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Chicago is coming home after that long road trip. On Sunday, they split a doubleheader with University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (19–5) in their penultimate regular season away game.
“Whitewater is always a strong team,” coach Ruth Kmak said. “Their number eight ranking speaks to the talent they have.”
However, the team felt that Whitewater was beatable. “I’m pretty disappointed with our split with Whitewater,” second-year Samantha Hobson said. “We definitely should have beat them; they were not a better team.”
In the first game, All-American pitcher, senior Jessica Stang, threw a three-hit shutout for Wisconsin while Chicago’s Kim Cygan allowed just two runs on three hits. The Maroons’ bats could not get much aluminum on the ball, striking out seven times in the process.
However, Cygan kept them in the game, matching Stang virtually inning for inning and tallying six K’s of her own. Whitewater got an early run when first-year center-fielder Amanda Ramirez got on with a single, promptly stole second, and was brought around on an RBI single by second-year catcher Emily Epifanio. Epifanio would later add a solo shot for insurance as Wisconsin closed out the 2-0 victory.
“We regrouped in between the games and simply stated, ‘We will win this next game,’” Kmak said. “We committed to winning it.”
The bats for UChicago certainly came alive in the second game of the doubleheader, with the Maroons collecting nine hits. Hobson, Sara Whaley, and Maddie McManus each contributed two RBIs, with Hobson’s and McManus’s coming via homers in a big four run fourth. This time the run support enabled Melissa Collins to record the win after pitching a superb shutout with two punchouts and allowing just four hits.
“I don’t think it was the difference in pitching in the second game, but rather our focus and intensity,” Hobson said. “After we lost the first game, we came out harder and stronger than ever.”
“Our execution was lacking in both the loss and the win,” Kmak said. “[But] we overcame our lack of execution in the win with some big hits from Sara Whaley and Sam Hobson, in addition to Maddie McManus’s first career home run.
“Kim Cygan, who pitched the first game, really did a great job shutting down the Whitewater hitters with help from our strong defensive play,” Collins said. “So I knew in the second game that the defense was behind me ready to make the big plays in order to get us out of tough innings.”
“We recognize, though, that it should not take a loss for that intensity to emerge, and we’re working on that,” Hobson said. “We definitely need to work on our small ball for games when all of our shots seem to go straight to the other players’ gloves.”
“We are capable and will improve [our execution] moving forward,” Kmak said. “The team is focused moving forward and committed to finding a way to win the close games.”
With this doubleheader out of the way, the Maroons will be on the road only once more this season. “It will be nice to play at home following 22 games on the road!” Kmak said. “[Though] I don’t think the road games have worn on us psychologically.”
The Maroons look forward to a five-game homestand starting with Wheaton today. “I am looking forward to our upcoming slate of home games, beginning with Wheaton,” Kmak said. “Wheaton traditionally plays us tough, so our home opener looks to be a competitive matchup.”