Baseball coach hopes for win No. 500 vs. Oles today
The No. 13-ranked St. Thomas baseball team (18-5 overall, 7-1 MIAC), gunning for its seventh consecutive MIAC title, will play two seven-inning games today against prime challenger St. Olaf (14-6, 3-1). The on-campus games at UST’s Koch Diamond start at 2:30 p.m.
Here are seven reasons you should stop by to watch – or tune into St. Thomas’ live audio webcast:
- Weather: With sunny skies, a light breeze and temps in the 60s, it should be a perfect day to watch baseball. (If you can’t make it today, the Toms also play at home next Saturday vs. Augsburg and Sunday vs. Wisconsin-Stout – both 1 p.m. starts). Dennis Denning
- Chasing 500: Tommie head coach Dennis Denning has 499 wins (499-149, a .764 win precentage) in 15 seasons at UST and will go for victory No. 500 against the Oles. Denning’s record includes a 241-47 mark (.837 win percentage) in regular-season games against MIAC opponents. Denning also built a 378-76 record (.833 win percentage) in 17 seasons at Cretin-Derham Hall.
- What Else Is At Stake: It’s been 1995 since a team other than St. Thomas or St. Olaf has won an outright conference baseball championship. Today’s games again feature the first- and second-place teams in the MIAC. The games also are important as these teams need at least a split to help their NCAA playoff at-large or seeding chances.
- Rivalry: After Saturday’s 6-2 and 13-2 sweep of St. John’s, the Tommies are now 10-1 against the rival Johnnies over the last five seasons. In fact, UST’s bigger baseball rivalry in the last 15 years has been with St. Olaf. Either St. Thomas (10 titles) or St. Olaf (four) have won or shared the conference championship every year since 1996. The Tommies have also won seven of the nine MIAC playoff titles since the event was first held in 1999.
- Top Talent: Today’s games will include two seniors who have been named first-team All-MIAC in each of their first three seasons – St. Olaf pitcher Todd Mathison and St. Thomas 3B Dan Leslie. The teams also boast some of the MIAC’s best juniors in St. Olaf’s Tyler Jones and UST’s Tom Wippler, Matt Schuld and Roy Larson. The Tommies regularly start as many as 15 different players in the field in a doubleheader and often have 12 to 14 different players get at least one hit. UST leads conference teams in fielding, batting average and earned-run average. The Oles have eight players batting .326 or better.
- Unpredictable Games: Even though St. Thomas has beaten St. Olaf in nine of their last 10 meetings, it’s hard to know what will happen when these teams face off on the diamonds. Last year in Northfield, the teams combined for 49 runs in a 12-9, 15-13 Tommie sweep. These institutions have also played several 1-0 games in Denning’s era, and UST’s 2001 NCAA championship team was swept in the regular-season by the Oles.
- Alternatives? The Wild and Wolves missed the playoffs, and watching Tommie baseball beats doing your taxes.