Early-season baseball is difficult and often inconsistent. The Wheaton College baseball team experienced some of that with early-season road trips but seems to have found its groove and is now riding a six-game winning streak.
Much of the recent success has come from the play of two players, sophomore shortstop Kyle Mellinger and senior pitcher Evan Rahn. The two were recognized as the CCIW hitter and pitcher of the week, respectively.
Over the last week Mellinger hit nearly .500, going 6 of 13 with 6 RBI and 8 runs scored. While the team is full of senior leaders with preseason All-America Trey Martin coming back from an injury-shortened 2013, and all-conference player Justin Swider also back, Mellinger has played a huge role and continued to be a key player for the Thunder.
"He has really come into his own this year," coach Matt Husted said. "Last year he had to carry the load a little bit. It wasn't something where he could be in the background and ride the train of everyone else. This year he has come out and had a great start."
The sophomore celebrated his birthday Saturday while helping the Thunder sweep a doubleheader. In the two games he racked up a pair of doubles and triples and now leads the team in both runs scored and slugging percentage. Husted said Mellinger, along with a number of teammates, is driving the ball and finding gaps right now. The team is hitting so well that it is forcing opposing outfields to play out of position, Husted said.
On the mound Rahn is securing his name on the short list of the best pitchers in program history. The senior ace is now 4-0 on the season, a record shared with only two other pitchers in Division III baseball. Against St. Mary's (Minn.) on Friday, Rahn struck out 8 over his 7 scoreless innings. His 24 strikeouts on the season leads the CCIW.
With his latest victory the senior became the second-winningest pitcher in program history with 18. This is the second time in his career that Rahn has been honored as the pitcher of the week.
"He's a guy that has had a really good career," Husted said. "Last year he was a hard-luck loser a lot. He had a good season but didn't get the numbers he could have. He's done a great job, he's a leader, a bulldog."
With the early part of its season done, the Thunder now prepares for local rival Benedictine on Thursday. The following day it will have a quick turnaround and start conference play against Augustana.
Husted said that with the team in a strong depth position and without any major injuries to worry about, he believes it is ready to contend with anyone.
"This year with more experience we are just in a better place," he said. "As a team we are looking forward to the challenge."
The road has been kind to the Elmhurst men's tennis team so far this season. The Bluejays have raced out to a 9-1 season start and won their last eight in a row.
After dominant trips throughout the Midwest and victories in their first two CCIW opportunities, the team has carried their streak south.
Elmhurst played its first of three contests in Orlando on Monday where it controlled the play against Calvin College, winning 9-0.
The Bluejays will play again Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando before returning next week.