SPORTS

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April 13, 2007

Cozzi gem sends baseball past Wheaton

Getting a win streak started is a respectable task for any baseball team with a tough schedule. When a club gets it done on two straight lights-out pitching shows, chances are it’s going to keep on winning.

Riding a dazzling performance on the mound by fourth-year right-hander Dan Cozzi (2–1, 4.62), the Maroons (7–8) notched their third victory in a row with a 3–0 win over Wheaton College (6–11–1) Tuesday. In his role as the squad’s most experienced starter, Cozzi did it all with perfect cool and pinpoint control, baffling Thunder hitters in a complete game, three-hit shutout. Cozzi recorded a whopping 11 strikeouts and walked none in his longest outing on the year. The victory came on the heels of third-year righty Dominik Meyer’s (2–2, 1.09) seven-inning one-run effort in the team’s 8–1 thrashing of IIT at its home opening last Friday.

“I think pitching has been strong, more often than not,” head coach Brian Baldea said. “You don’t even have to watch us, just look at the scores. It’s been outstanding.”

For every one of their wins so far this season, the Maroons have held opposing squads to two runs or fewer, revealing the strength of the team’s pitching staff. In perhaps the most picture-perfect effort by a Chicago hurler this season, Cozzi never wavered, serving up ground ball after ground ball and recording easy outs to keep innings short. His dominance over Wheaton hitters gave more time for his teammates to make something happen at the plate.

While the afternoon was mostly quiet for the Maroon batters, second-year first baseman Kyle Schmitt put on a show of his own with a valiant two-for-four day in the box. In what was undoubtedly the play of the game, Schmitt drilled a pitch out of the park in the top of the second for a solo homer, the first of his career and the team’s first this season. In the sixth, Schmitt grounded out to second to score third-year right-fielder Mike Serio, who would also score the final run on a single by Schmitt to left in the eighth. Serio reached base twice on two walks handed down by the Thunder’s starter, first-year righty John Little (2–2, 4.26).

The third straight win for Chicago also marked Schmitt’s third straight three-hit game, signaling his immense contributions to a team that has seen recent offensive struggles. After losing second-year catcher and designated hitter Scott Hofer to a torn labrum for an indefinite amount of time, the Maroons have had to soldier on without one of their best bats since early in their spring break trip. The reshuffling of the lineup has some hitters dealing with extra pressure in the box.

While they haven’t forgotten how to hit, they’ve been lacking the power-driven offensive outbursts that marked many of their wins last year. Only three Maroons: Schmitt, fourth-year third-baseman Allen Cooper, and his classmate center fielder and lefty pitcher Nate Ginsberg have recorded more than two extra base hits. Schmitt’s .448 slugging percentage tops the list of hitters who haven’t yet released their full potential.

“One thing important to note is that when we don’t get truly outstanding pitching, we haven’t won,” said Baldea, who has declared that he wants to see more of a balance between pitching and hitting across the remainder of the season.

With almost assured contributions from Cozzi, Meyer, and Ginsberg, considered to be Chicago’s top three hurlers, it will be up to the squad to prove that they can get it done with their bats as well. Their next chance to demonstrate that they can make it happen on offense will come Sunday, when the Maroons host Rockford in doubleheader action at J. Kyle.