April 14, 2009

Chicago leaves week’s second doubleheader empty handed

Softball headed into this weekend’s doubleheader boasting a solid season by any measure: a 10–6 record, just one less win than they had all of last season, and no losing streak longer than two games.

By the end of Saturday’s doubleheader against Beloit (8–15) and Loras (10–9), that losing streak had been extended to four games, and the Maroons (10–8) had found themselves mired in a hitting slump that has seen them tally just 14 hits over those four games. Chicago fell to Beloit by a 3–1 margin only to drop the second of the back-to-back to Loras 3–2.

The day’s first contest was a pitchers’ duel, as Chicago and Beloit combined for four hits. Beloit struck first in the bottom of the third, when shortstop Laruen Rybka put down a suicide squeeze that scored right-fielder Lauren Jones from third. Jones started off the inning by drawing a walk, and followed it up by stealing second, putting her in dangerous scoring position with no outs in the frame.

Chicago answered in the top of the fourth when an errant pitch hit second-year designated hitter Sara Whaley in the first at-bat. With third-year Alison Fiebel pinch-running for Whaley, first-year first-baseman Liz Payonk tripled to even the score at one-all.

The Buccaneers countered in the bottom of the frame when third-baseman Molly Dickson delivered a two-out single to score two. Dickson was 2–3 on the day, and in the end, her two RBI in the fourth capped off the game’s scoring, as Beloit won 3–1.

Through the first game, Chicago only mustered one hit and gave up two errors in the field. Beloit went error-less throughout the contest.

Third-year pitcher Kathleen Duffy allowed three hits, three earned-runs, and three walks in five innings pitched, and took a loss which dropped her to 4–3 on the season.

In the second game, against a Loras team that shut out Beloit 8–0 earlier in the day, Chicago wasted no time getting on the board. First-year pitcher Sara Neuhaus led off the bottom of the first with a double, and Duffy, who played third base, delivered an RBI groundout to put Chicago up one.

Loras knew when to answer, scoring three in the next two innings to put them up 3–1 heading into the bottom of the third.

In the top of the second frame, catcher Tracy Sullivan advanced to third by singling, then stealing second, and finally advancing another base on a wild pitch by Neuhaus. Two batters later, third-baseman Emily Randecker brought Sullivan home on a groundout hit.

Loras kept rolling in the third, starting with a lead-off walk by shortstop Christina Schmidt, who then stole second. Later in the inning, right-fielder Chrissy Reed reached first on an error by Duffy. With a Duhawk on first and third, the Maroons were in a precarious position, and Loras capitalized when second-baseman Michelle Bahl notched a double that scored Schmidt and Reed.

The Maroons narrowed their deficit in the bottom of the fourth. After a Duffy double to lead off, Payonk reached on an error by the shortstop and scored Duffy, narrowing the lead to 3–2.

Despite the fact that Payonk reached third on a passed ball with only one out in the inning, the Maroons could not get any more runs. Chicago’s next two batters registered a strikeout and a ground out, ending the inning and a critical offensive opportunity.

Loras held on for the victory, registering five hits and a single error, with pitcher Michelle Sabatini delivering a one earned run, complete-game performance on the mound. Chicago’s young ace Neuhaus pitched’ six innings of one-run ball, the other two scores a product of three fielding errors, but still took the loss. Neuhaus is 6–4 on the year and with a 0.91 ERA.

Chicago looks to rebound from this weekend’s losses and to snap its current four-game losing streak by hosting Carthage at home on Friday for a 3 p.m.-matinee.