April 29, 2008

Baseball gets taste of UAA competition

With the Maroons traveling to Ohio to play back-to-back doubleheaders against Case and Wash U, the weekend showcased Maroon complaints about the frequency of game cancellations and absence from the UAA tournament.

In a weekend filled with ugly weather and two conference rivals, Chicago (7–12) went 1–3 against Wash U (14–11) and Case (12–28) in Cleveland and was outscored 22–12 in the four games. Because Chicago’s finals schedule leaves the Maroons absent from the UAA tournament, the trip marked the only chance of the year for the squad to get a taste of the conference competition.

“There was definitely a heightened sense of urgency amongst the team,” said first-year centerfielder Kevin Holzbog, who picked up three hits in the only Chicago win. “The intensity and aggressiveness was definitely higher this weekend.”

On the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Maroons fell to the Bears 7–1. Chicago was held to one run on five hits by third-year pitcher Brian Williams. Second-year pitcher Joseph Pankow (2–2) suffered his second loss, allowing seven earned runs in eight innings of pitching against the Bears.

The second of the two outings saw the Maroons lose a close game to Case by a score of 5–4. This battle saw the game tied on three different occasions, but each time Chicago tied the game in the top half of the inning, Case would answer back with a go-ahead score.

While the losses hurt the team, the sensitive issue of cancellations came up once again when rain delayed the start of Friday’s doubleheader but didn’t cancel it thanks, to Case’s better-equipped facilities.

“One thing that could help the team would be to get a tarp for the infield. It could solve a lot of the problems of the home cancellations,” Holzbog said. “At Case there was a 30-minute delay, because of rain. If that same thing were to happen in Chicago, they’d probably have to call the game on account of bad weather. The big difference was the tarp.”

Because of the frequency of cancellations, Chicago has missed out on 14 of its 33 scheduled games. Compared to the other two teams, Case has played 40 games without a cancellation and Wash U has played 25 games without having any called off.

Despite the ongoing controversy, the bottom line was that the Maroons still needed to take the field and play their games this weekend. With their familiar rivalry in other sports as a backdrop, the UAA teams came prepared to play tough.

“I have anger running through my veins whenever Wash U is concerned, but I think that’s mainly because of our football rivalry. There’s not that type of rivalry in baseball to feed off of and get excited about. It would really be a plus if there was one,” first-year pitcher Marshall Oium said.

In the lone Maroon win, fourth-year left-hander Nathan Ginsberg pitched Chicago to a 5–2 victory against Case. Ginsberg pitched seven innings scattering five hits and giving up two runs before handing the ball over to Oium who sealed the deal with his first save of his career.

The final matchup of the weekend pitted the Maroons against Wash U for the second time. Chicago was unable to snatch a victory, as Wash U jumped out to a 4–0 lead and never relinquished its margin, beating the Maroons 8–2.

The Maroons took a more aggressive approach to their offense this weekend, trying to fix a team batting average that is down 13 points (.273) from last year’s (.288). However, the Maroons lost an integral part of their offense early on as fourth-year third-baseman Mike Serio went down with a hamstring injury in Friday’s game against Case.

“[Going into Saturday’s game] there seemed to be a kink in the offense’s armor, because Serio has started all of our games. Serio’s OBP [.470] is off the charts, so it was kind of awkward for us to come into the game without him,” Holzbog said.

While the offense took a hit, the defense greatly improved from their horrendous seven-error performance against North Park. Although the Maroons had eight errors in the weekend, the errors weren’t as damaging as the mistakes made in previous games.

The Maroons now look to take on instate rivals Elmhurst (4–14) today at 3:30 at Elmhurst.