After a trip halfway around the world to play in Japan, a six-game stint in Arizona, and a change in the Midwest schedule, baseball finally had its home opener Saturday.
Swept in a doubleheader by the University of Dallas (18–10), the Maroons’ comeback effort in the first game came up short and their offense went quiet in the nightcap. A 6–5 loss in extra innings to start the day, followed by a 5–2 defeat to close it, put Chicago at 4–5 for the season.
A rough top of the first gave the Crusaders an early advantage against fourth-year starting pitcher Nate Ginsberg (1–1, 2.20 ERA) and the Maroons. Two walks, an error by third-year catcher Scott Hofer, and a wild pitch in the inning helped Dallas snap up a 3–0 lead.
Chicago got a piece of fourth-year starter Joe Packard (1–2, 5.86) in its first time up, scoring on an RBI single by Hofer, but Dallas retaliated quickly. Second-year leftfielder Mike Fattaleh added two more runs for the visitors in their next at bat with a homer to left.
That would be all for the Crusaders for a while, as Ginsberg found his rhythm, striking out the next two batters. From the third to the seventh inning, Ginsberg held Dallas to three hits and no runs, and he worked out of another jam in the fourth when he caught second-year designated hitter Sean McSheffery looking at strike three to strand two runners in scoring position.
“When he goes out and has command in the first inning, he is very tough to beat,” said assistant coach Scott Budeselich of Ginsberg. “People have trouble catching up with his fastball, especially when his off-speed stuff is working. Nate will play a huge role in our rotation over the rest of the season.”
Ginsberg also got a little help from his infield to keep the Crusaders scoreless for five innings. Second-year shortstop Rob Serpico started an inning-ending double play in the fifth on a slow grounder up the middle. After the ball got by Ginsberg, he scooped up the ball at second base, stepped on the bag, and threw it over to first where third-year Kyle Schmitt dug the ball out of the dirt for the second putout.
On the offensive end, the Maroons got a break from two bad hops that crept up on the Dallas infielders. A misplayed ground ball by first-year centerfielder Kevin Holzbog brought in two runs when an error at second base allowed Hofer and third-year rightfielder Travis Blane to score.
Chicago tacked another run on the board in the sixth when newly appointed fourth-year designated hitter Dominik Meyer roped a double to left to start a two-out rally. He is batting .471 with a slugging percentage of .618 since Tommy John surgery in the offseason forced him off the mound and into his new position. Meyer came around on Schmitt’s RBI single to center, and first-year leftfielder Zach Osman’s double up the middle the next inning scored the tying run to force extra innings.
With the heart of the lineup leading off the bottom of the eighth, the Maroons couldn’t get back the run from first-year third baseman David Rettinger’s single in the right-center gap and went down in order.
Coming back for the second game after the 6–5 loss, hard-throwing first-year Daniel McConologue (1–1, 2.31) took the mound for Chicago against the off-speed stuff of fourth-year Hong Soon Kwang (2–0, 2.70). It took Kwang a couple of pitches to establish his fastball, but when he did, it came out of the same slow-motion delivery of his other pitches.
The change of pace seemed to do the trick against the Maroons, who are hitting .292 as a team this season. Kwang held them to two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings. One of those runs came in on a balk in the seventh, a call disputed by both dugouts.
“I do not think Hong Soon Kwang’s delivery was what disturbed us, especially after seeing plenty of unusual deliveries in Japan,” Budeselich said. “He just did a nice job of throwing his off-speed stuff in all counts.”
Again the Crusaders got to Chicago’s starting pitching early, with two runs to open the game, one in the third, and the final two in the fifth. They out-hit their host 11–5 on the day.
For the Maroons, Holzbog got aboard with a walk and came around on first-year second baseman Nicholas Fazzari’s single to center.
Without much coming against Kwang and fourth-year reliever Scott Crisp, the South Siders ended their home-opener doubleheader with a 5–2 loss against their unfamiliar opponents.
“I do not know if we have ever faced the University of Dallas,” Budeselich said. “They initiated contact with us about coming up to play. They want to mold their academic and athletic programs like UAA schools, and they felt that it was important to play us.”
From here, the Maroons will travel to Aurora (12–10) today and then head to Benedictine Wednesday instead of hosting the Eagles at J. Kyle.