The Chicago baseball team opened its season last weekend with a rough road trip to St. Louis. The squad dropped its first game against Illinois Wesleyan with a score of 3–0 on Saturday before splitting a doubleheader with Fontbonne on Sunday, losing 7–4 and then winning 10–7.
The first game was a disappointing way to start the season, as the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans’ arms shut down the Maroon offense, which only mustered four hits on the day. While Chicago starter fourth-year Lucas Friss turned in his own impressive work on the mound, hurling six innings of one run ball while striking out five, the team was hung with the loss nonetheless.
The lack of offensive support is at least in part attributable to Chicago’s inability to practice outside during the late winter months. “Without taking any well-deserved credit from IWU, there is an apparent transition from hitting in the cages of Henry Crown to being out on the field,” admitted first-year right-fielder Josh Parks.
“IWU’s arms had great command, but being able to get our timing down after one game really allowed us to swing a little bit more freely and let talent and instincts take over. We also have a lot of freshmen in the lineup so the opener allowed all of us to get acclimated in our first college game.”
Then Maroon bats didn’t stay quiet for long, as the team managed to find its strokes in its games against Fontbonne to the tune of seven hits and four runs. Unfortunately, the pitching staff was not quite able to keep up, surrendering seven runs (six earned) on seven hits. The team didn’t receive much help on defense either, only commiting four errors.
The second game was even more of a slugfest, as the two teams combined for 27 hits and 17 runs. Luckily, Chicago managed to emerge on top, thanks in large part to the efforts of an energized Parks, who went 4–5 in the second game while scoring three times.
“There’s truly no way to replicate being on the field,” Parks said. “There’s a clear change in energy and overall attitude from everyone when we get out on the diamond, coaches included. We were all able to feed off of each others’ excitement and focus once we laced up the cleats for the first time.”
As the team moves forward into the season, Parks preached consistency and focus as the keys to a successful season. “Coming off of this weekend, we realized that we need to work on focusing for all nine innings without letting off of the gas. That will come with experience, but overall I was proud of the way we fought and answered the call today.”
While improvement on defense will also be key (the team committed 11 errors across the three games), the Maroons see themselves as a team that is building confidence, which will in turn lead to success.
“We were able to see who can produce at this level and what we need to work on, so that we can solidify our defensive game before the spring trip in two weeks,” Parks observed. “A lot of strong showings from our pitching staff this weekend gave them some much-needed confidence moving forward. We’ll go as far as their arms can take us. All the rest of us need to focus on is playing catch and making good contact. Combine all of it, and we’ll have a shot to beat any team on the schedule.”
Up next the Maroons will take on Hanover in Hanover, IN, on March 19. Chicago will compete against the Panthers three times over the course of the weekend.