SPORTS

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May 7, 2004

Baseball rides highs and lows as season comes to a close

It has been an up-and-down year for the baseball team. The difference between Tuesday's and Wednesday's games was an example of the team's recent struggles to keep its momentum going.

The Maroons snapped their three-game losing streak on Tuesday in Naperville, defeating North Central 8--6. Second-year reliever Brian Olson tallied the win after taking over the mound in the third inning. He allowed only five hits, two runs, and a walk in his six innings of relief work. The decision gives him a 5-0 record on the season.

Olson wasn't the only second-year with a notable day. First baseman Chris Kocinski helped out his team at the plate by belting his first career home run. With a 1-0 count in the seventh inning, Kocinski sent a fastball over the leftfield fence to drive in his brother, third-year third baseman Nick Kocinski, and give the Maroons an 8-4 lead.

Kocinski was thrilled with his first four-bagger, although his homerun trot gave away that the experience wasn't routine.

"I was so excited that I almost tripped over first base," said Kocinski, who was filling in for third-year Justin Garrett because of an injury Garrett suffered when hit in the head by a pitch.

Fourth-year Ben McCown also had two RBI, while third-year centerfielder Frank Brown, Nick Kocinski, and third-year shortstop Steve Ruh each contributed a run in the Maroons' victory.

On Wednesday, Chicago faced Elmhurst in the last game at J. Kyle Anderson Field for the 2004 season. The fourth-year members of the squad were honored in a pre-game, Senior Day ceremony in which fans and proud parents listened to the numerous accomplishments of the talented bunch in their four years wearing Chicago maroon.

In addition to the numerous individual accomplishments of the eight graduating fourth-years, they have also set the new mark for most wins and the highest winning percentage by a class, with their 87-44 record through Wednesday's game.

The Blue Jays' bats were hot as soon as the game started, giving Elmhurst a 4-0 lead off of Chicago third-year pitcher Dan Harrington by the end of the third inning. Throughout the game, Harrington induced a number of groundballs that snuck through the infield for singles. In the end, 12 of Elmhurst's 18 hits were on the ground.

Harrington even got one grounder to third base that the crowd and the Maroons thought was turned for a triple play. The umpire, however, called the runner safe at first. That runner ended up scoring the fourth run of the game, which would turn out to be enough for the win.

Chicago scored three runs in the fifth after the Blue Jays' starting pitcher started the inning by hitting two batters. Raptis drove in two of the team's three runs and extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his single to right field, but the drive was ended when fourth-year Tracie Neubrand was thrown out at third base on another questionable call by the umpires.

Elmhurst bounced right back, exploding for five runs in the sixth to widen the margin. Chicago's usually prolific manufacture of runs broke down. The Maroons took their 13th loss of the season by a final score of 12-3.

While Senior Day did not end favorably for Chicago, the play of Raptis was a bright spot that his teammates have appreciated all season.

"That's the kind of thing we expect out of our seniors and a hitter like him," McCown said of his teammate, Raptis. "Especially when we're looking to turn the momentum of a game."

The Blue Jays' pitching staff was their weapon of choice for the day, holding Chicago to only six hits. Pitching was also cause for further commotion in the eighth inning when accusations that pitchers were throwing at batters from both teams led to tension on the field.

The Maroons will end their regular season with a doubleheader at Trinity Christian (9-23) this Saturday, May 8.