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Trolls’ bats lead the way

  • Written by Tim Cronin

Trinity sports report

Trinity Christian College baseball coach Justin Huisman said it best.

“It was fun to be outside,” he said of last week’s trip to Florida.

The Trolls took advantage of the great outdoors. After a two-week layoff caused by bad weather back home, Trinity exhibited no signs of rustiness as it belted 18 hits in its Sunshine State opener and thumped Aquinas (Mich.) College 19-1.

Oddly, it was actually a come-from-behind affair, as Aquinas scored in its initial at-bat. The Trolls tallied in each frame thereafter.

That victory also set the tone for a week in which Trinity went 5-4 to improve its season ledger to 5-8. The Trolls amassed 52 runs and gave up 34, a dozen of the latter being surrendered in a high-scoring loss to St. Ambrose. Otherwise, Trinity’s pitching and defense was more solid than it perhaps had a right to be, given the inability to do anything but work out in the gym for two weeks.

“I fully expect our pitching to be the backbone of the team,” Huisman said.

His problem now, one shared by every manager north of the Mason-Dixon Line, is getting his rotation set and in a rhythm. March weather typically creates a sporadic schedule, which sidelines pitchers and gives managers gray hairs.

“Northern teams are always at a disadvantage,” Huisman said. “Last year, as the season went on, we got better and better.”

Huisman has a base off which to work, both at the plate and on the mound. Offensively, he has three regulars batting .383 or better, a trio led by Mark Munizzi’s .429 average. Danny Britt is at .395 and Joe McCaw’s hitting at a .383 clip.

Huisman also has three pitchers sporting an earned-run average under 3.00. Drew Chibe owns the lowest ERA at 2.31 and also paces the staff with 14 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.

What Huisman wants is more of the same on the hill and more overall at the plate, specifically from the bottom half of the batting order.

“The first half of the lineup has done most of the damage,” Huisman said. “We’re definitely an offense that needs to execute. But we’re improving.”

The offense has been there. Trinity pounded out 11 hits in a 2-1 win over Clarke University a couple of hours after knocking Aquinas around, and had six more in a 5-0 loss to Clarke the next day.

The Trolls then beat Clarke 3-2 in the final game of the three-game set, Steve Brewer’s three-run homer providing all of their scoring. Thirteen hits helped create nine runs in the 12-9 loss to St. Ambrose.

In all, Trinity has 96 hits in 13 games. Of course, Husiman doesn’t like that 86 Trolls have been left on base, but 66 opposition runners have also been stranded.

Considering everything, Trinity is off to a good start. Now, the Trolls need the weather to cooperate so they can play on a regular basis.

  • Statistics: 5-8 overall, 0-4 road, 5-4 neutral. Leaders: Mark Munizzi, .429 average, 18 hits; Danny Britt, 14 RBI; Joe McCaw, .574 slugging percentage, 2 steals; Steve Brewer, 1 HR; Lance Lammers, 2 steals; four pitchers with 1 win; Vince Flores, Taylor Boice, 0.00 ERA; Drew Chibe, 14 strikeouts.
  • Schedule: Saturday, vs. St. Xavier University (2), 1 p.m.; Wednesday, vs. Roosevelt University, 3:30 p.m.; March 28, at Holy Cross, 3:30 p.m. CT; March 29, vs. Holy Cross (2), 1 p.m.; April 1, at Roosevelt (2), 1 p.m.; April 2, vs. Purdue University Calumet, 3:30 p.m.; April 4, at University of St. Francis (2), 3 p.m.

SOFTBALL

After smacking a ball around in a gym to get ready for the season, the Trolls’ excursion to Florida seemed like a trip to Disney World. Trinity didn’t actually reach Orlando, but its visit to Clemont, Fla. — complete with a dry diamond — was close enough to wonderland to suffice.

And the Trolls made the best of their situation, opening with five victories in 10 games, likely as much as could be expected while playing against clubs that had already seen sunshine rather than a gym roof during practice. Trinity was triumphant in four of its last six contests, two of which came by 1-0 scores over Spring Arbor and Bloomfield universities, respectively. The Trolls also included a 5-3 victory over Mount Vernon among their accomplishments.

That latter success last Thursday couldn’t be followed up satisfactorily, though, as Mount Vernon gained revenge in the nightcap by a 4-1 count. Two other setbacks — 8-7 to Marian University and 7-4 to Ave Maria — might have tilted Trinity’s way, too, had its pitching and defense been a bit more solid on those occasions.

Overall, however, there were more plusses than minuses for the Trolls on their trip. One example was their ability to shake off the negative effects of the loss to Ave Maria and handle Bloomfield in a game that didn’t get underway until 10:30 p.m.

The contest was scoreless through seven innings, although Trinity was not without a couple of prime chances. The Trolls failed to take advantage of a bases-loaded circumstance in the fourth frame and left two runners aboard in their half of the seventh.

Making sure those misfires didn’t prove costly was Trinity pitcher Brianna Brugioni, who worked the corners of the plate perfectly and racked up 10 strikeouts. After Bailain Reynolds’ two-out hit drove in Jayme Love from third with the game’s lone run in the top of the eighth, Brugioni pitched her way out of a two-on, one-out jam by coaxing a popout and ringing up the last of her strikeouts.

Now, the question is when the Trolls will play again. This past Tuesday’s slated game with Cardinal Stritch University was moved into April, and given the weather and field conditions, the schedule is best written in pencil.

  • Statistics: 5-5 overall, 5-5 neutral. Leaders: Emily Phillips, Michelle Interrante, .500 batting average, .500 slugging percentage; Jayme Love, Anna Phillips, 10 hits, 1 steal; Brianna Brugioni, 5 RBI, 1 HR, 3 wins, 25 strikeouts; Mattie McGuire, 0.50 ERA.
  • Schedule: Today, at Calumet College of St. Joseph, 3 p.m.; Friday, vs. Purdue University Calumet, 3 p.m.; Tuesday, vs. Judson University, 3 p.m.; March 27, vs. University of St. Francis, 2 p.m.; March 29, at Wheaton College, 10 a.m.; March 31, vs. Calvin College, 3:30 p.m.; April 1, at Trinity International University, 3 p.m.; April 3, vs. Wheaton, 3 p.m.

GOLF

As with the baseball and softball teams, Trolls golfers went south to start the spring season with no outdoor practice under their belts. Despite having that hurdle to clear, Trinity’s leaders still managed to finish in the middle of the pack at the Battle at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As a team, the Trolls were last in a field of six.

Spencer TenHaken’s 79-84 combination, good for a two-round total of 163 and 32nd place, led the way for Trinity at Myrtlewood and Pine Hills. Alex Svabek’s 164 (86-78) put him in a tie for 33rd, while Brian Deckinga fired a 167 (88-79) and was 38th in a 52-golfer field.

None of the other five Trolls broke 80 in either round.

  • Leaders: Logan Vos, 75, Aug. 30, Sept. 20; Jonathan Zandstra, 76, Sept. 21; Scott Ebbeling, 78, Aug. 31; Alex Svabek, 78, March 15; Tim Hoeksema, 79, Aug. 31; Spencer TenHaken, 79, Aug. 27, Oct. 3, March 14; Brian Deckinga, 79, March 15.
  • Schedule: March 31: Purdue-North Central Shootout, Briar Leaf GC, Laporte, Ind.; April 8: University of St. Francis Invitational, Wedgewood, Plainfield; April 11-12: Pilot Invitational, Blackthorn, South Bend, Ind.