Oberlin Baseball Kicks Off Spring Season With Split Against Hilbert College

In its first official competition in 391 days, the Oberlin College baseball team hosted the Hilbert College Hawks for a thrilling doubleheader this past Friday. The Yeomen ended up splitting the series, dominating the first game in a 14–5 victory before dropping the second game 10–0. 

Despite the lopsided final score, the Yeomen’s first victory came with some obstacles. After a tough first inning in which the Hawks posted three runs, College third-year and starting pitcher Ian Ashby settled in, holding the Hawks to just one run in his next four innings of work. The right-hander earned his second career win on the mound, allowing just six hits in five total innings. For Ashby, blocking out mental distractions was key to his success. 

“After a rough first inning, I went out in the second with only strikes in mind, forgetting mechanics, the score, the windchill… everything,” Ashby said. “Luckily it worked out, and I was able to pound the strike zone enough to allow my team to get back into the game.”

After Ashby’s departure from the mound, rookie pitchers stepped up late in the game. College second-year Ben Borzekowski pitched a clean sixth inning, and College first-year Luigi Smarro closed out the game with three strikeouts to cap off a quality team pitching performance. 

Oberlin’s offense was also firing on all cylinders in the first game. College third-year and catcher John Schooner sparked the offense with a hard single through the left side of the infield, eventually scoring on an error. This set the table for College third-year David Fineman to score the second run with a single to right field. Ashby, who was hitting cleanup as well as pitching, capped off the scoring outburst with a two-run double down the left field line. 

Once the Yeomen got the momentum in their favor they didn’t look back, tacking on three more runs in the third inning and seven additional runs in the fourth. Stellar base running helped the Yeomen finish off the Hawks, with eight stolen bases in game one and 10 total on the day. 

Experienced team members and rookies alike led this offensive output. College first-year Jake Freed had an impressive debut from the leadoff spot, going three for five with three runs batted in. Schooner and Fineman both contributed heavily as well, combining for five hits, four runs scored, and three runs batted in. 

Schooner attributes the winning effort to the team executing in all facets of the game.  

“Pitchers were throwing strikes, we played clean defense, and one through nine in the [batting] order all made an impact on offense,” Schooner said. “It was just a great team effort where everyone contributed.”

Along with executing consistently, the hunger for competition gave the Yeomen a mental advantage, according to Fineman. 

“I would say what helped our success was that we all had the same mindset,” Fineman said. “We were playing for the first time in over a year while thinking that we weren’t going to have a season. So we all were excited to be out there playing actual games.”

Unfortunately, the second game was a different story for the Yeomen. After two clean innings, the Hawks’ bats came to life in the third, scoring five runs on seven hits. Coupled with some defensive miscues, the Yeomen had a hard time gaining back momentum, giving up three runs in the fourth and two more in later innings. 

Offensively, the Yeomen tallied six hits total in the second game but were unable to string anything together. Leaving a total of nine runners on base, there were plenty of chances to score, but the opportunities never came to fruition. 

Perhaps most importantly, the excitement of returning to competition after being deprived for so long was palpable for Oberlin. Many players felt a sense of elevated competitive spirit throughout the day. 

“It felt so good to be back,” Fineman said. “Being able to run out on the field for introductions and the national anthem gave me chills, just because it has been so long without having that feeling. It was so fun just to be there with everyone and enjoy that feeling with my teammates.” 

Despite missing the majority of the second-year class due to the College’s COVID-19 plan, Schooner was equally thrilled to be out on the field again and looks forward to continued competition this spring and next fall. 

“Having not played games in so long, it was nice to just be in the moment and appreciate how special it is to go out and compete with my teammates,” Schooner said. “Obviously it’s tough not having our whole team, and we’re definitely excited to have everyone back in the fall, but it’s awesome to be able to play games no matter the circumstances.”

The team returns to action on Tuesday, April 6 against conference rival Allegheny College at 2 p.m. No in-person spectators are allowed, but the livestream will be available here.