April 20, 2012

Maroons to take on the Flying Dutch

With only 10 of their 36 regular season games left on the slate, the Maroons are starting to think about the postseason. They’ll look to take a step towards improving their resume against Hope College in a doubleheader on Saturday.

Against the Flying Dutch, the South Siders will also look to get back in the habit of playing with confidence, as they’ve aimed to do all season.

“The biggest improvement I would like to see in the Hope games is to play confidently and aggressively through an entire 14 innings, ‘winning’ each and every inning,” head coach Ruth Kmak said. ”If we can do that, we will be successful.”

Chicago (18–8) has taken care of business this season against teams with worse records; only one of their eight losses has come against a team that had a losing record, and even that was a one-to-nothing decision three weeks ago against Lake Forest.

The Flying Dutch (12–16), then, should be an easier foe than last week’s ninth-ranked UW–Whitewater (21–5), with whom the Maroons split a doubleheader. Hope averages a shade under five runs a game and allows its opponents to score a bit more than five. It is led on offense by fourth-year Brooke Nienhuis and her .433 on base percentage. Their pitching staff is anchored by right–handed Jess Kohlhoff’s 3.63 earned run average.

In preparation for their weekend fixture, the Maroons have spent their practice time honing in on their individual games.

“We set out to individually set some basic goals for ourselves at the beginning of the week,” Kmak said. “We have utilized practice time to work on our individual goals, and then bring everyone together to work collectively with a team focus.”

If everything goes as planned, the Maroons should start third-year Kim Cygan (10–3) and fourth-year Sarah Neuhaus (6–4). Last week, they threw in a new wrinkle, starting Cygan in the second game of their doubleheader after she pitched a complete game in the first, but they don’t plan to do so again this week.

Their mercurial offense will be led by the scorching bat of fourth-year Julia Schneider. The second baseman was named UAA Athlete of the Week for an 8–11 performance at the plate in four games, with six runs scored and the go-ahead RBI against North Park on Tuesday.

A win would most likely help push the Maroons more comfortably into an at-large postseason bid (the Maroons do not participate in UAA play). This week, the Maroons were ranked eighth in the year’s first NCAA Regional Rankings, a positive sign for their playoff prospects.

“Typically, I am simply pleased to be included in the first set of rankings, so it’s a decent start,” Kmak said.

The Maroons begin play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Stagg Field.