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Regional shutout : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Regional shutout
Rain delays game twice, Oswego can't produce in 3-0 loss to Geneva

by Laura M. Medina


Just as the Oswego baseball team worked toward the playoffs during the regular season, they also do so in the summer. Unfortunately for them, both stays in 2014 were short-lived.

No. 11 Oswego dropped a lengthy, rain-soaked 3-0 result at sixth-seeded Geneva in the first round of the St. Charles East Regional on Monday as part of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.

While the Panthers' playoff road may have come to an end, the Vikings advanced to face the host Saints on Tuesday afternoon but eventually lost 10-2. No. 3 St. Charles East played in the regional semifinal against Batavia on Wednesday afternoon, but results were not available at press time. The regional final is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m.

Oswego's latest defeat was its fourth straight overall, as the team ended a relatively successful summer slate on a sour note, much like it did during the spring season.

"The only thing that was frustrating was that we played really well this summer," Panthers head coach Mark Johnson said. "Like the spring, we were playing pretty well during the season, and then, we did awful in the playoffs. And then this summer, we were playing really well and won the first game of the (2nd Annual Rt. 59 Wood Bat Classic).

"We played well in that tournament, but we lost to Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley, and then, we lost to Plainfield South (on July 9) and then to Geneva, so it sort of parallels, but that's baseball."

Monday's game, however, was anything but typical for the Panthers, as two rain delays - a brief one in the top of the second and a two-hour break in the top of the fifth - extended the game from morning to mid-afternoon.

Geneva, facing off against right-hander Konor Gengler, got on the board in the first on a passed ball at home.

Oswego had its best chance to score with the bases loaded just before the first wave of showers hit. Following a 10-minute send-off, the team returned to the diamond, but batted into consecutive fielder's choice plays and ended the inning with a strikeout to effectively end the rally.

Right-hander Marty Maves came out for the bottom half of the second and kept the Vikings off balance until the third, when another run came around to score for the 2-0 lead.

The Panthers struggled to get anything going in the fourth and fifth innings and were hampered further by the storm that put the game on an extended hold. According to Johnson, it was a tougher situation for the Vikings, who removed their top starter, left-hander Mitchell Merges, from the game when things resumed.

"Honestly, it affected them more than us, because their pitcher was doing a good job against us, and they took him out, which was good because he's their best pitcher, their number one pitcher," he said. "I don't think it affected us as much, because when we came back out there, we put base-runners on."

Left-hander James Prisco came on in relief and completed the combined shutout effort for the Vikings. Merges gave up three hits and two walks while striking out one in four innings, and Prisco conceded a hit and two walks with a strikeout in the last three frames.

Meanwhile, Maves returned to the mound for Oswego after the stoppage, shutting down Geneva until the top of the sixth, when second baseman Justin Hasagawa added a bit of insurance with an RBI single to make it 3-0.

"I told our kids that it came down to six different scenarios - in three of theirs, they scored, and we gave them to them with an error behind the plate, an error at first base and an 0-2 base hit, and in three of ours, we didn't score," Johnson said.

Maves surrendered two runs, two hits and three walks while fanning five in 4 1-3 innings after Gengler gave up a run and five walks with two strikeouts in 1 2-3 innings.

It is unclear exactly how Maves and Gengler will be used in next year's spring schedule, but Johnson envisions a great deal of pitching depth overall.

"With our two through eight pitchers, we know which ones are our starters and relievers, but we still haven't had anyone that steps up as our number one," he said. "A lot of teams don't have that, but I feel pretty good about our pitchers. We'll have five or six seniors and five or six juniors, so a good mix is there."

Oswego's summer may have wrapped, but Johnson has used the season to continue evaluations and assessments for the team that will take the field in the spring. He expects that when it does begin, a renewed sense of competition and fight emerges from his Panthers.

"I've told them that there are certain spots that we're pretty happy with, and there are other positions that are wide open, so it either comes down to a kid that's got his position now - does he want to work harder to keep it? - or there's guys on the bench that I'm hoping step up and say, 'I'm ready if I get the call,'" he said.

"It's good not to have a set nine going in there, I think. It would be nice to, but it'll breed good competition going in."

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