SPORTS

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April 24, 2007

Softball’s bats spring back to life with turn in the weather

After finally receiving a week of sunshine, softball hoped that the beautiful practice conditions would help the squad bust out of its slight slump and return to its early-season form. Despite the change in the weather, however, Chicago faced more of the same on the field this weekend.

For the fourth time in a row, the Maroons (18–8) split their doubleheader, extending a string that started at the Illinois Wesleyan University Tournament April 14–15. A 7–4 comeback win in the opener at UW–Whitewater (17–9) followed by a 9–8 last-minute loss in the nightcap Saturday continued the recent stretch of streaky play from Chicago. With the two teams combining for 28 runs and 40 in the twinbill, the South Siders came down to another slugging contest.

“We knew that we had to come out strong and play our game. It’s a bit of a drive, so it took us a couple of innings to get into the game, which is unfortunate for us,” fourth-year shortstop Jessica Mayhew said.

With fourth-year ace Petra Wade (11–5, 2.35) clipping the Warhawks late in the game, the Maroons’ offense just needed some time to warm up. The hosts jumped out to an early 4–1 advantage after tagging Wade for seven hits through the first five frames and taking advantage of infield errors by Chicago.

A three-error inning by Whitewater helped key off the Maroons’ resurgence in the sixth, with the lineup batting around to plate six runs and take a hold of the lead. Getting the rally started, third-year leftfielder Dominique Marshall stroked a single to center and then advanced to second on the error. First-year pitcher Lauren White provided the big blow with a two-run double to score the go-ahead run. A wild pitch by first-year reliever Amanda Laboy brought in Chicago’s final run for the 7–4 victory.

“We got our act together and started hitting the pitcher, and it was contagious, so everyone else just hit, and our whole lineup just came through,” said first-year pitcher and designated hitter Kathleen Duffy, who went one-for-four at the plate with a run.

After the offensive outburst, Wade closed it out for her eighth complete game of the season. The veteran is now tied for fourth for the most career wins at 46 and is three away from tying the school record.

In the second matchup, the Maroons found themselves behind on the scoreboard and gunning for another breakthrough inning. A rotation of fourth-year southpaw Lauren Hula, Duffy, and White on the mound had trouble containing the Warhawks lineup, as the hosts collected nine runs, six earned, on 13 hits. After five innings completed, Whitewater enjoyed a comfortable 6–1 margin.

More defensive lapses by the Warhawks helped Chicago trim down that five-run difference. Duffy walked to open the sixth as the Maroons sent nine to the plate for four runs to close in 5–6, with RBIs from fourth-year center field Nancy Bugajski and Mayhew. The squad struck for three more in its next at bat, with White knocking in the Maroons’ final run for her second RBI of the game and fourth of the doubleheader.

Although Whitewater responded to the first flurry of runs by the South Siders with just one of its own in the bottom of the sixth, the Warhawks dug deep to salvage their win. With two outs in the inning, an error by first-year second baseman Jillian Lenson allowed the tying run to cross the plate and put the go-ahead on base. A double followed the error to bring in the Warhawks’ winning run for a 9–8 heartbreaker for the squad.

With two weeks and eight games to go before tournament announcements, Chicago is looking to step up its game in hopes of landing a slot in the brackets. The Maroons are fully aware that their chances of making a repeat appearance at Regionals could be determined by how they do on this last stretch of their schedule. Chicago travels to Lake Forest today for its final road game before closing out the regular season with a three-game homestand.