Softball stuck in seesaw season

By Ben Jervis

Softball’s rocky 2008 campaign can be best described so far as a tale of two seasons, marked by bursts of dominance followed by dry spells.

Looking to establish some sort of consistency on the field and at the plate with their schedule approaching its end, the Maroons came out of their final set of games at home without the success or send-off for the seniors that they were looking for.

Hoping for a late season rebound with the .500 mark still technically in sight, Chicago (10–16) split a pair of matchups against Lake Forest (15­­­­–11), dropping the first game 10–6 before edging out a sorely needed 7–5 victory in the final inning of the nightcap to halt its four-game losing streak.

While they notched the “W” in the record book, the Maroons failed to dominate at any point across both games. The only consistent plays of the afternoon were a pair of leadoff home runs by third-year shortstop Jen Jacobson.

“We just couldn’t get it done,” said second-year second baseman Jill Lenson on the first game. “At this point, it’s really easy for us to get down on ourselves, but we’re working on changing that attitude.”

After Jacobson’s blast put the Maroons on the board to lead 1–0 in the opener, early solid pitching from second-year Lauren White (3–7, 7.42 ERA) kept the Foresters hitless through two frames. But everything came apart in the third inning, when White gave up five runs—only one of them earned—on three errors, including a wild pitch that sent Foresters second-year catcher Jill Pfund across the plate to put Chicago in a steep 5–1 hole.

Refusing to let the messy start shake their confidence, the Maroons answered back in the bottom of the inning, plating two runs on first-year third-baseman Jennifer Simile’s RBI single off of second-year Jeanette Andresen (6–2, 4.11).

Chicago showed signs of creeping back in the fourth. After White allowed only a single hit in the top of the inning, the Maroons tagged on another run in the bottom frame, scoring fourth-year first baseman Cassie Wierenga on classmate catcher Vanessa Pineros’s sac fly to center.

After a quiet fifth, it all came crashing down for the South Siders as the sixth inning got underway. The Foresters quickly loaded the bases, and second-year shortstop Tracey Rainey knocked in two with an RBI single, immediately followed by a three-run homer by fourth-year right fielder Christy Condon.

The long ball was the nail in the coffin for White, who was replaced on the mound by first-year righty Christy Corfias. After allowing a single to Forester second-year third baseman Mallory Norton, Corfias induced a 6–4–3 double play to end the five-run inning.

After the bloody frame, the Maroons managed to eke out two more runs on a two-run homer by first-year third-baseman Caitlin Romano, but it wasn’t enough to catch up with the visitors. A scoreless seventh sealed the loss.

“I guess it’s disappointing that when our offense has produced, we’ve made errors,” Pineros said. “But we’re not concerned with the errors, because we can get better about them.”

Jacobson’s leadoff blast in the nightcap put the Maroons on the board first for the second time, but again, they fell behind after the early lead. But this time, enthused by a late rally and backed by crisper glove work, the squad pulled out a win.

Going the distance for her fifth win of the season, second-year Kathleen Duffy (5–6, 4.57) gave up three earned runs on three hits in the second inning. Chicago answered back in the third with a two-run double by Lenson.

For the next two innings, the Foresters would stay one step ahead of the Maroons, scoring a run each inning, first on an error by White at third during the fourth, and then on a solo homer by Condon in the fifth. In the bottom of the fourth, White made up for the error with a double to plate Jacobson, tying things up at 4–4.

Entering the bottom of the sixth trailing Lake Forest by a run, 5–4, Chicago made its final push. With runners on second and third and one out, first-year Lori Knapp, who replaced Simile at left field before her first at-bat, rocketed a two-RBI double to knock Forester starter fourth-year Kendra Grant (6–6, 3.32) out of the game. First-year Gretchen Galasek took the mound to provide relief, only to give up a single and two successive walks, plating Knapp for the Maroons’ seventh run.

With a comfortable three-run lead, Duffy sealed Lake Forest’s fate with a one-two-three seventh, notching her second complete game in the past week.

“We’re taking it one out at a time, one pitch at a time, one at bat at a time, and not taking anything for granted,” Lenson said.

With six games across three road doubleheaders remaining, the Maroons will have to bring solid fieldwork together with stable pitching and offensive production in order to inch closer to the .500 mark. Facing the prospects of its first losing season in six years, it’s crunch time for Chicago.

“We’re excited, and we can definitely win all six [remaining games],” Pineros said. “We’re not looking at our record, but just focusing on each game.”