April 19, 2013

With pitching on point, focus shifts to hitting

Despite the Maroons’ strong showing on defense, their offense just couldn’t deliver as they dropped both games of their doubleheader against Illinois Wesleyan (22–7) at home on Tuesday. Pitchers dominated both games, which finished with final scores of 2–0 and 2–1 in the Titans’ favor. With the losses, Chicago fell to 12–10.

Though this is the South Siders’ fifth straight loss, the team is not letting this slump get its spirits down. The team has faced strong opponents of late, including No. 10 UW–Whitewater and No. 18 North Central along with Illinois Wesleyan. The Maroons are determined not to let these defeats define their season.

“We played very well in our past six games going back to Whitewater,” head coach Ruth Kmak said. “Against three highly ranked teams, we played with great intensity, solid pitching and defense, and decent offense. We quite simply did not get the hit we needed with runners in scoring position in games when we needed it.”

The first game of the day was dominated by strong pitching on both sides. Fourth-year Kim Cygan pitched for the Maroons, while third-year Molly McCready pitched for the Titans. The first five innings were scoreless, with McCready and Cygan both striking out 10 batters.

The Titans broke out of their offensive rut in the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles. The team almost scored after a double steal that put runners on second and third, but Cygan shut down the threat with a strikeout. The Maroons also came close to scoring in the sixth with loaded bases and two outs, but couldn’t get on the scoreboard.

Illinois Wesleyan scored the only runs of the game in the seventh on a pinch-hit two-run homer over the fence, putting them ahead 2–0 and handing the South Siders their first defeat of the day.

In the second game, the first three innings continued much like the first game with no runs scored. Illinois Wesleyan scored both of its runs in the top of the fourth after three straight hits, an RBI double, and an RBI single. First-year shortstop Kristin Lopez scored Chicago’s only run in the sixth inning with a solo home run. The game finished 2–1.

Statistically, the team hasn’t been hurt by its recent losses. Kmak believes that these numbers show that the team is fighting hard and just needs to work on the timing of its offense.

“Our fielding percentage has increased by about 20–30 points, the batting average against our pitchers has dropped by 50 points, and our team ERA has been going down,” Kmak said.

Yesterday, the Maroons had planned to take on Aurora (21–3) in a doubleheader on the road, but the game was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday, April 24. What was a busy few days for the South Siders has now been cleared, with their Monday doubleheader at Hope also cancelled due to weather.

With Aurora and Hope currently out of the way, the South Siders can now focus on their next two games against Wheaton (14–11) at home.

Chicago may feel it has the upper hand with the Thunder’s current record for away games an unimpressive 2–4, and hopes to regain momentum for the rest of its season. Cygan will lead the team along with first-year Jordan Poole, who recorded the only two hits for Chicago in the first game against Illinois Wesleyan.

The Maroons hope to break out of their slump in their games against Wheaton at Stagg Field on Saturday at 1 p.m.