April 22, 2011

Defeated South Siders take aim at rival Bears

After being shut out 10—0 on Wednesday night by North Park (22—7), Chicago looks to rebound against UAA rival WashU with consecutive doubleheaders at home this Friday and Saturday. The Maroons were on a three-game winning streak prior to the loss to North Park, and this weekend’s four-game slate presents an excellent opportunity for Chicago (11—7) to return to its winning ways.

Chicago’s offense in particular will need to rebound in order for the Maroons to find success against WashU (25­—13). Though third-year catcher Stephen Williams and second-year center fielder Ben Bullock both extended their hitting streaks to nine and seven games, respectively, with singles on Wednesday, the team’s inability to hit for power ultimately sunk Chicago against North Park.

Williams, second-year first baseman J.R. Lopez, and second-year left fielder Jack Cinoman, among the team leaders in slugging percentage, have accounted for 108 of the 154 runs scored this season, and they will need to find their power strokes in order to do some damage against WashU this weekend.

Having had two doubleheaders against Monmouth and North Central postponed due to rain prior to Wednesday’s game, the Maroons enter this weekend’s contests with a full rotation of fresh arms.

“In terms of preparing for the doubleheaders, we have our top four starters lined up to pitch, which is a big confidence boost for our team,” said third-year pitcher Alex Garcia. “We have faced better hitting teams than WashU, so we are not intimidated by their .650 winning percentage. We are confident that our pitching and defense are two of the best they will see all year, and of course our offense speaks for itself.”

Chicago’s offense is, in fact, among the best in the nation this year. The team had been batting an NCAA Division III best .370 prior to Wednesday’s game, and the weak, five-single performance against North Park followed a 21-run outburst against Wabash the previous weekend.

The Maroons lead WashU in every offensive ratio statistic, holding advantages of over 50 points in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Chicago, having played 20 fewer games this season than WashU, naturally trails in all counting statistics. On the other side of the ball, the Maroons are at a slight statistical disadvantage, with a 5.11 ERA compared to the Bears’ 4.93 ERA.

The key to the weekend, however, may be Chicago’s home field advantage. The team is undefeated in its four home games thus far this season, and it has double the streak with its games against WashU. Each of its home wins have come in spectacular fashion, including a doubleheader against Lawrence in which the Maroons outscored their opponents 37­—4, and two come-from-behind wins, including a walk-off base hit, against Dominican and Aurora. A large supporting audience may provide the impetus for Chicago to repeat their previous home performances.

“A large student-based crowd will provide our team with great confidence and motivation,” Garcia said.