Baseball relieved to get back to winning ways

By Joe Katz

For the second time in five days, Dan Yeksigian stopped a losing streak dead in its tracks.

When Wheaton refused to go quietly on their home field, the third-year righty came in and provided an overpowering relief stint with two outs in the fifth, silencing the Thunder the rest of the way. Yeksigian gave up one run on one hit and four walks over four-and-a-third to clinch the 11-6 win for Chicago baseball Tuesday.

The Maroons (7-14) had dropped both ends of a doubleheader Sunday. Their last winning effort was a 7-2 victory over North Central April 15. Yeksigian (3-3, 3.98) threw a five-hitter to stymie the Cardinals, giving up two runs and striking out 14. At that point, the team had lost its previous game and 9 of its last 10.

The top of the lineup showed no signs of being fazed by the team’s struggles, as fourth-year shortstop Steve Ruh (1-5, 1 BB, 2 RBI, 1 R) ripped a double to left field to drive in fourth-year catcher T.J. Rajcevich and third-year designated hitter Ryan Denton before the team recorded its first out.

Wheaton came back to tie things back up in the bottom of the inning with a single, a walk, and an RBI double against second-year righty Dan Cozzi (2-0, 8.83), but in what would become a trend, the Maroons charged ahead again with an RBI double from Rajcevich (3-4, 1 BB, 1 RBI, 1 R). Chicago picked up Cozzi and Yeksigian by responding with at least one run in every inning after a Wheaton score.

Cozzi continued to live dangerously, allowing runs in the fourth and fifth on wild pitches and following up his fifth-inning miscue by hanging a fastball to Thunder third-year infielder Brandon Sharpe, knotting the game at five and ending his afternoon. Yeksigian forced second-year outfielder Neil Sternberg to ground out to second and took control of the game from there. Though three straight walks to open the eighth threatened to mar his outing, he dug his way out of the jam, getting an RBI fielder’s choice and a double play. Yeksigian at one point struck out five straight batters.

The fourth-year has now recorded 47 strikeouts on the season, tops for the pitching staff.

The team chipped away for four runs in the top of the sixth to give Yeksigian all the support he needed, keyed by RBI smashes from fourth-years first baseman Justin Garrett and left fielder Mike Costello. Garrett had a single, a double, and a triple on the day, but missed the cycle with a popup to second on his final at bat in the ninth.

Second-year Tony Zitek also had a notable day at the plate, getting all of a first-pitch fastball and sending it over the left field wall for his first homer of the season to lead off the ninth inning.

After struggling early, the Maroons continued their recent tear on offense. With 14 hits and 6 walks on the day, the team’s on-base percentage is now up to .379. Chicago has averaged 7.6 runs per game over their past eight, improving their season average to 5.4. The team scored just 4.1 runs per game over their first 13.

The team starts a busy stretch tomorrow, opening a four-day, six-game stand. Yeksigian and fourth-year righty Dan Harrington (1-3, 6.29) will likely start for the Maroons Saturday as they host Aurora (21-5) in a doubleheader.

Chicago travels to Milwaukee for a pair against the Milwaukee School of Engineering (10-16) Sunday, then heads north again for another doubleheader against North Park (1-26) Tuesday.