Heavy hitters : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Three home runs help Cats to victory|
|by Laura M. Medina|
More often than not, baseball games are won on the successful execution of offensive fundamentals. Other times, teams win behind power hitting.
On Tuesday night, it was the latter that propelled the Oswego Cats, as three towering home runs carried them to a 9-6 home victory over cross-divisional foe Beecher in Chicago Suburban Baseball League competition.
Oswego (18-9, 12-7) - a winner of three straight and four of its last five overall - maintained its second-place standing in the North Division. Meanwhile, Beecher (14-7 CSBL) stayed atop the South.
Success has found the Cats in a variety of ways during their 2012 slate, as they've won behind a respectable .277 batting average and a solid 3.71 ERA - good for second in the CSBL - heading into Tuesday's game.
Similarly, the long ball has played a significant role in that span, as they've increased their season home run total to 14, with 11 coming in league play.
That particular fact was at the forefront on Tuesday against Beecher, which previously split a doubleheader with Oswego at home on June 23.
Left-hander Drew Nicholson (University of Chicago) took the ball for the Cats and struggled to establish himself at the outset, as the Muskies put a pair of runs on the board for the early lead.
But Oswego soon cut the deficit, thanks to a two-out solo homer over the fence in left-center off the bat of second baseman Clay Schuler (Valparaiso University).
Just as soon as the Cats had started rallying back, the Muskies came out again in the second and added two more runs, including one on a squeeze play that brought veteran third baseman Todd Sippel home.
Again, though, Oswego couldn't be held back, and the team responded with two runs of its own. After starting the second with back-to-back hits, left fielder Ryan O'Dell (Edgewood College) brought Ryan Prinzing (University of Alabama-Birmingham) home with a single.
Two batters later, shortstop Bobby Wilson (Aurora University), who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, sent right fielder Mike Foley (Aurora University) home with another single to make it just a 4-3 game.
Nicholson settled in and kept Beecher off the board in third, but Oswego wasn't quite finished with its offensive surge, as Schuler (3-for-5, two homers, three RBIs, three runs) drilled his second homer of the night - a two-run shot over the right-center fence - to put the home side ahead 5-4.
Schuler has three homers in the last three games and now has 16 RBIs overall, tied for second-most on the team.
All the Muskies could muster in the fourth was a hit, but in their portion of the inning, the Cats were boosted by a three-run home run by center fielder Anthony Amedei III (Aurora University), giving him a team-leading four homers and 20 RBIs on the season.
"We do still play a little bit of small-ball, but we do have some bigger bats in our lineup now, so we won't have to go as small as often, and that's a nice luxury to have," Cats player-assistant coach Todd Miller said.
"Really, it's been about timely hitting. We get runners on base, and then we get the double, or we have the runners on second and third, and we get a single."
"It's all about timing, and lately, it's been almost uncanny. We got them on, and we get them in - it's nice."
Four batters later, Prinzing's run-scoring double off of right-handed starter Jason Squier pushed his team's lead to 9-4. That would be the end of the night for Squier, who gave way to right-hander John Fightmaster in the fifth.
Fightmaster limited the Cats to just three hits and one walk the rest of the way, striking out five in that four-inning stretch.
Meanwhile, Nicholson shut down Beecher in its half of the fifth, but he faltered in the sixth, as he allowed another two runs. In all, he conceded six runs, nine hits and one walk, and he fanned one in six innings of work.
Right-hander Tom Ozlanski (Aurora University) headed out for Oswego in the seventh, and he tossed two hitless innings of relief before running into trouble in the ninth. With two outs and the bases loaded, however, the Cats called on veteran right-hander Kevin Loukota (Northeastern Illinois) to record the final out - a strikeout - and preserve the win.
"We came out a little bit flat, and then Clay had his homer to make it 2-1, but we gave them two right back," Miller said. "We hung with it and didn't give up - that's the biggest thing. They were hitting Drew pretty hard, but he gave us six good innings, and that's good.
"Tommy came in for the next 2 2/3 and shut the door on them. We had trouble there in the last inning, but Kevin came in and got us the out we needed."
What Oswego needs in the next few days is a bit of endurance, as the team is set for five games in four days, starting with today, Thursday, against Wheaton at 7:30 p.m. A pair of back-to-back doubleheaders are then scheduled for the weekend, with Crystal Lake coming to town on Saturday, starting at noon, and Crestwood heading in for a 1:00 p.m. matchup.
As potent as the Cats' bats were against Beecher, they might be hard-pressed to experience the same sort of success against any of the teams they're facing next.
"The pitching this weekend is going to be tough," Miller said. "Crystal Lake and Crestwood are two good teams, but we'll be just fine if our pitching comes through as it has."
Notes: Home runs might not have highlighted the Cats' results in winning three of their previous four games, but they still had plenty of success. In a doubleheader split at Oak Forest on Saturday, Josh Axelsen (St. Andrews University) went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Schuler went 1-for-4 with three walks and three runs scored in the 6-4 opening-game win. Amedei, Axelsen, Loukota and Kevin Ryan (Lewis University) each went 2-for-4 in the 12-6 nightcap loss. In Sunday's twinbill sweep of Quad Cities, Schuler went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs, while Amedei, Prinzing, Foley and Wilson each had two hits in the 8-7 victory. In the 7-6 nightcap win, Wilson went 3-for-3 with three runs, and Tony Jandron (St. Norbert College) went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Schuler and Prinzing each went 2-for-4.