Despite some early setbacks over the weekend, the Maroons, braced by their second-year ace Melissa Collins, still finished strong for the season with a sweep on Sunday.
The games were accompanied by a bevy of bratwurst and hot dogs, as the Order of the C and WAA teamed up on Sunday to present Sausage Fest. The attempt at bringing more students out to the game worked. In all, eighty-five students, staff, and faculty were in attendance, about twice more than the Maroons’ average attendance of 39.
Things were not looking so rosy on a murky Thursday afternoon as the Maroons looked slightly lost against flame-thrower Vlasta Mangia of North Central. She allowed only four hits to the Chicago side, which was shielded somewhat by three hits from Julia Schneider. The North Central crew seized control of the scoreboard with a three-run third inning.
The Maroons’ poor offensive showing may have been due in part to some lingering health issues. “Unfortunately, going into North Central, the team wasn’t incredibly healthy overall,” explained head coach Ruth Kmak. “We came out as strong as we could, but we had people playing through some illnesses and it affected us.”
“Going into the North Central game, we knew that they were a really well-coached and disciplined team,” said Kaitlyn Carpenter. “During that game, North Central definitely came out stronger than us with their bats, which hurt us a lot.”
“Their pitching kept us off-balance. However, we really ran ourselves out of a couple of quality scoring opportunities,” added Kmak. “We would like to have that game back with a healthy mind-set going in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.” Chicago will have a second chance to take on North Central. The second game of the doubleheader last Thursday was postponed, but is being replayed today with the Maroons at full strength.
On Saturday against Illinois Wesleyan, it was the Kim Cygan show, as she threw 11 consecutive scoreless innings over the course of the doubleheader. Cygan also won the early game with a complete game one-hitter. The Maroons lineup collected seven hits for the one run victory, 1—0.
In the evening game, Cygan started and continued her dominant ways, whipping the Wesleyans for four innings. But Illinois Wesleyan overtook Chicago on the scoreboard and pounded out seven hits for three runs for a 3—0 victory.
“Especially against Illinois Wesleyan, we knew we needed to come out with a lot of energy to rebound from our loss from North Central,” resolved Cygan.
“The first Illinois Wesleyan game, we were hitting well, but they were scattered throughout the game. We weren’t able to successfully chain hits together and score runs like we usually do. Our defense really helped us that game. Everyone was making incredible plays and Illinois Wesleyan wasn’t able to score. [But in the second game], they played the game the way we should have,” said Carpenter.
“In the second game against IWU, we started getting on the pitcher toward the end, but then ran out of innings,” said Kmak.
The Maroons finished up the season on Sunday against Beloit. Second-year Melissa Collins got in on the pitching act with a shutout of her own in the first game. The Maroons’ offense rapped out a few doubles and powered themselves to a 4—0 victory.
The second game of the doubleheader started with a quick burst of fire from Beloit but they were stymied the rest of the way. The Maroons collected runs in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to close out a 4—1 win.
“Over the weekend, we came back in a positive manner,” said Kmak. “Both IWU and Beloit had interesting mixes of pitchers that can keep teams off-balance. Fortunately, in three of the four games, we were able to catch up to them and score.”
It would all be lost without a few strong players like Cygan, who pitched over 15 scoreless innings over the weekend. “Cygan really showed up this weekend,” said Kmak. “She did an excellent job, along with our senior catcher/designated hitter Sara Whaley. Sara has come up with some big RBI’s all year when we needed them.”
For now, the Maroons will play the waiting game to see if the NCAA committee will grant them a postseason bid. That announcement will come on Monday.
The Maroons also have a make-up game against North Central today, which will truly be the last game of this regular season. Said Carpenter afterwards, “I want to show them the real Chicago softball team and not the one that showed up for Thursday’s game. We owe them that.”