2017 Earlham Baseball Recapping a Magical Season

Images of the Quakers celebrating an HCAC Tournament championship.

The 2017 Earlham College baseball team was the best in the 131-year history of the program. The Quakers won both the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's regular season and tournament titles, defeated the College of Wooster at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional for the College's first ever victory in an NCAA Division III Tournament contest, and concluded the year with a 30-14 overall record. This is their story.

Rewinding to the 2016 season, Earlham built upon a trip to the HCAC Tournament in 2015 by finishing third in the conference and qualifying for its second straight postseason.

The Quakers, who did not win a game in the 2015 HCAC Tournament, opened the 2016 postseason with a victory over Transylvania.

Ultimately, Earlham fell to champion Rose-Hulman on championship Saturday, ending the Quakers' 2016 season with a 29-14 record.

After the 2016 season ended in the HCAC Tournament, Earlham was determined to reach newer heights in 2017, and the HCAC coaches agreed as the Quakers were picked first in the annual Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Junior Kendal Baker high fives senior Brennan Laird after scoring a run against Olivet.

The Quakers struggled to open the season. After sweeping Sewanee during 2016, Earlham was swept in three games in Sewanee, Tennessee, while surrendering 31 runs over the series.

After a 20-11 victory over Olivet at Sadler Stadium that featured an 8-run seventh inning, the Quakers held a 9-4 lead over Heidelberg after four innings. The Student Princes then put up a dozen runs in the fifth inning and tallied 24 hits to defeat Earlham 20-14 on March 16.

Beginning the season at 1-4, Earlham bounced back with a sweep of Wilmington including a 10-0 shutout in game one.

After a walk-off win over Wittenberg, Earlham opened the HCAC season at defending champion Rose-Hulman on March 24. The two teams split the doubleheader in a pair of one-run games, but the Quakers bested the Fightin' Engineers with an 11-5 win in the series finale.
Earlham faced Franklin in a three-game series at Sadler Stadium on March 31 and April 1.

With the Quakers' HCAC record at 2-1, Earlham improved to 3-1 after a win over Bluffton in the midweek, but lost 2-of-3 to Franklin at Sadler Stadium. Those two losses would be the last home defeats of the year.

Assistant coach Brandon Pennington and junior Kendal Baker during the Quakers' 8-3 win over Bluffton on April 4.

Earlham rebounded to defeat Bluffton for the seventh consecutive time, but a series loss at Manchester put the Quakers' conference title hopes in doubt. Standing at 6-5 in the HCAC, Earlham set to embark on nine-game road trip, and what happened on that road trip turned the entire season around.

The Quakers opened the road trip with a 5-1 triumph over Mount St. Joseph, and after taking a road series at Defiance, Earlham edged MSJ once again (8-7) for its 11th consecutive midweek HCAC win.
Senior Cody Krumlauf and freshman Kyle Gorman high five their teammates after a victory over Bluffton.

Standing at 15-10 overall and 10-6 in the HCAC, the Quakers concluded their road swing with a series sweep of Anderson on the road. Earlham returned home for a 9-1 win over Bluffton.

After a non-conference loss at Wittenberg, the Quakers continued their pursuit of a conference championship by sweeping Transylvania in three games at Sadler Stadium, a team Earlham lost both regular season games to in 2016.

Another victory over Mount St. Joseph (10-1) gave the Quakers their second consecutive season sweep of the Lions, and put Earlham within one wins of a conference title.

Earlham opened the final regular season series with a 6-0 shutout win over Hanover, clinching the HCAC regular season title for the Quakers!

And closed the regular season with a 4-3 win over Hanover, marking Earlham's 12th straight HCAC victory.

With the regular season championship, Earlham earned the right to host the 2017 HCAC Tournament at Randal R. Sadler Stadium.
Earlham faced Rose-Hulman in the first game of the HCAC Tournament.

Fittingly, Earlham opened the 2017 HCAC Baseball Tournament against the team that ended the Quakers' season in 2016 - defending champions Rose-Hulman. After Earlham plated a run in the bottom of the first, the Fightin' Engineers scored three in the top of the second. The Quakers battled back to tie the game with a run in both the second and third innings.

Neither team scored for the next four innings until Rose-Hulman got runners on the corners with one out. SophomoreWalter Talcott entered the game for Earlham and closed the door with a pop out and a strikeout.

After two more scoreless innings, senior Brennan Laird reached base via an error, and freshman Danny Dopp singled home Laird for a walk-off victory.

Earlham next faced Manchester in a winner's bracket game of the HCAC Tournament.

After losing the regular season series to the Spartans, the Quakers opened up the game with a run in the first and a three-run fourth.

Manchester got two runs back in the fifth, but a four-run sixth inning gave Earlham the win and a berth in the HCAC Tournament championship round.

This time around, Earlham won the winner's bracket, meaning the Quakers needed to defeat Mount St. Joseph once on championship Saturday.

Earlham plated a single run in the second, third, and fourth innings while MSJ scored two in the fifth. Leading 3-2, the Quakers padded their lead with and RBI-single from senior Matt Barger in the sixth and a sacrifice fly from senior Nate Lynch in the eighth. Walter Talcott then shut down the Lions in the ninth to give Earlham the 2017 HCAC Tournament title.

Freshman Colin Greve earned the victory, allowing two earned runs and striking out three in five innings of work.

Kendal Baker, a Richmond native and Richmond High School alumnus, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Head coach Steve Sakosits talks with RadioTroy on the winning the HCAC Tournament title.

Earlham opened its first NCAA Division III Mideast Regional in school history against Wooster at Washington & Jefferson (W&J) in Washington, Pennyslyvania.

Wooster, ranked No. 1 in the region, came in with the top-ranked offense in the country. Further, the Scots were 27-1 all-time against the Quakers as Wooster is a current North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) member and Earlham was in the NCAC from 1989-2010.

Earlham embraced the underdog role, defeating Wooster 6-2 for both the program and the College's first win in an NCAA Division III Tournament event. Senior Howie Smith earned the win, allowing two earned runs in seven innings.

Earlham faced host W&J in the next game, and fell to the eventual national runners-up. The following day, the Quakers ended their season with a 5-0 loss to perennial national power SUNY Cortland.

The postseason awards rolled in for the Quakers after the historic season. Earlham swept the HCAC postseason awards along with having several individuals garner recognition from the American Baseball Coaches' Association (ABCA) and D3Baseball.com.

Along with the postseason honors, the Quakers broke eight career records in 2017.

Eric Elkus broke the career runs batted in (RBI), home runs, and at bats records. He finished his Earlham career with 128 RBIs, 26 home runs, and 571 at bats
Nate Lynch concluded his Earlham career as the program leader in hits (192), run s(138), and stolen bases (87). He also led all of NCAA Division III in stolen bases as a senior (47).
Howie Smith finished his Quaker career with 26 wins, the best in program history. Smith led the pitching staff with nine wins in 2017.
Despite playing for Earlham for only three seasons, Brennan Laird left the program as its career leader in walks with 98.
"I'm so proud of our kids. I'm proud of our seniors. I'm proud of the guys that were with us last year when we came up short [of a conference title]. We've had goals: from when we first took this program over to where we are now to what our next step is. It takes people believing in our vision as a program to achieve those goals. This team believed." - Head coach Steve Sakosits

Earned Not Given.

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