Nolan Snyder's reaction was quite telling.
When it was mentioned he put together a string of quality at-bats Saturday during the Quincy University baseball team's doubleheader sweep of Missouri S&T, the junior center fielder deadpanned, "Finally."
Needless to say, those good at-bats were needed.
Snyder drove in the only run in a 1-0 victory in the nightcap at QU Stadium, driving a triple into the right field corner in the bottom of the seventh inning to score TJ Tamaccio from first base. He also had a single in a 10-2 victory in the opener as the No. 6 Hawks guaranteed themselves another series victory.
"(Freshman first baseman Lance Logsdon) and I have been talking about this hitting coach who says every day is opening day," Snyder said. "Every day should be an opening day mentality and that's what I tried to do today. I was able to put some good approaches together up there."
That wasn't the case earlier in the week.
In an 11-6 loss to Truman State on Wednesday, Snyder went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. It dropped his average to .248 with 33 strikeouts in 101 at-bats, and prompted QU coach Josh Rabe to bench him for the second game of that doubleheader. Snyder found himself back in the lineup Saturday, although he was batting in the No. 9 spot instead of the No. 2 hole.
But it worked. It put him more at ease and the Hawks hit the ball hard up and down the lineup.
"It's been a tough season, but I've tried to grind it out," Snyder said. "I've had some ups, had some downs. So him giving me that day off kind reset my mind. It was a tough game before that. It was kind of nice to come out here kind of fresh."
QU defense more than routine
The top fielding team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference provided 18 innings of errorless play by making more than just the routine play. The Hawks continually made the smart play.
For example, with the second game scoreless in the top of the seventh inning, the Miners were able to get runners to first and second with two outs against Hawks starter Nick Stroud. The senior right-hander induced Jason Volkmann to hit a hard grounder to the left side of the infield which shortstop Carter Naughton calmly fielded and threw to Tamaccio for an inning-ending forceout at third base.
In the first game, Logsdon made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory to end the third inning with a runner on second base. Second baseman Cody Birdsong made a couple of nice picks as well to throw out runners at first base.
All in all, the Hawks used 19 groundout and 13 flyouts to hold the Miners scoreless in 16 of 18 innings.
"To pitch in front of that defense is just awesome," said junior left-hander Riley Martin, who improved to 6-0 with the victory in the first game. "I have so much confidence knowing I can throw what I want, get the ground balls and we're going to make the play."
Martin and Stroud make it easy on the defense, too. They combined to throw strikes 62 percent of the time.
"You're on your toes all the time, you're not just sitting on your heels because it's ball one and ball two," Snyder said. "Those guys can sling it and they are very talented."
Hightower hitting for power
Jeff Hightower, the senior who splits time playing catcher and designated hitter, has found his groove. After belting two home runs in the first game Saturday, Hightower has five home runs in his last five games. He's hitting .381 over that stretch with eight RBIs. He currently has eight home runs -- one more than all of last season -- and is enjoying a .750 slugging percentage.
Run and gun
One of the most difficult teams to run against proved why yet again. Hawks catcher Jacob Kalusniak threw out 1 of 3 base stealers in the nightcap, limiting the effectiveness of the Miners' small-ball philosophy of manufacturing runs. It was the 10th runner Kalusniak has thrown out this season in 15 chances as the Hawks have gunned down nearly 75 percent of would-be base stealers overall.