well,” Olean said after the second game. “The guys heard me after the first game. There’s value in playing close games, but there’s also value in finishing teams off and giving other guys a chance to play.”
St. Thomas returns to action Sunday, traveling to Dodgertown in Vero Beach on the east coast of Florida for a doubleheader against Grinnell College (6-6).