The Webster University baseball team’s undefeated record in conference play ended on April 10 when the Gorloks split a doubleheader with MacMurray College.
In Game 1, junior outfielder Alex Kazmierski drove in two runs and senior pitcher David Mueller struck out 10 en route to a complete-game victory. Mueller’s record now stands at 5-1 as the Gorloks won 6-5.
Day game video (Game 1)
Video by Sam Masterson
Game 2 saw Webster drop an extra-inning contest to the Highlanders, 8-4. After a three-run eighth inning by the Gorloks, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as MacMurray tied it in the ninth and plated five runs in the 10th.
“Everybody was pretty down,” Mueller said after the loss. “Everybody knew it was a winnable game. It could have gone either way — it just didn’t go our way tonight.”
With the split against MacMurray, Webster’s record is 17-9 overall and 10-1 against St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponents.
Kazmierski said the first-place conference record means a lot for the club.
“It sets the tone not only for your own team, but as well as other teams in the conference,” Kazmierski said. “It lets them know where we stand and what we’re trying to prove about this year.”
Coach Bill Kurich said the Gorloks’ strong start to the conference season gives the team confidence for other games down the road, especially those against SLIAC rivals.
“It gives us an edge as the season goes along, in terms of playing other conference teams — we get out there and take care of our business, and beat teams handily,” Kurich said. “That helps us going into the games. Having been conference champs five years in a row now, there’s a factor that when we walk into the park, we expect to win.
“Sometimes I think other teams expect the same. It’s almost a sense of intimidation, to some extent.”
Webster’s string of conference wins began on April 5, when the Gorloks took down the Westminster College Blue Jays 4-2 in Fulton. The next day, Webster dominated Blackburn College at GCS Ballpark,10-0.
Senior first baseman Tom Henke and Kazmierski hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the third to power the offense against Blackburn. Mueller pitched a complete-game shutout and racked up 12 strikeouts.
Kurich said the combination of good pitching and timely hitting gives the team momentum going forward.
“We’ve really swung the bat a lot better,” Kurich said. “And we’ve pitched well all year long. Pretty much every start this year, our staring pitcher has given us a really good opportunity to win every time they’ve gone out there. We haven’t had anybody really collapse and have us had to get into our bullpen really early in the game. That is crucial.”
The hit parade continued through the weekend as the Gorloks pounded Blackburn in a doubleheader in Carlinville, Ill., 9-2 and 15-1, on April 7. In Game 1, Kazmierski hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season. The 14-run margin of victory was the largest this season since a 17-0 win at Principia College on March 24.
Kazmierski said the Gorloks’ recent hitting success is huge for the team.
“We’ve talked since day one about once the hitting all comes together is when we’re really going to be a great team,” Kazmierski said. “We’ve been through a few games now — we are all seeing a lot of pitching.”
Kurich said the Gorloks have been finding ways to manufacture runs and have been cutting down on their strikeouts. He also said a bevy of players have been contributing to the Webster wins this season.
“It’s not just two doubles to score a run,” Kurich said. “It’s a walk here, a hit by pitch there, if they give us an opportunity with an error. And then, over the last two weeks, guys have been coming up with the bigger hit when they have given us the opportunity.
“Even in some of those close games where we haven’t gotten the big hit, it’s been right there. We feel like it’s a matter of time before somebody steps up and gets the big hit. It’s been a variety of different guys stepping up — it’s not been the same guy over and over again, which is nice to see, from a coaching standpoint.”
Whether it’s an offensive showcase or a pitchers’ duel, the Gorloks have found ways to win all their conference ballgames this year.
Kazmierski believes the team can continue having success beyond the conference season if it keeps winning different types of games.
“We’re a very mentally tough team,” Kazmierski said. “We just always try to play at our level, not to play down at anyone else’s level. What helps is that we all get excited knowing what’s to come. We know we have a good chance of going all the way this year. We have the right guys. Everyone’s playing their role right now; it’s great.”
This week, the Gorloks will head to Eureka, Ill., to face the Red Devils on April 14. The weekend will wrap up when Webster and Eureka play a doubleheader on April 15. Webster will then host nonconference opponent Washington University for a single game on April 17.