May 11, 2012

’Cats in the bag: Maroons defeat DI Northwestern

Sports fans often joke that a very bad Major League team could be beaten by a minor league team. It would probably never happen, even though the San Diego Padres sometimes look like they could lose to the Buffalo Bisons. The Maroons (23–12) showed on Tuesday against Northwestern (16–30) that sometimes, a talented DIII team is better than a struggling DI team. The South Siders beat the North Siders by a score of 6–3.

Chicago got on the board early in the first inning. In fact, they scored two runs before Northwestern second-year starter Nick Friar had recorded an out. Friar walked the first two hitters. Due up third was second-year outfielder Ricky Troncelliti, whose season has been nothing short of outstanding. Troncelliti padded his .468 batting average with a two-run double. Chalk it up to not knowing their opponent, perhaps, but the Wildcats should not have put runners on for Troncelliti.

After Northwestern cut the Maroons’ lead to one, adding a run in the bottom of the third, Chicago answered an inning later with three runs in the top of the fifth. The Wildcats’ pitching staff gave up yet another costly walk, this time walking third-year infielder J.R. Lopez with the bases loaded to force in a run. Fourth-year catcher Stephen Williams added to the inning driving in a run with a fielder’s choice, and second-year outfielder and first baseman Brett Huff capped off the inning’s scoring with an RBI single.

Though the Maroons gave up two runs in the bottom of that inning, their lead was never in doubt. They tacked on one more run in the eighth for a final score of 6–3. This squad is making a habit of playing games in which they accumulate a double-digit hit total, accumulating ten on Tuesday afternoon.

The gravity of this win is not to be understated. There’s no better way for a team like the Maroons to end a season than by beating a DI opponent, all while awaiting selections for a mere DIII tournament.

“It was nice to finish our season strong and get the win against Northwestern,” first-year infielder Kyle Engel said.

The win was Chicago’s first against a DI opponent since May 2, 2000, when they beat Chicago State.

The Maroons and the Wildcats have now met 119 times and four times in the past four years. In those games, the Maroons can now boast a 1–3 record.

Now, back on the South Side, the Maroons await word on whether or not they’ve made the NCAA tournament, and where they will be playing if they did indeed make it. The berth would be the program’s first ever to the NCAA DIII postseason.

“We’re all looking forward to hearing the NCAA selections in the future,” Engel said.

The South Siders’ fate will be announced on Sunday, May 13.