Sports shorts 4/20/07: Baseball gets knicked late in pitchers’ duel

By Kate Fratar

Playing back-to-back days, baseball got a double dose of late-inning blues as the team struggled to follow up two strong starts and continued its four-game losing streak.

In just their third home appearance of the year, the Maroons (8–11) came within a run of 26th-ranked Carthage (17–8, 9–2 CCIW) before things unraveled in the final at bats and ended in the lopsided 13–6 loss Tuesday. The squad turned around and hit the road to take on North Park (12–15), where it suffered another last-minute pull away, with the Vikings coming out on top of a 2–1 pitcher’s duel.

On the hill at J. Kyle, fourth-year Dan Cozzi took a couple of trips out to the mound to settle into a grove against the Red Men. The visitors collected six runs through the first four innings against the righty, capitalizing on some errors in the field and wildness from Cozzi for the lead. From there, the veteran retired the next nine batters he faced in order before running into trouble again in the eighth and getting relieved by fourth-year southpaw Rob Wilson.

While limited offense has been a nagging concern for the Maroons this season, the squad found its stroke against Carthage, putting the ball in play and benefiting from the Red Men’s six errors on the day. Only one of Chicago’s runs was earned, and the team came closest to completely closing the gap in the fifth.

With some well-timed singles up the middle by fourth-year second basemen and second-year first baseman Kyle Schmitt and a pair of botched plays by fourth-year shortstop Jose Alba, the squad neared a comeback at 6–5 with four more at bats remaining.

Then the wheels came off the cart in the eighth, with Carthage scoring three runs and adding another four in the ninth to put the game permanently out of reach. Even though Zitek’s double to right center in the eighth chipped in another run, it wasn’t enough to catch up with the Red Men, and the Maroons got tagged with the 13–6 loss.

Looking for the quick turnaround, Chicago got on the board early against the Vikings. Leading off the second with back-to-back singles from fourth-year third baseman Allen Cooper and Schmitt, the Maroons loaded the bases when third-year center fielder Nate Ginsberg reached on an error by the pitcher. Cooper scored on a fielder’s choice to get Schmitt at third for the 1–0 lead.

North Park responded in the bottom half of the inning with a run to tie it against second-year Alex Gallan (1–2, 3.65). After the small offensive spurt, Gallan and Tom Neckopulos (1–3, 4.45) entered into a tight pitcher’s duel, with both starters going the distance. Gallan scattered five hits, fanned two and handed out just one walk over eight innings.

Back-to-back doubles in the sixth by the Vikings broke the deadlock and went unanswered by the Maroons. Down 2–1, Chicago had a chance to tie it in the seventh when Ginsberg singled, stole second, and second-year right fielder Travis Blane walked with two outs. Promptly squashing the possible rally, Neckopulos got fourth-year designated hitter John Thomas to strike out.

Next up for the squad is Saturday’s doubleheader at J. Kyle against Domincan (9–13) followed by another twinbill at Elmhurst (9–13). The matchup with the Blue Jays kicks of a six-game road trip that ends up with a four-game set in St. Louis.