Two out of three losses: ‘final nail in the coffin’
“Everyone knew how important it was for us to get on a winning streak and finish the season off strong and give ourselves a chance to make the [NCAA] tournament,” senior Nick Vom Brack said. “Obviously, [the games] didn’t go the way we wanted them to. We’re running out of time to make that push. We pretty much know when our season is going to end.”
Despite a 9-1 win at Knox College on Sunday, the Bears lost consecutive games to Webster University and Millikin University, 4-1 and 15-14 respectively.
Junior Bryce Hrovat took the mound against Knox with a trick up his sleeve: a new pitch.
“I had been working on a slider all week, just because…I was just trying to find something that I could throw a little bit harder, have a pretty sharp break on it and get a little bit of control,” Hrovat said. “Going against Knox, I decided, ‘Hey, we’re at this point in the season where we’re already kind of on the edge. I’m going to try something new out.’ It ended up being a real effective pitch…and I was able to keep [the batters] off-balance.”
With this newfound slider, Hrovat struck out a career-high 14 batters in eight innings, giving up just one earned run. Meanwhile, the Red and Green offense put nine runs on the board, taking the lead in the second inning off of junior Matt Bayer’s two-RBI single.
On Monday, the team faced Webster University for the third time this season. In the two previous games, the Bears had been outscored 35-3, but senior ace Jeremy Rogoff held the Gorloks to just four runs. Rogoff pitched a complete game, picking up a career-high 15 strikeouts in the process, but the team’s offense was limited to just one run.
“I can’t say enough about how well Jeremy pitched,” Vom Brack said. “It definitely was hard to not be able to contribute [offensively] to help his cause the way he helped the team’s cause on that day.”
Offense was no problem for either team in Tuesday’s game at Millikin, but the Bears could not maintain a ninth-inning tie. Knotted at 14-14, relief pitcher junior H.T. Flanagan gave up a leadoff double before a game-winning single four batters later.
In the top of the inning, Wash. U. rallied from a run down just to continue the game. Taking advantage of two errors by the Big Blue defense, Vom Brack pushed across the tying run. The Bears overcame three other deficits earlier in the contest.
“Besides [the game] being an offensive battle…there definitely was that feeling of, ‘this game pretty much makes or breaks the season,’” Vom Brack said. “After the game, you could feel that the wind was taken out of our sails. It was definitely tough to realize that [the loss] was likely the final nail in the coffin. It’s hard to think that way.”
Postseason or not, with eight games left, the Bears have yet to give up on the season.
“[From here], you just play with some pride, Hrovat said. “You do everything you can to win games and get a little momentum into next year and…get some confidence up so that way, going into next year, you think you’re still great.”
Wash. U. continues play with back-to-back doubleheaders at home against the University of Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. The first pitch will be at noon for both series.