Hope springs eternal as squad heads to FL to train

Optimistic Chicago baseball will head to Florida in the next few weeks to play a bunch of games in preparation for the 2014 season.

By Adam Freymiller

Opening day is right around the corner. Chicago was supposed to take the field for the first time in 2014 this week against the UIC Flames (4–6), in a rematch of the 2013 season opener, but the game has been cancelled. While the Maroons have lost a few key contributors from last year, such as outfielder and pitcher Jack Cinoman (A.B. ’13), who holds the school records for hits and triples, they have assembled a well-balanced roster filled with a solid mixture of defensive steel, offensive firepower, veteran leadership, and raw youth.

Chicago will look to continue the offensive success from last season, when they batted .351 as a team, the second-best average nationwide, and collectively posted a .480 slugging percentage. While they have a number of intimidating hitters, including third-year infielder Kyle Engel, who led Chicago the previous season with 43 RBIs and five homers, and fourth-year infielder Dylan Massey, who batted an impressive .382 with 30 runs, the team will focus on defensive improvements to complement its offense.

“We have been a high scoring team the past several years, and we’ve put up some lofty offensive numbers. With the graduation of several of the most prolific hitters in school history over the past couple of years, we expect to depend more upon our ability to stop our opponents from having big innings this year,” head coach Brian Baldea said.

In last year’s matchup against the Flames, the Maroons lost 15–6. Chicago played extremely competitively against its DI opponent and only trailed 8–6 by the middle of the eighth before surrendering seven runs in the bottom half of the inning. It’s expected that the Maroons will pose a steep challenge against any DI outfit, especially with key players like Engel, Massey, and fourth-year relief pitcher Ray Kim (15 appearances, 2.66 ERA).

Although the game against UIC isn’t happening anymore, this team has the belief that it could win against UIC.

“We were right there with them last year up until the last innings and expect to compete again this year . We certainly have the talent to win. It is simply a matter of going out on the field and putting it all together,” said fourth-year outfielder Connor Bartelman.

While it’s still early in the season, the team is predominantly focused on the big picture.

“Our team has worked hard this offseason. Up and down the roster, every man has put forth a great effort to not only improve himself but to improve each other. I think this will pay dividends throughout the season and puts us in a great position to be successful,” said third-year outfielder Eddie Akers.

To actually open the season, the Maroons will fly south to Florida, where they will battle Amherst, Union, St. Olaf, Colby, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, and Thomas in a series of doubleheaders throughout spring break.