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Pitching a gem : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Pitching a gem
Grunewald, Gengler, Ayers combine for three-hitter

by Laura M. Medina


In a summer where pitching has been the most consistent aspect of their game, the Oswego Cats fittingly closed the regular season with a pitching gem, as three hurlers combined to toss a three-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Angels on Sunday afternoon.

With the win, Oswego (18-17, 13-12 Chicago Suburban Baseball League) ended its schedule with three triumphs in four contests, effectively rebounding from a four-game slide in the previous week of play.

Against the Angels, a CSBL associate member, the Cats wasted little time displaying their dominance on the mound.

Left-hander Andy Grunewald (Park University) made his sixth appearance and second start, tossing three perfect innings in which he faced the minimum and struck out four batters.

"I think we'll look at him (for the playoffs), see where we're at pitching-wise, and if we don't use him in the bullpen, then I've always got - and hopefully, I won't need to - call on him as a starter," Cats field manager Todd Miller said. "It's a nice thing for us to have."

Right-hander Kelse Gengler (North Central College) gave up a hit and walked two, while fanning five in his three innings of work, while right-hander Kyle Ayers (Oswego High School) surrendered two hits, walked one and struck out five in the final three frames.

Ayers earned the save in his first relief appearance of the season and second in the last four years.

"I gave them each three innings, allowed them to work on what they needed to work on, and they pitched well," Miller said.

Though the trio pitched efficiently, they had a minimal lead to work with for most of the game. Both runs were scored in the early going - one in the first on an RBI-double from second baseman Ryan O'Dell (Edgewood College) and the other on a run-scoring double in the second from third baseman Jose Camacho (Waubonsee Community College).

It was all Oswego could manage against Angels right-handed starter Alex Sroka, who surrendered nine hits and two walks while fanning nine in seven innings. Left-handed reliever Alex Brown gave up a hit and struck out one in the eighth.

"We hit the ball pretty well, but we didn't score very much," Miller said. "We had base-runners (12), we had 10 hits - sometimes, that's a couple games for us - but it's good to see some of the guys starting to hit the ball," Miller said.

Though Miller was pleased with his team's efforts over the weekend, he's hoping for an even better performance in all aspects of the game during the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Tournament, which starts tonight (Thursday) with two games at Madison Meadows in Lombard and with a matchup between Westmont and the Cats at Jackie's Field of Dreams (see story, page 24).

"Everybody is starting to come around to where you want them to be, but you gotta put all three phases together," he said. "The pitching's been decent, and then, the hitting starts to come around, and then, you've got to get the defense going. We've just got to get them all paired up. That's been the struggle all year - one of them takes a dive, and when it's a dive, man, it's a deep one."

Taking a dive against Chicago, meanwhile, wasn't in the cards for Oswego, which won three of four series matchups by a combined score of 13-4.

Sunday's contest was a good tune-up for what is to come in the AABC Tournament, and one thing Miller is hoping for during that run is a bit of positive consistency. The Cats' season-best winning streak (four games) happened from June 21-24 but was followed by a four-game slide from June 26-29.

In July, none of their winning stretches were longer than two games, and they experienced another four-game slide after dropping two doubleheaders on July 19 and 20.

"We played really well the first stretch early in the year, won four games in a row, and lately, it's been three up, two down, and then, this past week, we went 3-1," Miller said. "We can't seem to get over the hill. It's been a struggle all year round."

Notes: Prior to Sunday's game, the Cats split two against a pair of South Division foes. In a 6-5 walk-off win versus Crestwood last Wednesday, Zach Deutscher's two-run single proved to be the deciding hit in the bottom of the ninth. It capped a three-run third for the Cats, who were led by O'Dell (3-for-4, RBI) and Valparaiso University graduate Clay Schuler (2-for-4). Ayers allowed three runs (one earned), six hits, four walks and two hit batsmen, while striking out eight in seven innings of his start. Right-handed reliever Josh Kwasny (Aurora University) gave up two runs, four hits and a walk with four strikeouts in the last two frames to earn the win.

The following night, Oswego dropped an 11-5 result to Westmont, which scored in each of the last four innings en route to its win. After a four-run sixth, the Cats cut the deficit with two runs in the bottom half. But the Red Sox added two in the seventh, one in the eighth and four more in the ninth for an 11-3 lead. Oswego ended the game with two in the bottom of the ninth. Offensively, they were led by Chris Hill (North Central College), who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Deutscher (North Park University) went 1-for-2 with three walks, an RBI and a run, while O'Dell hit 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Mike Cherven (Aurora University) and Kevin Loukota (Northeastern Illinois University) each hit 1-for-5 with an RBI. Right-hander Cody Love (Aurora University) gave up three hits and three walks with six strikeouts in five scoreless innings. Gengler took the loss after giving up six runs (five earned), five hits, two walks and a hit batter with two strikeouts in two innings. Right-hander Ryan Millan (Elmhurst College) allowed a run, a hit and a walk with two strikeouts in the eighth, and right-hander Dominick Tatone (Judson University) surrendered four runs (three earned) and five hits, fanning one in the ninth.

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