April 17, 2009

Capps’s walk-off double secures sweep in Rose-Hulman doubleheader

[img id="77597" align="alignleft"] On Wednesday, first-year designated hitter Trace Capps walked to the batter’s box and into the situation every kid imagines while playing in his backyard. Bottom of the ninth—well, bottom of the seventh—but baseball only plays seven innings during doubleheaders, so close enough. Team down one to Rose-Hulman (20–10), two away, two on base, one in scoring position.

One at-bat, for all the Big League Chew.

“That’s the reason you play baseball, for moments like that,” third-year pitcher Joe Pankow said.

Capps got his pitch, a fastball over the outside corner, and fired it into right field, sending home first-years Kelly Street and Stephen Williams, sealing a 2–1 win and a sweep in the day’s doubleheader.

“It was very exciting watching Stephen slide in for the winning run,” Capps said.

The Maroons (8–9) had won the earlier game, also against 24th-ranked Rose-Hulman, 12–4. Capps’s walk-off double gave the team its first two-win day of the season and lifted them within striking distance of .500 going into today’s game at North Central.

The late-game heroics also let Chicago cash in on another strong performance from second-year pitcher Dan McConologue (3–3), something the team hasn’t always done, despite its offensive potential. A couple weeks before, McConologue had another one-run day against Dallas, but the Maroons didn’t get a single tally on the board, and McConologue’s outing was for naught.

“It was also great to get Dan McConologue the win because he pitched a great game and deserved a lot more run support,” Capps said. “I think the thing that is most important to focus on for the rest of the season is being able to capitalize when we have men in scoring position. When we do that, we score a lot of runs, and with the pitching and defense we have, we will be a very dangerous team for anybody to face.”

Though McConologue only allowed four hits on the day, one of those was a triple by third baseman Chandler Kent to open the third, and the next batter drove Kent home with a sacrifice fly. Chicago stranded several runners in scoring position throughout the game and left the bases loaded in the second, but never got anyone across the plate until the final frame.

Bringing baserunners back home wasn’t an issue in the first game. Chicago put up four in the first, including two on a homer by Williams. The Engineers scored once in each of the first four innings to chip away at the lead and might have gone ahead when they loaded the bases in the fourth with just one out. But Pankow, who was working the mound, struck out two straight to end the inning and keep the game knotted at four.

“[On Wednesday] I didn’t feel like I had my best stuff. We hadn’t played in a week, and I think I just had a little trouble readjusting,” Pankow said. “But as the game went on I felt more comfortable on the mound and got a lot of run support, which is always nice.”

Chicago went back on top when fourth-year catcher Tommy Gonzalez scored classmate and right fielder Travis Blane, but the run support really kicked in during the fifth. The Maroons brought 13 batters to the plate that inning, scoring seven and leaving three on base when the Engineers, after two pitching changes, finally stopped the onslaught.

Rose-Hulman kept Chicago from scoring after that, but the count was already 12–4, where it stood at game’s end.

The two wins over ranked competition bode well for the Maroons, who were 1–4 since returning from their trip to Arizona.

“Hopefully we can build off of this and fill our potential to be a great ball club this year,” Pankow said.