April 29, 2011

Cold freezes South Sider offense

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Chicago softball started what will be a busy weekend yesterday with a 4—0 loss to North Central (19—9). A doubleheader was scheduled originally, but cold, rainy conditions forced the second game to be postponed. Despite the cancellation of the doubleheader’s second game, the Maroons still have four games over the course of the next three days.

“I think we’ll be fine,” said second-year Samantha Hobson. “In Florida we played twelve games in 6 days, no big deal.”

Hobson has been a key component of the Maroons’ offensive success this season, with a robust .325 batting average. However, Hobson was blanked yesterday at North Central in two at-bats. The Maroons were only able to record four hits, with three courtesy of the bat of Julia Schneider. The unseasonably cold and rainy weather might have had something to do with the Maroons’ poor offensive showing.

“I hate to blame the cold, but we really don’t play well in the cold,” Hobson conceded. “I think the cold was definitely unexpected,” agreed first-year Zoe Oliver-Grey. “It shouldn’t affect us negatively though. We have a lot of locals [on the team].”

Schneider’s strong offensive outing began in the first inning with a single. She later advanced to third on a single from fourth—year Sarah Whaley, but both Whaley and Schneider were left stranded. North Central racked up a three runs during a decisive third inning, and Maroons were unable to muster up any more offense after the first inning, recording only two hits the rest of the day.

“We were getting people on base, but we weren’t getting them through,” said Hobson. North Central would put in an additional run in the fifth inning to cement the win.

Chicago will need to regroup this weekend in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chicago’s opponents this weekend, Illinois Weslyan (16-14) and Beloit (9-20) are teams that struggle if they are unable to put a lot of runs on the board; Illinois Weslyan is 2-7 when scoring two or fewer runs. Beloit struggles even more when scoring less than two runs, winning only two of 19 games. This is good news for the defensive stalwarts on the Chicago side. The Maroons have forced nine shutouts this year and are 13-2 in games where they hold their opponents to fewer than two runs. The combination of these factors should spell success for a team that needs wins as the season winds to a close.

“These games are really important. We expect to win out,” said Hobson. “Our offense and pitching need to be sharp. If we can come together as a unit offensively, we should have no problem.” Chicago is currently jockeying for a playoff position, and at 19-9, there is little room for failure. Unlike many of the other teams in the NCAA, Chicago is an independent team, which means that they play without a conference. Unlike other teams, which can win their conference tournament to earn a big, Chicago can only get into the playoffs by acquiring an at-large bid. This requires that they prove to the selection committee that they are one of the top teams in the country.

“The mentality is to score first,” said Oliver-Grey of games this weekend. “It shows the other team—and yourself—that you’re the better team.” The numbers reaffirm Oliver-Grey’s statement; Chicago is 17-2 when making first blood.

Chicago will play both doubleheaders at home, tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Illinois Weslyan and Sunday at noon against Beloit.