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.