Despite a fresh blanket of snow layering Chicago this week, the turning of the calendar to March brings with it the arrival of baseball season. The Maroons will be heading south to St. Louis this weekend in search of greener fields and warmer weather.
The team will be opening up its season Saturday with a game against the Illinois Wesleyan Titans, then playing two against Fontbonne on Sunday in a double header. Chicago didn’t play against either school last year, so these games represent new tests against unfamiliar opponents.
The team is returning after a year of transition in 2015, a season that saw it go 18–20 in its first season under head coach John Fitzgerald. That mark was an improvement from the South Siders’ 10–27 record in 2014, but they will surely be looking to build on their success this spring. However, once the games get underway, the players will be employing a much simpler mindset.
“We definitely have more of a game-by-game mentality,” remarked third-year pitcher and first-baseman Tom Prescott. “However, one thing we want to keep in mind throughout the season is having fun. Obviously we start the season expecting to win, but baseball is a game of failure. Finding that balance between keeping things light and serious after games is a priority for us. Everybody knows you play better when you are having fun.”
Illinois Wesleyan looks to provide a tough opponent for the Maroons right out of the gate. The team went an impressive 27–16 in 2015, and will be looking to continue its success this year. It’ll be a rough way to start the season, an issue that will only be compounded as the South Siders look to regain their timing as they play outside for the first time in 2016.
“We’ve been practicing indoors this entire quarter. We’ve gone live, had simulated games, and have gotten in shape for the season to begin this weekend,” Prescott recalled. “Nonetheless,” the southpaw admitted, “it is impossible to get that outside game feel [while playing] indoors.”
Fontbonne will hopefully provide Chicago with the opportunity to pick up some early wins. The Griffins have gotten off to a dismal 1–5 start, and will hopefully give the Maroons the chance to return to Hyde Park with a record above .500. A fast start to the season will be key for this squad, as a 2–8 start in 2015 dragged down the team for the rest of the season.
Chicago will face off against Illinois Wesleyan at 3 p.m. Saturday at Shaw Park in St. Louis. Both of Sunday’s games will take place at Fontbonne, with the first pitches scheduled for noon and 3 p.m.