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As the weather warms up, Chicago is heating things up in the softball diamond.
On Sunday, the Maroons (19–8–1) traveled to Appleton, WI, to take on Lawrence University (13–9) in a doubleheader, only to rout them by a combined score of 15–2, including an 8–0 shutout.
“We finally realized our potential,“ fourth-year Kathleen Duffy said. “We practiced more in-game situations.”
After a scoreless first inning in game one, the Maroons opened up the second with three consecutive doubles by Duffy and fellow fourth-year Lauren White and first-year Vicky Tomaka. Chicago led 3–0 heading into the fifth, when a combination of high-powered hitting and Lawrence fielding mistakes blew the game open. The Maroons recorded five unearned runs and three hits to go up 8–0, demolishing the Vikings.
But the real story was Chicago’s outstanding pitching and defensive play. They gave up only one hit and committed only one error during the doubleheader.
“Our pitching was solid and our defense backed it up,” head coach Ruth Kmak said. “We hit the ball hard in batches together instead of scattering hits on offense. Mostly, we put two wins together in a sweep when we needed to.”
In game two, the Maroons returned to their more characteristic explosive offense, but they also exhibited some clutch defense. While giving up seven hits, the Maroons managed to hold the Vikings to only two runs. They posted seven themselves in this second dismantling of Lawrence, this time by a score of 7–2.
Early in the game, with Chicago holding a precarious 5–1 lead in the bottom of the third, Lawrence seemed primed for a comeback with three runners on base and no outs. But the Maroons’ strong pitching and resurgent defense recorded two pop-fly outs and a strikeout to maintain their dominant position. Lawrence was unable to recover.
The Maroons have now posted a 7–3 record over their last 10 games. During that span, the Maroons posted three shutouts and have held all but three opponents to two runs or less. This comes immediately after an eight-game stretch where the Maroons struggled with a 3–4–1 mark, mainly the result of defensive struggles.
But it appears that these problems at defense have finally been rectified. This recent trend suggests that the Maroons have rediscovered the swagger that propelled them to open their season 9–1 over spring break in sunny Florida and snag an early national ranking.
“We have been focusing on the little things we need to improve to win the tight games,” Kmak continued. “[These are] things like more aggressive base-running, working together with improved communication on defense, executing our offense, and the intangibles, which are most important.”
The Maroons return to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Stagg Field in another doubleheader, this time against Aurora.