by Luke Stanczyk
The Benedictine University baseball team was able to score its first sweep Northern Athletics Conference play on Monday, as the Eagles (11-11, 5-3) took two games from Marantha (1-17, 0-8) by scores of 16-1 and 8-2.
Offense was the big story of the day for BenU, as they took advantage of the windy conditions to pound out 18 hits in game one and 13 in game two. The big inning propelled Benedictine in the first game, as a seven run second inning put the game away early and allowed the Eagles to coast to the win in seven innings. Almost all of BenU’s lineup contributed in the second inning, as six different players had at least one RBI in the frame.
For the game, senior Uli Ortiz and junior John Cervantes each had three hits and three runs scored a piece, with Ortiz stealing two bases and Cervantes adding two RBI and one of BenU’s three doubles in the game. Senior leadoff man and center fielder Dan Zust added a two RBI double, while junior shortstop Nick Karakosta and senior catcher Jake Passini each added two RBI of their own.
Not only was the offense solid in game one, starting pitcher Matt Vucovich was as well. The junior had his best outing of the year, throwing five innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball while striking out five in his first victory of the season. Lefties Nick Diessner and Pat Collis each worked an inning in relief after Vucovich.
“When you play a team like Maranatha that’s probably the worst team in the conference, you still have to be focused,” said Eagles Head Coach John Ostrowski, who earned his 898th and 899th career victories. “The first game, we were focused well. Vucovich threw more strikes than I’ve seen him throw [all year].”
Game two featured much offense for Benedictine as well, but in a different fashion. Instead of using the big inning to propel them to a win, the Eagles scored at least one run in six of the eight innings they stepped to the plate.
A key point in the game was in the bottom of the fourth. BenU had a 3-0 lead heading into the top of the inning, but Maranatha plated two runs. However, the Eagles wasted no time in responding, as a Zust RBI double and an RBI single by junior Tom Higgins re-established a three run lead.
Zust’s double was just one of his four hits in game two, as he hit three doubles, had three RBI, stole a base, hit a sacrifice fly and scored two runs in the leadoff spot.
“I saw a lot more off-speed [than in the first game]. There was a tendency early in the game with that kid to throw curveball first pitch,” Zust said. “I took a guess thinking he was going to throw that pitch twice, and [both times] I got that pitch right there.”
The only other Eagles to have more than one hit in the game was Higgins, as he went 2-for-4 with a triple and a stolen base. However, the Eagles controlled the game on the basepaths, stealing nine bases. All in all, BenU was 12-for-13 on the day in stolen base chances.
On the mound, freshman Mike Irgang, who has not gotten much in the way of run support this season, finally got some offense behind him and earned his first win of the season. He went five innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out three.
After Irgang exited the game, four relievers each threw a scoreless inning: junior Nick Schroeder and freshmen Spencer Lehmann, Ty Anderson and Chris Jordan.
“We haven’t had a chance to really test a lot of those young guys,” said Ostrowski on his bullpen. “Overall, the bullpen has done a pretty good job for us.”
An interesting twist to game two was Maranatha’s starting pitcher. Junior Derek Funkhouser threw three innings in game two as the starter after throwing four innings in the first game in relief.
“I was not expecting that, but it was good at the same time,” said Zust of Funkhouser starting game two. We had already seen him once through, so we knew what he was throwing. He was pretty much the same thing, same approach too.”
The ever-changing wind played a major factor in both contests. Numerous times throughout the day, the wind changed directions. It was an issue that players, outfielders especially, struggled with all game long.
“It was pretty tough,” Zust explained about the wind. “Not only was it windy, it wasn’t in a certian direction the whole game. It was kind of switching back and forth. So, when that ball was up there, it was kind of swirling and moving on you.”
The Eagles take the field again on Thursday in a non-conference tilt, as Elmhurst College visits the Lisle-Benedictine Sports Complex for a 6 p.m. contest.