Heading home from Lisle, IL, after Wednesday’s doubleheader, the baseball team had a bittersweet taste in its mouth.
Battling Benedictine University (13–10) in a twin bill, the Maroons (5–6) squeezed out the first game 4–3 before dropping the second to the Eagles 6–3.
The first game got off to a rough start for Chicago, as third-year right fielder Matt Brewer and second-year first baseman Kevin Ross hit back-to-back doubles to put the Eagles up 1–0 after the first inning.
After that burst of offense, however, the game became a pitchers’ duel between Maroon second-year Joseph Pankow (1–1) and Benedictine first-year Kip Simmerman (0–1).
Pankow was dominant, mixing up his pitches on the chilly day and holding Benedictine scoreless in five of the seven frames.
“[Pankow] pitched extremely well. He’s pitched well every time out, but this was the first time he was able to convert it into a win,” head coach Brian Baldea said.
Not to be outdone, Simmerman held the Maroons scoreless through their first five innings, surrendering only two hits along the way. He did so with control rather than power, striking out only one Maroon hitter on the day.
When the Eagles’ first-year hurler took the mound for the sixth inning, however, the tide turned.
The inning started off well for the Maroons, with third-year first baseman Kyle Schmitt singling up the middle. He was followed by second-year shortstop Rob Serpico, who doubled to left field, sending Schmitt to third.
Simmerman’s night spiraled out of control after that, and a balk, a passed ball, and a hit batsman set the table for first-year center fielder Kevin Holzberg, who drove in the go-ahead run on a single to left field. That spelled the end of the day for Simmerman, and he went to the dugout as second-year pitcher Dan Jedlowski came out to the mound.
Jedlowski was able to weather the storm, but not before third-year catcher Scott Hofer plated an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to right field. That put the Maroons up 3–1, a lead they would not relinquish.
The Maroons added one more the following inning when Schmitt was hit by a pitch and then scored on a passed ball, putting the team up by three.
Heading into the seventh and final frame, Baldea elected to stick with Pankow, who had been impressive at pitcher. The Eagles threatened, scoring two runs, but their hopes of an improbable comeback were dashed when first-year shortstop Bobby Voss popped up to fellow shortstop Serpico, ending the game and getting Pankow the W.
But with a chance to creep over the .500 mark on the season in the nightcap, the South Siders found it difficult to transfer the momentum they had built in the first game.
Things got off to a poor start for the Maroons, as Benedictine pounced on third-year pitcher Alex Gallan (1–1). The Eagles scored three runs in the first inning, thanks to an RBI single by Ross and a one-out RBI double by second-year left fielder Kevin Graham.
“[Benedictine] jumped ahead because we didn’t pitch well, and we didn’t play well defensively early in the second game,” Baldea said.
The Maroons’ bats had no response, and the team did not manage a run in the first six innings. Meanwhile, Benedictine continued to pour in runs, scoring once in the second, fourth, and fifth innings to give the Eagles a 6–0 lead.
“We had lots of opportunities to produce. A lot of guys came to the plate with chances to drive in runs—but it just didn’t happen,” Baldea said.
Chicago got on the board in the seventh when fourth-year third baseman Mike Serio singled and sent home two runners on a drive to center field. The Maroons added one more but still came up short, falling by a final score of 6–3.
Continuing their 2008 campaign this Sunday, the Maroons will host Kalamazoo (6–6) in a double-header. The Hornets have won their last four games, but their most striking performance may have come in their season opener March 20, when they beat hapless Great Lakes Christian College by an astounding total of 52–1.