Baseball avoids four-game sweep by Chicago with walk-off walk
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Bears, which lost its first three games of the weekend to the Maroons. Wash. U.’s pitchers struggled to contain Chicago’s batters, giving up an average of almost eight runs per game.
“I’m really proud of our guys for dealing with all the adversity,” head coach Steve Duncan said. “We dropped the first three games, and it was very demoralizing, but we had to put it behind us. I’m just so proud of how we moved on and how we just kept battling. Luckily, things went our way in the end.”
In game one of the series, the Bears could not hold on to an early 2-0 lead. In the top of the third, Chicago answered Wash. U. by hitting two singles, getting runners on first and second base. The Maroons’ runners advanced to second and third base when Bears’ junior pitcher Taylor Berman threw a ball in the dirt. Junior catcher David Madson couldn’t get his throw to third base under control, leading to Chicago’s first run. At the top of the fifth, the Maroons scored another run on a passed ball, tying the game 2-2.
“We knew we were in the game the whole time,” senior Brandon Rogalski said. “We just weren’t able to hold on to our lead.”
Wash. U. had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth but failed to bring any runners in as Madson struck out. The Bears had another opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when freshman Zack Kessinger and senior Kevin Paule hit singles. Sophomore Oliver Lowry had a solid hit up the middle of the field, but Chicago’s second basemen ended the Bears’ surge by turning a difficult double play. The game went into extra innings, and the Maroons scored three runs to claim a 5-2 victory.
Game two turned out to be a nightmare for the Bears as Chicago’s offensive power dominated throughout the game.
“We really struggled offensively,” sophomore Kyle Billig said. “Our timing wasn’t good during that game and we couldn’t get things together. It was disappointing.”
The Bears scored their only run in the bottom of the first, when freshman Chris Lowery’s RBI single to left-center field scored Billig. But the Maroons roughed up pitcher junior Max Gordon, scoring six runs on nine hits in only four innings. Chicago scored three runs in the fourth and five in the seventh, handing the Bears an 11-1 loss.
“Even though we lost those two games, we still tried to keep focus,” Billig said. “We encouraged each other to keep fighting and to not give in.”
The Bears struck first in the third game, scoring a run in the first inning. Billig led off with a single, then stole second and third base, and Rogalski grounded out to bring him home. Though Wash. U.’s offense failed to put up more runs, junior pitcher Stephen Bonser kept the Bears in the game, holding Chicago scoreless until the sixth inning.
“Things just fell apart in the sixth for us,” Billig said. “We couldn’t find a way to get batters out, and it cost us the game.”
Bonser hit two batters and gave up two singles and a double, enough to let the Maroons take a 7-1 lead.
Despite all the adversity, the Bears players remained focused heading into the final game. Though Chicago scored first with two runs in the first inning, the Bears answered in the fourth as junior Greg Gleicher roped an RBI single to right field, and Wash. U. added another two runs to the scoreboard. Chicago came back in the fifth with five runs, but the Bears answered with four runs of their own in the fifth, including an RBI triple by Rogalski. With the score tied, both teams added one run each in the sixth. In the eighth inning, junior Matthew Polites took the plate with bases loaded and drew a game-winning walk, scoring Rogalski from third base.
“Our approach at the plate was much better,” Duncan said. “We were more selective of the pitches, and we were more aggressive. I couldn’t be more proud of how our guys came together at the end.”
Though the Bears lost the series, Duncan believes the team, as a whole, learned a lot from its losses.
“We still have room to improve, obviously,” Duncan said. “We do like our ball club. It was a disappointing series for us, but it made us see what we still need to improve on before the post season.”
The Bears will be back in action on Tuesday, April 24, as they take on Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., at 6 p.m.