SPORTS

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April 2, 2010

Comeback falls short as Chicago loses home opener

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Chicago came on strong in the ninth but couldn’t quite pull it out as the North Park Vikings handed the men’s baseball team their first home defeat of the season at J. Kyle Anderson Field last Wednesday.

The Maroons trailed the Vikings during large periods of the game but showed a resilient spirit and fought back to tie the score several times, doing so for the last time in the bottom of the ninth. However, North Park managed to capitalize on Maroon mistakes in extra innings, scoring on a wild pitch and a throwing error at home plate in a four run tenth that proved to be too much for Chicago, as they fell to a final score of 16–12.

Despite the loss, the Maroons, who dropped to a record of 5–6 after splitting ten games during their spring break trip to Vero Beach, were optimistic over the never-say-die attitude demonstrated.

“It’s good to have that feeling that we’re never out of a game, since we’ve shown the ability to come back,” third-year second baseman Nick Fazzari said. “Next time we just have to put up those runs and limit our mistakes earlier in the game.”

Back-to-back walks in the beginning of the third inning cost Chicago when both runners were brought home by a three RBI double by North Park second-year Andy Athans. The Maroons responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the third to tie the score but the Vikings once again managed to put three on the board in the fifth, an offensive performance that also saw them score in every subsequent inning.

However, the Maroons were able to fight back by demonstrating some offensive power of their own.

“We’ve got some guys swinging the bat really well right now,”said Fazzari, who led the Maroons with three runs scored. “We should be able to put together some breakout innings like we did at the end of the game.”

One of the players who is currently doing well at the plate for the Maroons is second-year catcher Stephen Williams.

Williams, who on Tuesday was named UAA player of the week after batting .432 and driving in 12 RBIs during the Maroons’ trip to Florida, led the Maroons in scoring on Wednesday with 4 RBIs and provided a key contribution during Chicago’s final rally in the ninth which sent the game into extra innings.

First-year catcher Tony Logli, pinch hitting for first-year right fielder Ben Bullock, got the inning started for the Maroons with a single to center field before also being replaced by fourth-year Ben Nordstrom as a pinch runner.

Third-year Marshall Oium was then walked before Fazzari singled to load the bases. It seemed like the Maroons might fail to capitalize as a strike out and a ground ball that ended in a fielders choice at home left Chicago down to their final out, but Williams stepped up to the plate and delivered as he has all season.

Two successive foul tips provided a warning of what was to come. On his third pitch Williams singled through the left side to bring in Fazzari and Oium, tying the game at 12-12.

The Maroons then had a chance to seal a victory as first-year Stephen Schwabe was walked to once again load the bases, but relief pitcher Mike Giovenco came on to get North Park the out they needed to stay alive by getting first-year John-Reynold Lopez to fly out to right field.

The Maroons were left to regret their missed opportunity as the Vikings came back strong in the top of the tenth. The first two North Park batters both reached base on back-to-back bunts before a third consecutive bunt advanced both runners to scoring position. An intentional walk loaded the bases before a single, a wild pitch and a fielding error at third base led to four runs for the Vikings.

The Maroons tried to respond once again in the bottom of the tenth, but a lead-off double by first-year Jack Cinoman, who ended the game 5-for-6 with two runs and two RBIs, failed to kick-start another Chicago comeback and three quick outs sealed North Park’s victory.

The Maroons will look to recover on the road when they travel to Appleton, Wisconsin, to play Lawrence University before returning home to face off against Loras and Concordia Chicago on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.