With the season drawing to a close, softball split a doubleheader against the top team in the division and rewrote the record books in the process.
Entering the set on a six-game winning streak, the Maroons (25–9) battled hard in their last doubleheader of the season against UW–Oshkosh (29–7) Tuesday at Stagg. Chicago captured the first game in a low-scoring 2–1 victory but could not complete its comeback in the second contest, falling 4–6. Fourth-year starting pitcher Petra Wade got the upper hand of the pitcher duel to grab the 50th win of her career, a new school record. The seventh-ranked Maroons closed out the season on a hot streak filled with outstanding individual performances and now await news of their NCAA fate.
Pitching and defense dominated the first game, as both teams combined for only three runs in seven innings. Chicago came out strong in the first, scoring on third-year catcher Vanessa Pineros’s run off a passed ball. Not to be outdone, the Titans evened up the score in the top of the fourth with a solo home run from second baseman Lyndsey Allen.
With the squads deadlocked at 1–1 and the game closing in on extra innings, first-year designated hitter Kathleen Duffy drove one into the stands in the bottom of the sixth for her sixth home run of the year to put the home team back on top. Wade proved herself once again during crunch time, holding off the Oshkosh offense as she closed out the game to become the first Maroon to reach the half-century mark in career wins. Wade moved past Hannah Roberts (A.B. ’06) on the school all-time list.
After dropping the first game in a close decision, the Titans came back with a vengeance early in the second match. The visitors bombarded fourth-year left-handed pitcher Lauren Hula (2–1, 2.58) with five runs in the first two innings of the ballgame. Chicago, down 5–1 at the bottom of the third, fought hard to come back, with second-year third baseman Jen Jacobson knocking a two-run homer in the third and Duffy chipping in with a solo shot an inning later. Trailing by only one run, the Maroons were held hitless for the rest of the game, dropping the second contest 6–4.
“Even though we lost the second game, we really fought hard both games,” head coach Ruth Kmak said. “We competed well against the number-one team in the region, and we were right there until the very end in the second game.”
The last match of the season brings high hopes for a chance at the NCAA tournament. The players came together well at the end of the season, adhering to the team philosophy of learning from past mistakes. After splitting the last doubleheader of the season, the anxious Maroons can only wait for the announcement later this week.
“We played hard every game this year,” Kmak said. “Our defense and pitching held their own, but our offense performed better than we thought this season. Our offensive numbers were excellent, and our power numbers have been better than the past. We focused on getting better every day and learning something from every game, and our discipline on the plate really shows these past few games.”
On Tuesday, the squad’s uncertain NCAA future took a back seat to the accomplishments of its number-one starter. Wade finished the season with yet another outstanding record, going 15–5 and leading the team with a 2.10 ERA. She matched her stellar pitching performance with an outstanding season on the offensive end as well, hitting .397 with 17 RBIs. The Batavia, IL native now sits atop Chicago’s record books in wins, appearances, and innings pitched.
“Petra has been solid all year round, and she is going to leave here with most of our pitching records,” Kmak said. “She had an amazing career both on and off the field. She has always stepped up to the challenge in every game, and this year in particular, she has really contributed significantly at the plate. Her bat has been explosive, so she has been helping this team on offense as well as her usual dominant pitching. Most importantly, Petra is just a great person to be around—she makes time outside of softball for community service and she was a fantastic teammate off the field. She deserves this record, and we are all incredibly happy for her.”
Coming off of a successful season coupled with a history-making pitching performance, the squad enters its second season optimistic about its chances after losing in Regionals last spring. The official selections for the NCAA tournament will be announced Sunday.