April 15, 2008

Softball finds bats in tourney split

The softball team looked as if they were headed for an endless downward spiral, but a brilliant performance Saturday may have turned their fortunes around for the rest of the season.

In a weekend filled with bad weather in Bloomington that canceled three games for Chicago, the squad found a bright light in an otherwise disappointing season. The Maroons (8–11) split their two games at this weekend’s Illinois Wesleyan University tournament. In a sloppy slugfest, they fell to Hope College (18–7) 17–12 Friday, but came back in a commanding performance Saturday afternoon to shut out Calvin College (7–18) by a score of 8–0.

Going into the weekend, the Maroons were faltering from a four-game losing streak. Chicago had lost two straight doubleheaders and needed to find its way out of the loss column. The task would not be easy: going up against a squad that went on to win three of its four games in the tournament and had come into the tourney winners of five in their last six.

Surrounding the matchup were not only two teams competing against each other, but Mother Nature as well. The fierce weather dealt both teams a curve they weren’t ready for, with both sides fighting forceful winds that contributed to the teams combining for eight errors and 13 walks.

“The weather this weekend caused a lot of issues. On Friday the wind gusts were intense and kept changing directions on us. It was nearly impossible for us in the outfield to judge the ball, and it couldn’t have been easy for our pitchers to hit their spots,” first-year utility player Jennifer Simile said.

Suffering the loss in the first game was second-year pitcher Kathleen Duffy (3–5, 5.63 ERA). Although she racked up seven strikeouts, she also allowed eight earned runs on 14 hits in seven innings of work. The other nine runs scored by Hope were unearned runs due to the five errors by the Maroons’ defense.

Battling the horrible conditions, the Maroons’ offense cranked out 18 hits against Hope pitching, but many missed opportunities led to Chicago’s downfall. The South Siders left 10 on base in the game, including the third inning when the Maroons failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation. After the disappointing loss, it was time for a swing in momentum.

In the game against Calvin, things played out drastically differently. While the winds persisted and rain sprinkled throughout the day and night, the Maroons were finally able to overcome the elements and dominate their opponent.

Chicago’s hitters once again stepped up, scoring eight runs on eight hits, capped off by a three-run homerun from Duffy, who moved over to left field for the matchup. The Maroons were also aided by Calvin’s four errors, including a miscue in the second that led to two runs for Chicago.

But the story of the game was the stellar pitching by Chicago. First-year right-hander Christy Corfias (2–2, 5.47 ERA) pitched a two hit gem against the Knights. In six innings, the Maroons shut out the Knights with a sound defensive effort, keeping their errors to a minimum en route to a decisive 8–0 victory.

“I wish I knew the perfect remedy to avoid another losing streak. We all have theories, but I think if we keep a tight defense and put the ball in play good things will happen. Up until this point it seems like when we have a tight defense we can’t get the hits we need and when our offense is doing really well our defense falls apart.” Simile said.

Now the Maroons are looking to take the success of a shutout win and build on it for the rest of the season. The toughest task for Chicago has been to stay consistent for a long stretch. Their next big test will be at their instate rivals Wheaton (13–11) Thursday. Coming into the matchup on a four-game losing streak, Wheaton will be just as eager as the Maroons to pick up a W.

“We don’t have the best record at the moment, but we haven’t given up on our season and our fans shouldn’t either,” Simile said.