Despite offensive revival, baseball drops two of three

By Joe Katz

The Maroons aren’t out of the woods yet, but third-year starter Dan Yeksigian did his part to clear a path through the lumber.

Yeksigian started the weekend off right, striking out 14 and giving up just two runs over the full distance to lead baseball (6-14) to a 7-2 win over North Central at home Friday. Unfortunately, Chicago couldn’t keep things going, dropping both ends of the doubleheader against Rockford 8-0, 10-8 Sunday. The home team gave up eight unearned runs on eight errors on the afternoon, and Maroon pitchers issued 10 walks between the two games.

On Friday, Yeksigian (2-3, 4.21) showed a little more control against the Cardinals (10-13), walking three, hitting one, and giving up just five hits in piecing together one of the year’s best pitching performances for Chicago.

“Dan dominated on the mound. It was an outstanding outing,” head coach Brian Baldea said. “He had everyone behind and off-balance all game.”

It was Yeksigian’s third complete game of the year, and his first victory since he struck out 10 in 9 innings in a 13-2 whitewashing of Western Connecticut State March 24.

“He brought everything with him. He had velocity, and kept his breaking ball down and sharp in the strike zone,” Baldea said. “He’s got a nice fastball, and when he locates it, it’s a nasty pitch. When he can cut that pitch, it looks like a fastball until it’s too late. It’s very impressive.”

The third-year was aided by some critical two-out RBI, as third-year catcher Chris Kocinski (2), first-year right fielder Mike Serio, third-year designated hitter Ryan Denton, and fourth-year first baseman Justin Garrett all came up with two-out hits to account for six of the team’s seven runs.

The stream of big hits had dried up by noon on Sunday, as the Maroons could only get six men on base in the first game against the Regents (15-11-1).

“Our bats just went cold,” Garrett said. “We were facing their ace, and he mixed in his off-speed pitches for strikes. I think that we should have touched him up more than we did, but sometimes a pitcher just gets the best of you.”

Denton had the bulk of the team’s offensive production on the day, going two-for-three. It wasn’t nearly enough to rescue fourth-year starting pitcher Matt Altomare (1-3, 8.22), who started off with three scoreless frames before allowing the first four batters he faced in the fourth to reach first. All of them came around to score, as Altomare was eventually charged with six runs on eight hits and three walks over five and two-thirds.

“In both of the Sunday games our pitchers started well, but once one thing didn’t go well, they spiraled down quickly,” Baldea said. “We started walking far too many, and we provided Rockford with many more opportunities to get good swings in than we had earlier.”

The staff wasn’t helped by sloppy defensive play in the second game, as fourth-year starter Dan Harrington (1-3, 6.29) couldn’t work his way around two errors in the third and another in the fourth. Harrington gave up six runs, five unearned over the two frames.

The Maroons did put up a fight, however, plating five runs in the fifth to bring the score to 9-6. In the sixth inning, Chicago added another two runs on fourth-year centerfielder Frank Brown’s RBI single and Serio’s subsequent triple scored him.

A hit by pitch and walk loaded the bases with the Maroons down one with one out, and Baldea signaled for fourth-year catcher T.J. Rajcevich to lay down a suicide squeeze bunt. Rajcevich missed the new pitcher’s knuckleball, however, leaving Serio caught stealing at home. On the next pitch, Rajcevich hit a sinking liner that was grabbed by the second baseman for out three. Chicago hitters went down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

Serio paced the Maroons at the plate, going two-for-two with two walks, three RBI, and a run scored. Brown also gave the Regents something to think about, nailing two hits in two at bats and working a walk to add two RBI and two runs to the cause.

Brown also went one-for-three with a walk and a run scored against North Central, improving his batting average to .233. The outfielder had been struggling early in the season but has gone 9-for-20 over the past six games with three of his six RBI.

“Like some others, Frank is starting to stay back longer and swinging with more confidence, and as a result he’s getting better reads on pitch location,” Baldea said.

The Maroons travel to Wheaton (9-19) today for an afternoon game. Second-year righty Dan Cozzi (2-0, 9.24) will make his second start of the season against the Thunder, who have lost six straight.

Cozzi went the distance in his last start, beating the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 5-3 March 23.