April 3, 2005

Weather, Union only roadblocks in first 11 games for softball team

Having gained nationwide respect with a dominant pitching staff and playoff trips four of the last five years, the 20th-ranked Chicago softball team surged to another hot start, matching last year's 10-1 record over their first 11 games. The Maroons played their first home game of the season on Wednesday, defeating UW-Oshkosh 8-0.

Third-year pitcher Hannah Roberts allowed just one hit over six innings in her fourth complete game shutout of the season. The win lowered her season ERA to an astounding 0.16 and improved her record to 7-0. Roberts has pitched 45 innings this season, and struck out 75 batters. Opposing batters are hitting .133 against her.

"Hannah is just as amazing as ever, and has been working to mix up her pitches more than the past two years," said third-year catcher Randi Leppla.

"Mustering so many pitches gives her a repertoire that makes her even tougher to hit than before. The ridiculous movement of her pitches is going to keep the batters guessing about what she'll throw next."

First-year left fielder Dominique Marshall hit two for three and drove in three runs for the Maroons. Third-year center fielder Kara Thaw also drove in two runs. Chicago scored one run in the second inning and four in the third, never allowing Oshkosh back into the game.

"Dominique and [third-year first baseman] Rachel Cohen have been clutch when we need to score some runs," Leppla said. "Our offense has been great so far this year. We are seeing the ball better as a whole, and really making things happen when we have runners on base."

Cohen is hitting .433 and has reached base in half of her plate appearances thus far to pace the team in both categories. Marshall is not far behind, hitting .387 with an OBP of .486, and leads the way with 10 runs batted in.

The squad was denied a chance to improve their record even more. Chicago led Oshkosh 2-1 in the fifth inning of the back end of their scheduled double header when umpires first delayed and then called the showdown due to lightning and rain.

The team needed just three more outs to make the game official.

Roberts' pen mates, second-years Petra Wade and Lauren Hula, are also getting the season off on the right foot. Wade has gone 3-1 with three complete games in her four starts, and has given up just four runs in 26 innings for an ERA of 1.08. Hula has been used sparingly thus far, but has only given up four hits over six innings.

"Petra is much more confident than last year, and it's obvious in her control over her pitches. The pitchers are key to our success this season," Leppla said.

The Maroons played their first 10 games of the season on their spring break trip to Fort Myers, Florida. Chicago won its first four games against Carroll, Grinnell, Fredonia State, and Edgewood, before falling to Union College 2-0 in its only defeat of the season thus far.

The Maroons look to improve on last year, in which they finished 29-11 and lost to Alma in the NCAA tournament.

The Maroons' next game is a doubleheader today at 3 p.m. against Wheaton College.