All good things must come to an end. The Maroons learned this lesson in spectacular fashion.
After winning their previous eight games, including a huge victory over eighth-ranked Carthage (27-9), baseball (14-16) was unable to keep its winning ways alive as it dropped both ends of a doubleheader at Elmhurst (17-20) 12-5, 23-5.
Second-year spot starter Dan Cozzi (2-1, 9.23) was charged with 12 runs, 8 earned, on 12 hits and 4 walks over 4.2 innings to lose the first game, and fourth-year starter Dan Harrington (2-4, 7.43) took the loss in the second, giving up nine runs, five earned, on seven hits, and three walks over three innings. His relievers had even less success, as third-year reliever Brian Olson, first-year reliever Dominik Meyer, and first-year outfielder/reliever Nate Ginsberg gave up 13 unearned runs, as 15 consecutive batters reached in the bottom of the fifth.
Poor concentration was considered the key factor in the lopsided defeats. "The lack of focus is inexplicable," assistant coach Scott Budeselich said.
Unfortunately, the condition was as widespread as it was mysterious, as three pitchers, fourth-year shortstop Steve Ruh, and fourth-year center fielder Frank Brown all contributed to the nightmarish fifth. After two quick ground ball outs, Elmhurst exploded for 10 hits and 4 walks, along with two errors apiece from Ruh and Brown. The Maroons spread six more errors out over the other six innings of the game, leading to four more unearned runs.
"Elmhurst did a good job taking advantage of our mistakes, both on the mound and defensively," Budeselich said.
In the opener, Elmhurst struck early and often, jumping out to an 8-0 lead after three innings. Third-year catcher Sean O'Brien led the team on offense with a perfect four-for-four day. Blue Jay first-year starter Tom Neckopolus went the distance for the win, his third of the season against just one loss. Brown, one of the team's most consistent hitters of late, stayed hot, going two-for-four and just missing a grand slam in the first game and one-for-three in the second. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Ruh worked hard to make up for his defensive miscues, going two-for-two with two RBI in the second game to extend his own hitting streak to a team-high 17 games.
The remaining five games will be a great challenge for the Maroons, as they look to start another winning streak to finish the season. The team travels to Edgewood (24-13) for a Saturday doubleheader and to North Central (16-18) Wednesday before closing the season out at home with two against Rose-Hulman (21-14).
Fourth-year pitcher Matt Altomare (3-3, 6.48) and third-year pitcher Dan Yeksigian (6-3, 3.55) will start against Edgewood, who enter the game on an emotional high after clinching their first-ever Lake Michigan Conference title with a doubleheader sweep of Marian. The Eagles bring speed (74 steals), though Maroons catchers have caught 32 percent of base stealers.
"Edgewood won their conference, so that will be two tough road games for us, and Senior Day against Rose-Hulman is always a competitive game and a great opportunity to end the year on a high note," Budeslich said.