Despite carrying momentum from recent victories, Chicago dropped three straight decisions to conference rival Wash U on the final weekend of the season. The team was defeated by a single run on Friday and lost both ends of a doubleheader the following afternoon. With these results, the Maroons wrapped up the season with an overall record of 18–19. The Bears improved to 31–16, and will face Augustana in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday.
In the first game, the pitchers for both teams got out to a strong start. For the Maroons, first-year Brent Villasenor started the game and posted seven strong innings. The hurler allowed just six hits and two earned runs in a solid outing. Offensively, the squad struggled out of the gate, and did not manage to score in the first four innings. However, the team put up two runs in the fifth and another in the eighth, taking a 3–2 lead into the final frame. Unfortunately, the Maroons were unable to hold on as they surrendered a pair of runs to the Bears and ultimately lost the game 4–3.
Then on Saturday, Chicago met a similar fate as the team fell in back-to-back games against the same Wash U team. In the first match, the Bears dominated throughout. After the Maroons jumped out to an early 2–1 lead, they allowed nine runs in the third inning and were never able to recover. By the end of the seven-inning contest, Chicago had used four different pitchers who together conceded 17 total runs. The offense was not able to match this scoring avalanche, and the squad fell by a score of 17–3.
In the second leg, the Maroons made a much stronger showing. Tied 1–1 in the fifth inning, third-year Nick Toomey blasted a double over the centerfielder’s head and knocked in a pair of runs to give the Maroons the advantage. After some back-and-forth scoring, Chicago headed into the ninth with a 4–3 lead. But, like on Friday, the Bears rallied in the final inning to secure a one-run victory.
Chicago finished the season with a record just below .500, which was evenly distributed between home and away games. As a team, the Maroons posted a strong batting average of .297 and scored 193 runs in 37 games. While three straight losses was not the ideal end to the season for the Maroons, the prospects are not all bad. The team will now head into the offseason looking to improve on this finish next year.
“We had a lot of young guys giving us a lot of innings on the mound and in the field and I think that experience will really help us in preparation for next year,” Toomey said. Their youth will certainly be an asset next year, but they also will not be losing as much as they thought. “We are lucky to have Tim Sonnefeldt returning for a fifth year so that will also help from a leadership standpoint.”
The 2017 baseball season will open next March.