The South Siders saw their first action of the season this weekend and began in quick fashion, playing four games in two days in Jacksonville, IL. The Maroons went 2–2 on the weekend, beating Lawrence University 8–3 and Elmhurst College 13–12, while losing to Loras College 5–15 and Illinois Wesleyan 6–16.
The team started strong in their first game of 2017, with second-year starter Brenton Villasenor giving up only four hits and two unearned runs in six strong innings that included five strikeouts and only one walk against Lawrence. An offensive outburst in the fifth and sixth innings featured a bases-clearing double by fourth-year shortstop Ryan Krob.
After that, second-year reliever Ravi Bakhai came in for a clutch three-inning performance and the first save of the year. “My first appearance went well,” Bakhai said. “I didn't let up any earned runs but definitely got away with a few mistake pitches. I know there's a lot of room for improvement and I am excited to continue to work at it.”
The rest of the weekend did not go as well for the Maroons, as they gave up 44 runs in the next three games. However, they were able to put together some prolific scoring against Elmhurst, totaling a total of 13 runs.
"We made a lot of 'first-time-outside-on-the-diamond' mistakes, but that happens to everyone,” first-year pitcher Pat Rogers said. “I remember being really upset that Derek Jeter made three errors on opening day one time. It's a different game in Crown and on the field, but it'll come.”
The other win of the weekend came in an offensive outburst that saw seven different Maroons log at least one RBI, led by second-year outfielder Connor Hickey with three. Second-year infielder Max Brzostowski scored three runs in the win over Elmhurst.
The Maroons were plagued by sloppy play, logging a whopping 12 errors in the four games this weekend, many of which led to unearned runs. The outlook for the season is still positive, however, as the team has plenty of talent. Indeed, many of the players making significant contributions to the Maroons are first- and second-year players.
“There were positives and negatives this weekend. We made a lot of errors and didn't pitch the way we wanted to, but hit well and had a few bright spots on the mound,” Bakhai said. “We have a lot of young guys, so we're still working out a few things and figuring things out. I'm pretty confident that we will make the necessary adjustments and grow from our two losses this weekend.”
When asked about expectations for the season, Bakhai did not hesitate that this team has its eyes set on the playoffs, saying, “Our goal undoubtedly is to make the playoffs. Our team isn't in a conference so we have to have an extremely good record to get a bid. This means every game is crucial. We have the talent and now just need to execute.”
The team does not play again until March 18, when it takes a trip to Florida during spring break.