By Luke Stanczyk
Against an Aurora team that many believe will win the Northern Athletics Conference, the Benedictine Eagles (8-9, 2-2) baseball team split a double header with the Spartans (13-4, 3-1) on Sunday at the Lisle-Benedictine Sports Complex.
In game one, the Eagles would fall 11-4, but hung around for the first six innings. Junior Kevin Crowley pitched well up until the seventh, when AU would plate four to give them an 8-2 lead at the time.
After AU added three more in the top of the ninth, the Eagles would score two in the bottom of the inning on a pinch-hit single by junior infielder Mike Loni to give the game the 11-4 score.
BenU scored their two runs earlier on a double by Ortiz in the fourth inning and on a fielder’s choice by junior infielder Chris Wanderling in the sixth. The Eagles totaled 10 hits on the game, but sophomore first baseman Ryan Mullin was the only Eagle to have more than one hit.
For AU, junior Drew Gay earned the win by working eight innings and allowing just two runs. Aurora was aided with three home runs, as senior third baseman Tim Mackey (3-5 in the game), senior first baseman Brett VanAsdlen, and junior right fielder Mike Foley all hit one homer a piece.
The nightcap was a different story for the Eagles, as they came out on top 8-6. All of the runs for Benedictine came in an eight run third inning, and six of the eight came before the Eagles recorded an out. The inning’s big hit came from junior designated hitter Tim Gindville, who hit a bases-clearing double to increase BenU’s lead to 6-0.
“We became more aggressive at the plate with fastballs and just had better mindsets,” said junior catcher Tom Higgins on the difference in the two games.
AU would respond in the next half inning, scoring five runs in the top of the fourth. However, junior Nick Mishevich would come on in relief of the starter, junior Matt Vucovich, and hold down the Spartans for the next 3 2/3 innings.
“He came out there and wasn’t afraid to attack the strike zone,” said Higgins on Mishevich. “He came out there, went to work and pitched one hell of a game.”
Gindville led the way for the Eagles offensively, going 3-for-4 with the big double to raise his average to .348 on the season. BenU’s key offensive contributors also included Higgins (2-for-4 with a double and an RBI), Mullin (2-for-2 with two RBI and a stolen base), Ortiz (2-for-5) and junior right fielder Steve Cocat (2-for-4).
Vucovich worked 3 1/3 innings before being relieved by Mishevich. From that point on, Mishevich, freshman Spencer Lehmann and junior Shay Wagner (who earned his fourth save of the season in as many chances) held the Spartans to just one unearned run for the rest of the game.
Aurora’s game two starter, senior Stephen Sitterly, lasted just over two innings and couldn’t make it out of BenU’s offensive onslaught in the third. Offensively, Foley hit a grand-slam home run in the fourth inning, his second homer of the day.
The split against the Spartans came a day after the Eagles split another double header against nationally-ranked and NAC foe Concordia-Chicago. In taking two out of four games from what is believed to be the conference’s top two teams, Benedictine believes they have a lot to build off of.
“Yes, [the weekend was] definitely a success,” Higgins said. “If we play like we did this weekend all year, we can turn some heads.”
It does not get any easier for the Eagles, as their next game is a non-conference tilt at the University of Chicago on Wednesday. The Maroons, who have played many of the same opponents as the Eagles thus far, currently possess a 10-5 record.