SPORTS

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April 7, 2009

Maroons get pair of wins in rain-shortened weekend

It was a good weekend for softball, at least until Mother Nature showed up Sunday and pitched a no-hitter.The Maroons played two games Saturday in Naperville and won both, first topping Calvin (2–15) 4–1 and following that up with a 4–2 victory over host North Central (9–5). A doubleheader against Lawrence (5–9) was scheduled for Sunday, but the wintry mix the campus received changed those plans, and no make-up date has been set.In the toughest of the games that were played, Chicago went ahead early against North Central after first-year Liz Payonk, who plays first base, homered to right field in the top of the first. Payonk’s shot scored fourth-year shortstop Jen Jacobson, who reached on an error to lead off the game.Chicago picked up another run in the fourth and another in the sixth, and the Maroons held a 4–1 edge when their hosts came to bat for the final time in the bottom of the seventh. Some poor fielding hampered the Maroons as they looked for their final three outs, and they let one Cardinal score and had to throw another one out at home.After the play at the plate, North Central still had two on base and one in scoring position. But Chicago put out the Cardinals’ next two batters and closed out the 4–2 win.“I thought the team played very well against North Central. On defense we were able to get ourselves out of difficult situations without giving up any runs,” first-year Sarah Neuhaus said. Neuhaus was on the mound for the North Central game, and she gave up just one earned run.Jacobson thought the strong defensive play against North Central showed the Maroons had progressed from where they were a couple weeks ago.“When we stay calm as a team we make less mental mistakes and can really focus on what we need to do to win each inning,” Jacobson said.In the Calvin game, the runs came early for both teams. The Knights’ lone run came in the top of the first, but the Maroons didn’t trail for long. First-year Sarah Neuhaus, who was in the DH spot, got on base on an error, and the next batter, third-year Kathleen Duffy, sent her home with a double. Payonk followed that with a grounder to the shortstop but picked up an RBI when Duffy crossed home plate.In the second inning, eight of nine Maroons got up to bat, and although the team stranded three, they brought in two, extending their lead to 4–1, and they never looked back.That Chicago stayed on top had much to do with Duffy’s performance from the mound. In seven innings of work, she two-hit the Knights and walked just two batters.The Maroons are now 3–1 since returning from their trip to Florida, but four of the eight games they were scheduled to play have been postponed due to inclement weather.“Postponements are something we have to work with every year. Have to love Chicago weather!” Jacobson said. “We practice when our games get pushed back because it helps us stay in the right mind-set for the week.”When they can’t practice outside, the Maroons go to the upper level of Henry Crown where the tile and carpet floor makes taking grounders a bit of a trick, Jacobson said.Weather permitting, Chicago will see some of its stiffest competition of the season today, when Illinois Wesleyan (14–1) comes to Stagg Field.