SPORTS

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April 15, 2003

Baseball rolls over Case Western with sweep

After a week off due to rainouts, the Maroons roared back into action this weekend, beating Case Western Reserve University four times in double-headers on Saturday and Sunday. The four straight wins improve the team?s overall record to an outstanding 13?3.

This weekend?s success was fueled by some incredible offensive efforts. The Maroons racked up a total of 44 runs and 45 hits during the four game stand. Despite such prolific numbers, there were still several moments when victory seemed in doubt. Sloppy infield defense and shaky pitching allowed Case Westernto score 24 runs of their own in the two twin-bills, but Chicago?s powerful bats eventually won the day.

In Saturday?s first game the Maroons entered the bottom of the fourth inning with a slim 6 to 5 lead. First-year first baseman Chris Kocinski led off the inning with a walk, and fourth-year outfielder Sam Kass, who had been mired in an early season slump, quickly followed with a homerun. From there the flood-gates opened, and Chicago added on eight more runs in the inning. The Maroons batted around, and Kass finished the inning with four RBIs and two runs scored. Third-year designated hitter Tracey Neubrand was also explosive in the fourth, adding two hits and three RBIs. The 10-run frame was the Maroons? largest single inning output of the season and spurred the team on to an easy 18?8 victory. Also outstanding in the game was second-year outfielder Steve Ruh, who contributed three hits and three RBIs.

The back end of Saturday?s double-header proved to be no walk in the park. With the staff ace, fourth-year captain George Schade on the mound, head coach Brian Baldea elected to rest several of his veterans and field a starting team that included three first-years. ?The thing that is so special about this team is that every last guy on the team has been contributing this year,? said fourth-year catcher and team captain J.P. Bauman. ?Coach has confidence that he can plug in anyone and we won?t lose a thing.?

While these young players performed well, Schade struggled, allowing eight hits and five runs (two earned) over five innings of work. Compounding Schade?s difficulties was a lackluster display of infield defense. Schade, who features a tight curve and heavy fastball, forced 10 ground balls out of the Case Western hitters. Chicago infielders failed to convert many of these routine plays and were charged with three errors only on account of a generous hometown scorekeeper. The total error count could have easily been five or six.

This poor defense caused the Maroons to squander an early lead, and they entered the bottom of the fifth inning tied at five. Third-year second baseman Ben McCown got a chance to atone for his costly error a half-inning earlier. With one out he drilled a double and later advanced to third on a wild pitch. Second-year first basemen Justin Garrett then recorded the game winning RBI, grounding out to second to score McCown.

Schade allowed two singles to open the sixth inning, and Baldea called third-year closer Nick Kocinski out of the bullpen to shut the door. Kocinski did just that, pitching two scoreless innings to record his third save of the season. This victory proved again that the Maroons are able to play small-ball successfully in the late innings of a tight game. ?Our team is focused on always being resilient,? Baldea said. ?We try to give our best effort in every situation.? Chicago is now 6?0 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

Sunday?s games featured more high-powered offense from the Maroons. In the first contest, the team trailed 6?3 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. They responded with a four run fifth and a five run sixth en route to a 12?7 win. Ruh was again impressive at the plate with four RBIs and two hits that increased his season batting average to .364. Also crucial to the Maroons? success was Bauman, who returned to action this weekend from a recent ankle sprain. Bauman scored four times in the game and collected three hits including a homerun, adding to his team best .480 batting average. Second-year Dan Harrington recorded the victory with his three innings of one-run relief.

The second game on Sunday also saw the Maroons fall into an early rut, as they trailed 3?2 entering the bottom of the fourth. The team responded with two runs in each of the next three innings, eventually winning 8?4. Kass added to his weekend?s success at the plate, slugging a double and a triple while adding two RBIs to his season total of 14. The Kocinski family tandem was also impressive: Nick and Chris each recorded three hits and two RBIs. Ruh was the pitcher of record, throwing six and a third strong innings while giving up only three earned runs.

The Maroons have won eight of their last nine and seek to add to their success when they travel to North Park University on Wednesday. The team returns to the friendly confines of J. Kyle Anderson Field on Friday to play South Side rival Illinois Institute of Technology.