May has not been kind to Chicago baseball.
In six games following its tripleheader sweep of UAA rival Wash U at the end of April, Chicago (15–11–1) has managed only a 1–4–1 record. The four losses include three in a row at home, where the Maroons had previously been undefeated. The lone win resulted from a split doubleheader against North Central on Tuesday evening. The tie came when Wednesday’s 12-inning marathon game against Robert Morris was called at a score of 13–13 due to darkness.
This weekend, the team heads to Rockford (18–15) for a doubleheader on Friday before returning to Chicago on Sunday for a game against Illinois Tech (11–22) at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox.
Much of the team’s rough start to May has been due to poor pitching. Chicago pitchers gave up an average of 10 hits during its four-game losing streak.
“Our pitching has not been as strong as it has been, and that told the whole story,” said third-year pitcher Alex Garcia. “The lone victory came with solid pitching performances, and the three losses did not.”
Chicago must get back on track and win its three remaining games in order to have a chance of advancing to the playoffs. The weekend presents an opportunity for the team to recover from its recent losing streak, as well as a chance to gain some perspective on the 2011 season.
“Friday’s games against Rockford will provide the kind of test that our team has been preparing for the whole season,” fourth-year pitcher Dan McConologue said. “They always bring an aggressive team that can hit and won’t hesitate to run. They embody the typical CCIW [College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin] team that will be talented up and down the lineup and will take advantage of any mistakes made against them. That is why I am confident the Maroons will be ready for them,” McConologue concluded.
“We feel like we’ve had some games slip away that we could have won, so we want to finish the season strong,” first-year first baseman Claude Lockhart said. “We set our expectations high, and I think we played better than our record indicates. We are one of the best hitting teams in the nation, and got numerous outstanding performances out of our pitching staff.”
Late losses have plagued the Maroons this season. Chicago held a lead in five of its 11 losses this season, only to relinquish its advantage late in the games.
“We dropped some close games with Benedictine and Wheaton (both CCIW conference members) early in the season where we were ahead pretty much the whole game and slipped up late in the game,” McConologue said. “We have come a long way on the mound and on defense since the beginning of the season. We have also seen a lot of positive things from veterans and the younger guys alike—and I have no doubt that if we play our game and make the plays that we should make that we can beat anybody at the Division-III level.”
Chicago will play the penultimate game of its season at U.S. Cellular Field against Illinois Tech. The Maroons look forward to playing in a Major League stadium, and the game will be an excellent experience for underclassmen and seniors alike.
“I’m extremely excited to play at the Cell,” Lockhart said. “This will be my first time playing in an MLB venue, and it’s certainly a blessing to get this opportunity. This is a game we’ve been especially looking forward to, and we will do whatever it takes to win.”
McConologue added, “The Illinois Tech game is exciting for all the guys on the team…I personally have never played in a Major League stadium, and am looking forward to the opportunity. As a senior, with few games left in my career, I can’t think of any better way to wrap up the regular season.”