Caleb Pollema — Staff Writer
Last week, the Dordt University baseball and softball teams travelled to Florida for a week-long trip in final preparation for conference play beginning on March 19.
The Defender baseball team entered the trip with a 3-5 record. They kicked off their road stretch on Saturday, March 5, with two wins over Trinity Baptist College from Jacksonville, Florida by scores of 7-3 and 18-5.
Dordt continued to build off that momentum on Monday where they won a tight game in extra innings over NCAA Division II opponent, Saginaw Valley State, from Michigan. In the second game of the day, the Defenders fell in a close game to Weber International University by a final of 4-2.
The Defenders continued play on Tuesday and split a doubleheader with Warner Southern University. The win came in a dramatic fashion with Connor Hommes’ first career home run—a walk-off solo shot that give the squad the victory.
On Wednesday, Dordt left to Southeastern University, the number one ranked team in the NAIA, for a single game. Unfortunately, the Fire proved to be too much for Dordt, and the Defenders dropped the contest.
Thursday brought another single game after a change in game schedule. The Defenders again dropped a game to Thomas University out of Georgia.
Dordt finished play on Friday with another loss to Thomas and a loss to number 15 Keiser University. The Defenders concluded the trip with a 4-6 record and a 7-11 record overall.
“I hope the team builds on the hitting and the start of the Florida trip,” said senior outfielder and designated hitter, Lucas Nelson. “We were blessed with an opportunity to play some very good collegiate teams. I hope we can carry over some of the momentum from early in the trip.”
Despite the rough end to the trip, the Defenders are excited to begin conference play and are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to showcase the work that conference opponents have not seen in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m excited to do some real damage in the GPAC this year,” Nelson said. “A lot of teams will probably be overlooking us, and it will be nice to give them surprise when we play them.”
The Defenders will head to Dakota Wesleyan for a doubleheader to open conference play on Friday, March 19, and will return home the following day for their first conference doubleheader in over two years.
Dordt’s softball team began the trip to Florida with a 7-3 record and a five-game winning streak.
They opened the trip on Saturday with two wins against Calumet and Spring Arbor to extend the winning streak to seven games.
However, the momentum was short-lived with losses to Bellevue University and the University of Northwestern Ohio on Monday. The Defenders would not fare much better on Tuesday with losses to William Penn and Warner.
The losing skid extended to six in a row after falling to Florida National on Wednesday by a final of 1-0, despite giving up only two hits. In the second game of the day, the Defenders suffered a 10-4 loss to Keiser University.
On Thursday, the Defenders finally flipped the script and broke the six-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over Bellevue University.
Dordt pitcher Abby Kraemer, threw a no-hitter with seven strikeouts against Bellevue.
“Initially, I did not realize that it was a no-hitter,” Kraemer said. “After coach told me it was pretty exciting. The team was very excited for me which feels even better.”
Dordt fell to St. Thomas in Thursday’s second game to conclude the day.
On the final day of play in Florida, the Defenders would fall to Ave Maria, 3-1, in the first game, but bounced back the with a 1-0 victory over Calumet in the second game of the doubleheader.
Dordt finished the trip with a 4-8 record and an 11-11 record overall. The Defenders will return home to play two against Dickinson State in their final non-conference matchup of the year before beginning conference play against Dakota Wesleyan at home on March 20.
“I am most excited to see the growth from this point forward,” Kraemer said. “We have a lot of depth in every position. With some struggles coming to light in Florida, I am to see what we do to change that and ultimately make some noise in the GPAC.”
Both the baseball and softball teams are eager to begin conference play after their seasons were previously cut short due to the pandemic.