April 4, 2014

Maroons see room for improvement following spring break stint

While most students used the past week to recover from a gloomy winter quarter, the Maroons were busy starting their season in the balmy Florida sun.

In a week, the South Siders managed to play 12 games with the hope that the combination of the weather and in-game experience would warm the team up for the remainder of the season back in the Midwest.

Chicago began its first game at home on Tuesday against Hope College (11–7).  The first inning saw some early scoring as both teams traded three runs, four of which were unearned.

The Maroons fell behind early, however, as the Flying Dutchmen pulled ahead with four runs in the second and another an inning later. Chicago only scored one more run as the cleanup hitter, fourth-year outfielder Ricky Troncelliti, hit a sacrifice fly to score third-year catcher Brenden Dunleavy from third. Hope went on to win the game in the following inning with a score of 16–9.

Playing on the lower end of the score was a factor that some feel has contributed to Chicago’s early struggles.

“I think we need to focus on getting the lead early,” second-year pitcher Pat McManus said. “We seem to keep falling behind early in games and then having to play catch-up, so we have to do a better job of getting going in the first inning,”

The Maroons fought within closer range in their second game of the week when they faced Benedictine (3–9) the following afternoon. Once again, Chicago traded runs with its opponent in the first inning, off a solo home run from third-year infielder Kyle Engel.

After Benedictine scored eight more runs, the Maroons readied for a comeback: They loaded the bases with a leadoff single from fourth-year outfielder Brett Huff, a walk by Troncelliti, and Dunleavy getting hit by a pitch. All three would eventually score, putting the South Siders within striking distance. However, Chicago could only muster one more run that afternoon, eventually losing to the Bulldogs 9–5.

Although spring break’s outcomes were not ideal, the South Siders have shown improvement in all facets of play.

“We started really focusing on what it took to get the job done, based on what was going on, both in the inning and in the game. We also had a tougher two-strike approach, allowing us to put more balls in play,” Troncelliti said.

The team hopes to use these first few weeks, in which it went 3–9, as a learning experience.

“We started off really slowly in Florida, and I think it's the slow start that taught us that we have to take our season one game at a time,” said second-year catcher Tim Sonnefeldt. “We just have to play the game that we’re capable of playing. We have a great pitching staff and great hitters. When we all play the way we are capable of playing, we can do great things.”

McManus agrees that the Maroons show flashes of quality play but haven’t played a whole game just yet.

“Our biggest struggle has been putting everything together. It seems that we either hit well and pitch and play defense poorly, or hit poorly and pitch and play defense well, so we just have to balance everything out,” McManus said.

The Maroons will travel to Wash U (9–12) to play a doubleheader tomorrow at 12 and 3 p.m. and face the Bears one more time on Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m.