SPORTS

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May 8, 2007

Baseball slips below .500 as season nears finish line

By Maddi  

With the season wrapping up, baseball looked to finish out the year with 20 wins by leaning on its reliable pitching and newly energized bats. In a busy weekend at J. Kyle, that combination fell short—as did the squad’s efforts to lock up a winning spring.

After sweeping their opponents last week to help lift their record above the .500 mark, the Maroons split two with DePauw (25–17) Saturday and gave up both to Aurora (17–21) Sunday to slip to 16–17. While Chicago continued to get strong starting pitching and came through for some early leads, the team couldn’t hang on for the wins as its 10 errors on the homestand eventually caught up with the South Siders.

“DePauw and Aurora are two very good teams, and you can’t get close to them without playing mistake-free ball,” third-year right fielder Mike Serio said. “You win as a team, and you lose as a team, so we have to look at things that we can do together to eliminate those mistakes.”

Things seemed to be looking good for Chicago this weekend after the squad’s taming of the Tigers in game one. The Maroons jumped to a 2–0 lead after two innings and then ambushed DePauw in the fourth, driving in five runs on three hits as they batted around and sent the starting pitcher to the showers.

Three straight RBI singles by first-year shortstop Robby Serpico, third-year left fielder Mike Morgan, and rookie catcher Gino Miglio opened up Chicago’s lead to 5–2. Third-year center fielder Nate Ginsberg sent a ground ball to short with the bases loaded, and a balk by reliever first-year Matt Westenkirchner capped off the breakthrough inning for 7–2 advantage.

Chicago would put two more on the board in the fifth to bring the final score over the Tigers to 9–2. Serio, two-for-two with two runs, and Serpico, two-for-three with one run and two RBIs, paced the Maroons at the plate, while third-year Dominik Meyer (5–3, 1.84) mowed down DePauw’s lineup. The righty gave up only four hits and five walks while fanning four in his sixth complete game in eight starts.

The nightcap opened up with more lights-out pitching as second-year starter Alex Gallan threw a no-hitter through the first five frames. An error in center by Ginsberg in the fourth put an unearned run on the board for the Tigers, but the Maroons still enjoyed a 2–1 edge.

That lead disappeared in the sixth when DePauw struck for three runs off three hits and added two more in the seventh for the 6–3 comeback. Gallan went the distance and got tagged with the loss and three earned runs to drop to 2–3 with a 3.59 ERA.

“Alex hung in there pretty well and for the most part made pretty good pitches,” Serio said.

Hoping to end the weekend with a couple of wins and secure a winning season, Chicago underwent a disappointing sweep by Aurora as it defended J. Kyle for the last time this season Sunday.

With the Spartans jumping off to an early 1–0 lead in the top of the third, the Maroons answered back with a two-run single by second-year first baseman Kyle Schmitt with two outs. Fourth-year third baseman Allen Cooper followed with an RBI single to right field to put a 3–1 lead in Chicago’s hands.

The second half of the opener was less than desirable for the South Siders. After starter Ginsberg (2–4, 4.46) held Aurora to three hits and a run through the first three, the Spartans seized their opportunity for a comeback. Seven walks and a wild pitch combined with three errors allowed the visitors to notch two in the fourth and two more in the sixth, bringing the final margin to 5–3.

At the plate, Serio extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the longest string of hitting by a Maroon this season, after going one-for-four with a run.

In his first start of the season, fourth-year southpaw Rob Wilson (0–1, 4.98) held the Spartans to two earned runs on four hits and three walks over five innings, but couldn’t match first-year right hander Steve Salazar (1–3, 5.18) on the mound. The rookie recorded 10 strikeouts and walked only two en route to a four-hit shutout for his first complete game of the year.

“We’d run out of starting pitching, so one of the relievers had to start,” Serio said of Wilson’s trip to the mound. “Rob’s a pretty experienced reliever, so it doesn’t surprise me that he did well.”

While Wilson and the Maroons held Aurora to two runs through five to stay in the game, the Spartans charged for three in the sixth. The Spartans walked away with a 5–0 lead after a two-run single by third-year right fielder Joe Infantino and an RBI single through the right side by fourth-year left fielder Jay Zimmerman. Serpico led Chicago with a pair of doubles.

The Maroons host their final game of the year, a rematch with North Central, (16–23) Tuesday. Needing a win to finish its season at 17–17 and stretch its .500-or-better streak to eight seasons, Chicago will look to repeat its 8–1, 16-hit pounding of the Cardinals at Naperville March 28.