March 26: St. Thomas 17, Lawrence 1

Tommies roll in Florida opener

AUBURNDALE, FLA. – No. 1 St. Thomas flexed its baseball muscles on the opening day of its Florida spring break trip and rolled to a 17-1 win Friday over Lawrence University of Wisconsin.

The 6-1 Tommies rode the hitting of junior outfielders Matt McQuillan and Tayler Rahm in banging out 18 hits, including five doubles and the team’s first homerun of the year.

The balanced attack – five players had at least two hits – gave an early cushion to pitchers Ryan Fahey (top photo) and Matt Nelson, who combined on a six-hitter. Fahey threw four innings and Nelson picked up the first win of his St. Thomas career by striking out eight over the final five innings.

Thanks to a storm in the area and delays at the Orlando airport, the Tommies didn’t arrive at their Winter Haven hotel until 3:30 a.m. Friday. They headed to the Lake Myrtle ballpark complex a few hours later to face Lawrence (1-7) in 76-degree sun.

McQuillan led off the game with a double and scored the first run on a Rahm sacrifice fly, and two innings later they paired up again with a McQuillan single and a Rahm homerun to make it 3-0. McQuillan notched the first five-hit game of his St. Thomas career, had four RBI and scored four times in boosting his average to .375.

“I was seeing the ball pretty well today,” he said. "I put a lot of my hits in just the right spot."

Rahm (right) continued his early-season tear, collecting three hits and five RBI. He is hitting .500 and averaging two RBI a game. His homerun came on a fastball that was “a little up in the zone,” he said. “I just got it up in the air and let the wind take it out.”

While he hit the homer to left-center, he explained that he has a “new approach” this season at the plate. “I’m trying to hit the ball the other way instead of always pulling the ball to left,” he said. “So far, so good.”

Lawrence scored its only run in the third inning, on a walk, two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly. St. Thomas responded with six runs in the fourth and scored in every subsequent inning except the 8th, tacking on the final three runs in the 9th on five walks and only one hit.

In the post-game huddle, Coach Chris Olean praised the Tommies for playing well on a few hours of sleep and encouraged them to remain focused even with a big lead. Pointing out that they left 13 runners on base, he said, “When you have the chance to execute, follow through.”

St. Thomas is back at Lake Myrtle on Saturday for two seven-inning games against the University of Chicago (4-3).


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