Judah Newby | Assistant Sports Editor
The Wheaton Thunder baseball team enters the final weekend of the regular season on the outside looking in to the postseason party. However, not all hope is lost. With a 9-9 CCIW record, Wheaton currently sits in fifth place in the conference, two games behind Illinois Wesleyan, who sit in fourth at 11-7, as well as North Central (11-7), North Park (12-6) and Augustana (12-6). The Thunder enter a three-game series with North Park beginning this afternoon in Chicago and finishing with a home doubleheader tomorrow at Lee Pfund Stadium.
Wheaton still holds the key to determine their playoff fate based upon the results of this weekend. Should the Thunder win each of the three games with North Park, they will assure themselves of a top-four finish. Anything less than that, however, will put Wheaton at the mercy of other conference results involving North Central versus Carthage and/or Illinois Wesleyan versus Elmhurst. The Thunder must win at least twice this weekend in order to stay alive, and even then can make the postseason only if either Illinois Wesleyan or North Central suffer a sweep at the hands of their respective opponents.
The team does boast a two-game winning streak heading into this weekend thanks to a pair of non-conference victories over Benedictine University. Wheaton took the first matchup in Carol Stream on Tuesday, winning 11-1 behind the offensive fireworks of senior Trey Martin and freshman Johnny Peltz, each of whom homered and tripled in the win. Sophomore Kyle Mellinger added a 2-for-4 plate performance himself, collecting three RBI in the process. Freshman John Schmitz was solid on the mound, going seven innings while scattering six hits and walking three but allowing just one run.
Wheaton grabbed another win over Benedictine about 24 hours later in Lisle, winning by a score of 6-4. The Thunder outhit the Eagles 13-7, and, after jumping out to a 5-2 lead after three innings, were able to hold off a late rally from the home team for the win. Senior Justin Swider was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the victory, while Peltz once more impressed at the plate with a 2-for-5 effort and a pair of RBIs of his own. Sophomore Josh Arevalo got credit for the win in his six innings of work, while sophomore Tom Bishop earned the save by pitching the final three innings of the contest and holding off the Benedictine charge.
Wheaton now has an overall record of 21-16 with a 9-9 CCIW mark. The Thunder are hoping to return to the CCIW Tournament for the second time in as many seasons, having appeared last season as the 4-seed with a 10-11 conference mark in what was Head Coach Matt Husted’s rookie season. First pitch this afternoon against North Park is set for 7 p.m., with tomorrow’s doubleheader set to begin at 1 p.m.