April 25, 2006

Baseball’s winning streak comes to crashing halt: Sports Shorts 4/25/06

Baseball entered the weekend playing its best ball of the season. After 13 errors and one walkoff free pass, the Maroons were left wondering how to recapture that magic.

With their hopes for a winning season hanging by a thread heading towards the final stretch, Chicago (11–15) dropped two of three in a critical weekend. The Maroons fell to eighth-ranked Carthage (21–6) 17–7 Friday, and earned a split with Elmhurst (12–18–1) Sunday, dropping the first game 14–6 before rallying to win the second 8–7.

Having won four in a row going into Friday’s showdown in Kenosha, the Maroons entertained hopes of taking down the host Redmen. The prospects of such a tremendous upset looked grim from the beginning, as Carthage jumped out to an 11–0 lead against Chicago ace fourth-year righty Dan Yeksigian. The Maroons refused to go down quietly, scoring four in the sixth and three in the seventh to cut the deficit to four at 11–7. Then the bullpen opened the floodgates for the Carthage offense, allowing six runs over the final two innings to set the slaughter rule into effect.

Yeksigian (6–2, 4.66) took the loss for the visitors, allowing 10 runs, 6 earned over four innings while striking out four. In what would become a trend over the rest of the weekend, the Maroons committed three errors leading to four unearned runs. Second-year righty David Foss (2–2, 3.00) earned the win for Carthage, fanning two and allowing only one earned run on three hits and three walks in five innings.

Third-year second-baseman Tony Zitek led the way offensively for the Maroons, going two-for-three with a pair of RBI and two runs scored.

“I don’t think we’re really happy with anything,” head coach Brian Baldea said. “But despite the results, the pitching was not bad. They deserved a better result.”

It was more of the same in Sunday’s opener against the Blue Jays. Capitalizing on a season-high Chicago eight errors, Elmurst lit up J. Kyle field for eight unearned runs and cruised to the victory. After taking a 2–0 lead in the top of the first, the visitors never trailed against Maroons second-year southpaw Nate Ginsberg.

Once again Zitek paced the Maroons’ offense, going three-for-four with an RBI and a run scored. In a game to forget, fourth-year third-baseman Matt Assad finished with four errors, while third-year second-baseman Allen Cooper added three.

Taking the loss for the Maroons, Ginsberg (2–3, 5.35) conceded nine runs, two earned in 4.2 innings. He allowed 10 hits, walked three, and struck out four. Third-year righty Nick Ferrin (1–3) notched the win for the Jays, allowing four runs, all earned on four hits, and a quartet of walks over four frames.

The Maroons seemed destined to complete the holy trinity of gruesome losses in the capper as third-year Dan Cozzi struggled in the early going. Trailing 6–0 in the third, the home squad struck back for four of its own. A run in the fifth cut the lead to 6–5 going into the final inning of play.

After the Jays scored what appeared to be an insurance run in the top of the seventh, they put in top reliever third-year Kyle Bjerga to shut down Chicago. The Maroons would have none of it, quickly loading the bases in their final at-bats. After walking in one run, a sacrifice fly off the bat of first-year left fielder Kyle Schmitt tied up the contest at seven all. With one out and the sacks full once more, third-year catcher John Thomas walked to send home the winning run.

“They don’t quit,” Baldea said. “That’s one thing I can say about this team. That win helps. It’s nice to be able to leave with a win. It’s going to be important for us to win the next two games.”

Yeksigian earned the win for the South Siders, pitching 0.2 innings of shutout relief. He gave up one hit and one walk while striking out one. Bjerga (2–1) was saddled with the loss, allowing three runs, all earned, on one hit and two walks in a third of an inning of work.

Having salvaged a little bit of momentum thanks to Elmhurst’s pitching implosion, the Maroons will hit the road Tuesday to take on Bennedictine (15–15–1) Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Lisle.

“They’re always a good team. We’ve had a nice little rivalry with them for the past few seasons. It’ll be a challenge,” Baldea said.