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Putting the pieces together : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Putting the pieces together
Oswego Cats snap four-game skid, move back to .500

by Laura M. Medina


With the regular season coming down to the wire, every game - and subsequently, every win - brings the Oswego Cats closer to a greater goal: playoff success.

They took a step in the right direction on Tuesday night, defeating the Chicago Angels 6-1 in a non-league matchup at Jackie's Field of Dreams to snap a four-game losing streak and improve to a .500 mark this summer.

After wrapping up an unsuccessful string of seven games in six days, starting with last Tuesday's home loss to Beecher, Oswego (16-16, 12-11 Chicago Suburban Baseball League) defeated CSBL opponent Addison on consecutive nights - 9-6 last Wednesday and 4-3 last Thursday - before dropping a pair of doubleheaders versus Crystal Lake on Saturday (4-1 and 7-2) and at Michigan City on Sunday (13-5 and 6-2).

A win against the Angels, who are seeking permanence in the CSBL next season, was just what the team needed to start turning things around before regional play begins July 31 at home.

"It's nice to get a little win here," Cats field manager Todd Miller said. "We struggled against these guys all year even though we won the first one (5-1 on June 17) and lost the second one (2-0 on June 26). We hit the ball well against these guys, and it was nice to kind of put an inning together, get a lead and make them chase us, and then tack on some at the end."

Right-hander Brandon Thielk (University of Arizona) took the ball for the Cats, and while he struggled with the strike zone in the early going, he eventually settled down and threw six strong innings. He conceded one hit and five walks, while striking out 10 - including four straight in the first and second - in six scoreless frames.

Meanwhile, it was right fielder Ryan O'Dell (Edgewood College) who provided the game's first hit in the second with triple to left-center off of right-hander Bret Moyer. He came around to score in the next at-bat on a wild pitch by Moyer, who gave up just two hits, three walks and a hit batter while fanning nine in six innings.

Right-hander Dominick Tatone (Judson University) came on in relief of Thielk in the seventh, striking out the side. When the Cats retuned in the bottom half, they provided plenty of support for both of their pitchers with a five-run inning.

Facing left-handed reliever Alex Brown, third baseman Jose Camacho (Waubonsee Community College) started things off with a single and advanced to third after the Angels misplayed a hit by catcher Zach Deutscher (North Park University). Both eventually came home on wild pitches.

Centerfielder Chris Hill (North Central College) singled and scored on a double by Adam Lipscomb (Aurora University). Lipscomb was plated by second baseman a single from Devin Ambrose (Tiffin University).

Two batters later, Ambrose tagged up on a sacrifice fly to left from first baseman Kevin Loukota (Northeastern Illinois University) to make it a 6-0 game.

Tatone sat down all three batters he faced in the eighth, paving the way for left-hander Andy Grunewald (Park University) in the ninth. Grunewald surrendered a single to left fielder Mike Obucina, who eventually scored with two outs on a double to Tim Skryd, but he closed out the game with a strikeout to preserve the win.

"Brandon pitched very well. He had a little bit of trouble with the strike zone early and had a lot of walks, but he'll be okay," Miller said. "Dom had another good outing. Andy struggled a little bit, but he is a veteran, so he knows how to pitch, and he knows what he's doing out there. Everybody has one of those outings; it just happens. Coincidentally, it seems to be happening to all of us out here at once."

While Oswego hit a bump in the road in its schedule last week, it has little room left for inefficiencies of any kind with just three games left and the regional a week away.

The Cats returned to Jackie's Field of Dreams on Wednesday against Crestwood, but results were not available at press time. They welcome Westmont tonight (Thursday) with first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m., and the Angels make one final visit on Sunday at noon.

With the time in between the last regular-season game and next week's regional opener, Miller will be compiling his playoff roster, keeping in mind the players that have been strong in the field and at the plate. Specifically, he'll be looking for continuity from everyone in the lineup.

"Consistency, at the plate, we're still just not a very good fielding team, and we need to shore that up," he said. "We can't keep giving these teams extra outs, extra at-bats, etc. We're not good enough right now to do that. We have to be tighter on the defensive side and make the plays that we need to make.

"Hopefully, we get a little cohesion here and start to play together. Now's the important time, and everyone has to pull on the same end of the rope."

Notes: There weren't many highlights for the Cats in the six games leading up to Tuesday's contest, but there were some notable mentions. Against Addison last Wednesday, Mike Cherven (Aurora University) went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, Camacho was 1-for-2 with four runs scored, and Grunewald earned the win after surrendering three runs, seven hits and three walks, while striking out four in five innings. In defeating the Braves again on Thursday, Loukota (2-for-3), O'Dell (1-for-4), Hill (1-for-2), and Cherven (0-for-3) each had an RBI, while Thielk earned the win after tossing two innings of two-hit baseball out of the bullpen.

"Our guys hung in there, battled, and took advantage of a couple of mistakes (Addison) made late," Miller said. "Saturday, we didn't play very well the first game. Our pitching was okay, but we gave up a couple runs here and there and just couldn't come back from it. In the second game, it was one of those games where we just didn't have it. The next thing you know, we're down, and we're fighting back. We just couldn't do it."

Losses against Crystal Lake and Michigan City provided even fewer accolades. Clay Schuler (Valparaiso University) went 0-for-3 but had the team's only RBI in the twinbill-opening loss to the Cardinals on Saturday. In game two, Rick Tormey (Hamline University) and Lipscomb each contributed an RBI, but left-hander Tyler Findlay (Aurora University) went just 2 1-3 innings (six runs - four earned - and six hits, a hit batter and three walks) in that start.

On Sunday in Michigan City, Schuler went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Tormey and Corey Landers (Aurora University) each hit 1-for-4 with an RBI in game one. Schuler was 1-for-2 with two RBIs in the nightcap.

"At Michigan City on Sunday, we hit the ball pretty well," Miller said. "We put up two in the top of the first inning, had two outs in the bottom of the first, and then, the doors came off, and we gave up five more runs. We kinda had them on the ropes, but...the strike zone was kind of tight up there. In the second game, we played really well. We were up 3-1, and they just kind of ticked away and ticked away, we came out on the short end."

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