Jack Wiessenberger – Staff Writer
Another week in the baseball season has passed, and with it came two more series sweeps by the Gusties over conference rivals. Last week, the team comfortably won both games against Macalster by scores of 5-1 and 11-1. A few days later the Gusties swept Carleton in a three game series. After achieving two wins playing away in Northfield, the team came back to St. Peter and finished off the series on a strong note. The team is now sitting atop the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) with a near-perfect overall record of 14 wins and only one loss.
“This past weekend everyone on the team played a big role by stepping up when the person next to them may have been struggling. We never gave up no matter what the score was. There is definitely excitement among the team with our success so far and we all know that we can accomplish almost anything and be able to play with anyone,” Sophomore Outfielder/Pitcher Bryce Novak said.
The Gusties faced a deficit of three runs early in the second game of the weekend series. The Carleton Knights made a few big swings in their first at-bats and took the early lead. The Gusties managed to tie the game in the top of the fourth, but Carleton immediately retook their three-run lead in the bottom half. Despite constantly playing from behind, the team managed to pull off a win after they produced a total of eight runs. Novak had a big showing over the weekend that earned him the honors of MIAC Baseball Player of the Week.
“Being named MIAC player of the week is a great accomplishment for me, but I am more looking forward to the goals we can achieve as a team. I feel like the reason I had such a great weekend was just being patient and having good discipline at the plate,” Novak said.
Over the series, Novak started at the positions of center fielder, pitcher, and designated hitter. Novak played each game as the leadoff hitter and accrued ten hits in nineteen plate appearances (.526 BA). In the final game of the series, he hit for the cycle and earned a win in his first collegiate start as pitcher. In each game, the Gusties showed a lot of strength as an entire team.
“The biggest factor for us being able to pull off sweeps is endurance. Playing 25 innings of baseball in about as many hours is extremely taxing. So staying focused and mindful for the whole thing is the difference between sweeping and splitting. Our biggest strength is our talent. Everyone makes an impact. Our bench guys could field a competitive MIAC team as well,” Junior Infielder Nick Azar said.
The Gusties have worked hard to build up their endurance and it has paid off well. Playing so many games back-to-back requires a lot of stamina, and as the record has shown, the team has managed to perform well throughout a gruelling series. A part of what has made the team successful is its incredible depth. Having talented starters in the first-year and sophomore classes has given the team the ability to rotate in players when needed. For all the underclassmen, this season has been their first taste of college baseball after last season was abruptly halted due to the COVID pandemic.
“It feels great being able to play this season and actually being able to play on our field with the team. The atmosphere and energy in college baseball is second to none and is the most fun I have had playing baseball. I am really looking forward to seeing what our team can accomplish and how we can make this the best season in program history,” Novak said.
The team is holding expectations for themselves high, but the talent is there to make achieving these goals a realistic possibility. The last time the Gusties finished a season with only one overall loss was in 1943, and only nine games were played that year. Now at the halfway point of the regular season, the Gusties are looking to continue their success and make a deep playoff run. Head Coach Brad Baker has done an outstanding job of keeping his players motivated and focused on the end goals.
“Our coaches are second to none. They really get the best out of every player that buys into the program. This year has been nothing different than the past,” Azar said.
Despite the challenges presented by a unique season, the coaching staff has stayed true to its philosophy and produced a successful program. The players hold their coaches in high regard and have totally bought into the team culture. While the first half of the season has been outstanding, the team understands that their fight is far from over. The Gusties are hoping to continue to shine all the way through the playoffs next month.