Inconsistency mars baseball’s home stretch

By Kate Fratar

[img id=”80572″ align=”alignleft”] Following a jam-packed weekend that included five games in three days, baseball is fast approaching the end of its season. Unfortunately, the extra time on the field hasn’t helped the Maroons iron out all the wrinkles that have given them trouble since returning to Hyde Park in April.

Going 1–4 this weekend, including a doubleheader sweep by playoff-hopeful DePauw (35–11) to close out the year at J. Kyle Anderson Field, the Maroons dropped to 9–17 overall. Their only win during the three days of play came in an 8–5 edging of Rockford College (24–16) Sunday.

“Since returning from Arizona, it just doesn’t seem like we’re able to put together a complete team effort,” fourth-year outfielder Mike Morgan said. “We’ve struggled to get consistent hitting, pitching, and defense on any given day….”

In the middle of the team’s losses, power hitting by fourth-year Nate Ginsberg and third-years Travis Blane and Scott Hofer, along with some solid pitching performances, helped to keep Chicago close to its opponents.

After driving his first home run of the season against Wheaton (23–12) Wednesday, Hofer followed up with a grand slam against Aurora (25–15) Friday. Ginsberg also went yard against the Spartans, while Blane roped his second dinger of the year with a two-run blast against Carthage (32–5) Sunday.

Despite boosts from Hofer’s, Ginsberg’s, and Blane’s bombs, the Maroons still struggled to stay ahead of their opponents. Against Aurora, Hofer’s slam gave the Maroons a 13–8 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Earlier in the game, Ginsberg sent one over the fence for two RBI and a 5–3 advantage in the third.

“The wind was blowing straight out toward the fence at Aurora, and the score certainly reflected the extreme weather conditions,” Morgan said. “The fact that we led pretty much throughout the game made the loss a particularly tough one.”

But Aurora scored three in its half of the seventh and added three more its next at bat to graze by Chicago 14–13. In a similar fashion, Blane’s homer helped the squad keep up in Sunday’s back-and-forth game against Carthage that Chicago ultimately dropped 11–9.

With the team down 2–0 after the first inning, Blane’s shot tied things up just when the Red Men were about to return to their dugout unscathed. Chicago had put two on the bases with no outs after collecting back-to-back walks to open the inning, but then Carthage brought Blane to the plate by getting two quick putouts, including a tag on a base runner. The outfielder knocked his other home run of the season in Concordia’s 17–7 trouncing of the Maroons back on April 2.

Against 19th-ranked DePauw, the Maroons got their two strongest outings from the mound of the weekend. Third-year starter Alex Gallan (1–4, 5.35 ERA) went the distance in the opener, getting tagged for the 7–2 loss after holding the Tigers to only a run through four innings.

Of the seven runs scored by DePauw, four were earned, and Gallan struck out five while walking one. First-year Marshall Oium (0–3, 5.73) took the hill for game two and had similar success early on, keeping DePauw scoreless through four with the help of some key defensive plays.

In the second, Ginsberg nailed his throw to the plate from right to catch a runner heading for home. Two innings later, Hofer got the second out of a bases-loaded jam by holding on to a foul ball popped up near the backstop as he hit the deck.

This weekend’s set of games was particularly rough for the Maroons, given the promise they showed in Wednesday’s 6–4 win over a Wheaton squad that averages 9.6 runs per game. But Chicago has a shot to wrap up the 2008 season on an upswing with a matchup at North Central (12–21) today and then at Illinois Tech (11–22) Friday.

“We have a very short season, and it’s hard to get in and out of rhythms,” Blane said. “If we played a three- or four-month season, we would have a lot more time to get into those rhythms. I don’t think this season has been an unproductive one.”