April 23, 2010

Softball fielding better after defensive improvements

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In a doubleheader marked by dominant pitching and strong defensive performances from both teams, Chicago and Aurora each came away with a win last Tuesday, in the Maroons’ penultimate home outing of the season.

The Maroons took the opener 6-1, although for a long period the game was much closer than the final score implies. Going into the bottom of the fourth both teams had yet to score, but with the bases loaded, fourth-year third baseman Lauren White stepped up to the plate and singled up the middle, bringing in Chicago’s first run.

The Maroons then took firm control of the game in a breakout fifth inning. Fourth-year first baseman Kathleen Duffy got things started with a single to right field before first-year shortstop Vicky Tomaka blasted a two-run homer. Singles from first-year Jacqueline Ryan and second-year Julia Schneider brought in three more runs, giving the Maroons a 6-0 lead.

Strong pitching from second-year Sarah Nehaus, who gave up only six runs and shut the Spartans out over six innings, and strong relief by first-years Melissa Collins and Ryan, secured the win for the Maroons.

In the second game, the Maroons’ offensive never got off the ground, as they were held to a mere three hits and shut out by the Spartans’ second-year pitcher Lindsay Decker, who went the distance for Aurora. A single run in the fourth inning was enough for Aurora to walk away with a victory.

“It’s always tough to lose a one-run game, especially when we won the first 6-1,” White said. “We struggled with hitting in the second game, because we didn’t make adjustments fast enough. We fell behind 0-1 or 0-2 too often.”

Despite the tough loss, the Maroons are confident of their recent form. In particular, Chicago’s pitching and defense have improved greatly over the last couple of weeks, holding their opponents to a total of just seven runs in the past six games.

“Our pitching and defense has been great the past few games,” White said. “We’ve changed our thinking defensively to be playing in a more offensive manner which has made us more solid and aggressive on tough plays.”

Chicago hopes to continue with this tenacious defense as it seeks to close out the season strongly and climb up the D-III regional rankings, where it currently sits at the bottom of the Great Lakes Region.

“With three teams that we have yet to play (North Central, IL-Wesleyan, and Carthage) currently ahead of us in region, we are looking to really gain some ground in the standings” White said. “It’s exciting that our schedule is giving us a chance to do this.”

The Maroons will travel to Wisconsin this weekend to play doubleheaders against Carthage and Beloit before closing out the home season next Thursday against North Central.