Pipers sweep CHS field opener

Baseball takes both games against UM-Morris at home.


Cole Mayer

First baseman Jacob Picht picks a ball out of the dirt for an out at the home opener this past week at CHS field.

Jake Kjos, Senior Reporter

A cold day at CHS Field could not keep the Pipers from getting off to a hot start in their home opener on April 4. The team’s first two games of the season at the now finished stadium set the stage for the way the team plans to play after a successful fourteen game trip in Arizona.

Senior shortstop Tyler Summers talked about the team’s form after getting experience against good competition before conference play.

“In Arizona we put up a lot of runs so our offense has been good. Defensively we’ve been pretty sound,” he said.

Junior first baseman Jacob Picht recognized the team’s strategy in Arizona as a reason they were prepared for the April 4 home opener against University of Minnesota-Morris.

“Coming back with a winning record was nice,” Picht said. “To come back and face the top players in the MIAC, we wanted to face the top players from around the country.”

Last season, the Pipers played in CHS before the home locker room and other amenities were completed. Now that the stadium is fully stocked, sophomore center fielder Mitch Benson mentioned his favorite things about the stadium.

“Everything. The work that everyone has put in to give us the opportunity to play at CHS is greatly appreciated. From the locker room, to the weight room, to the field, and everything there is top notch for us. We are really lucky and thankful to play there,” Benson said.

First-year pitcher Micah Engan earned the start at the home opener and pitched five scoreless innings against UM-Morris. The Pipers offense opened up the scoring in the third inning when Picht knocked in junior Rick Tormey off a single to left field.

Sophomore third baseman Nick Kukurich had the RBI single that scored Picht and kept what would be a four run inning going. Summers pointed out Kukurich as one of the many players who has impressed so far this season.

“Nick Kukurich kinda came into the third base spot in Arizona. He’s been playing really well,” Summers said.

The fourth and fifth innings were also lucrative for the Pipers, as a number of singles from multiple players kept lighting up the scoreboard at CHS. The team combined for 14 hits and won the first game of the double-header 11-1.

In the second game, the Pipers did all of their scoring in the first two innings. Summers doubled and Benson hit a sacrifice fly for the first two runs. Summers then scored on a wild pitch that ended up being crucial in the end. Tormey scored the deciding run in the second inning when first-year catcher Cody Polzin singled to left.

Four pitchers for the Pipers did all they could to hold off the bat of UM-Morris junior catcher Chandler Erickson.  His 3-4 day at the plate led to all three of the runs scored by the Cougars, who nearly closed the 4-0 early lead the Pipers established. First-year pitcher Nate Rubbelke earned a two-inning save as Hamline won 4-3.

Benson talked about the importance of winning the first two home games of the season.

“It was a great feeling being able to sweep Morris.  We always want to win at home and started off just how we wanted to,” he said.

Summers described the way he wants this year to be different from the last.

“Last year our offense started off really slow, continuing what we’ve done since Arizona is gonna be huge,” he said.

The Pipers split a doubleheader away at Macalester on April 6 in which they won the first game, and Picht detailed the team’s mindset going into a two-game series against a conference opponent.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs. We just wanna have that mindset of winning the first game. The next game is always the most important, so if we lose that first one we wanna go out and get the next,” Picht said.

Summers also believes in this practical approach to games.

“One thing that we really focused on was not getting swept. If we don’t get swept all season we’ve got a good chance of making the playoffs,” Summers said.

With a strong start at their home field, the team is optimistic and multiple players expressed the fun they are having with a stadium that has T.V.s in the locker room and its own batting cages. Picht has relayed that into the way they view the game differently from others.

“We’re always battling. A lot of people say baseball is a game of failure. We say it’s a game of opportunity,” he said.

The Pipers next opportunity to win will be at CHS Field against Bethel on Wednesday, April 20.