A sputtering Maroons offense clicked into gear just in time against Aurora in a doubleheader, turning in a game-tying single and a walk-off base on balls after having been only an out away from defeat.
After their seventh-inning rally gave them a 2–1 win in the first game, Chicago racked up 12 hits in an 11–0 blowout to end their recent home stand with a four-game winning streak.
“It should be a good couple of games,” head coach Ruth Kmak said last week about the Aurora fixture. She couldn’t have been more right.
The Maroons (22–8) went behind in the second at-bat of the game to a solo home run by Spartans catcher Tristan Wilcox, but that was the only run fourth-year Sarah Neuhaus (7–4) would allow in her five innings of work.
Neither team would manage much else until the closing frame; the teams combined for only one hit in the second through fifth innings. The sixth inning saw each team fail to capitalize on scoring opportunities, as Maroons head coach Ruth Kmak brought on third-year Kim Cygan (13–3) after the Spartans (22–14) got two runners on with no outs. Second-year Zoe Oliver-Grey singled to lead off the home half of the frame, and first-year Tabbetha Bohac, as a pinch-runner, advanced to third on two ground-outs before getting picked off to end the threat.
In the seventh, the Maroons got two hits and a walk to load the bases with two outs, bringing second-year Maddie McManus to the plate. The third baseman swung at the first pitch and connected solidly, singling to center field to bring home the tying run.
“[I] wanted to get out of there as fast as possible, so I could breathe again,” McManus said. “That’s why I swung at the first pitch.”
The home side now the favorite to win, Oliver-Grey returned to the plate, looking to replicate her last at-bat. Taking the opposite approach to McManus, the catcher got a similar result, putting the pressure on Aurora’s Natalie Zanella (13–9) and earning a game-winning walk.
There was no such drama to be had in the second game, as the Maroons blew the game open with a six-run third inning, ending the game 11–0 in a taut five innings via the mercy rule. Oliver-Grey continued her strong play, getting three RBIs on two hits; four other Maroons had two hits as well. Cygan stayed on the mound for the Maroons, pitching four innings of two-hit ball before turning the ball over to first-year lefty Emily Ashbridge for a scoreless final frame.
“The second game, we seemed to have a lot of confidence,” McManus said, “and the momentum was definitely in our favor.”
With a strong week of play, Chicago moved up to sixth in their regional rankings. In addition, the Maroons found out that two of their own were named All-UAA: second-year Kaitlyn Carpenter, and Cygan. Carpenter is first on the team in batting average (.464), slugging (.682), and stolen bases (11) and earned a First Team nod. Cygan, a
Second Team pick, is sixth in DIII in ERA (0.83) and hits per game (3.73), and has been a workhorse for the Maroons this season, pitching 101.2 innings.
The South Siders are in action on Saturday against 19th-ranked Carthage (30–4), one of the few teams ranked above them in the region: The Lady Reds are second in the Great Lakes. After making the trek to Kenosha, Wisconsin, they’ll visit Alma (23–9) for another doubleheader.
The Maroons are 4–3 on the season against ranked opponents—without a doubt, they can compete with Carthage—and a pair of wins would be huge for postseason qualification and, perhaps, seeding. If the Maroons’ offense remains timely and potent, like it has during their winning streak, they could emerge as a sleeping giant come playoff time.