This past week the women’s softball team had their hands full playing five games in four days. Thankfully, the Stars caught a break as their Tuesday game against Hannibal LaGrange University was canceled due to the weather. This game will be rescheduled for next Thursday at 2 p.m. at home.
Enjoying their day off, the team caught up with an extra practice to get ready for the McKendree tournament. On Friday as a warm up the team took on Missouri Baptist in St. Louis. In what would be a doubleheader, the Stars took on their conference rival Cougars and the rest would prove to be the deciding factor.
Game one proved to be the beginning of two nail biters as Leah Miller took the mound and had a solid outing leading to a win for the Stars. After giving the Cougars an early 2-0 lead, the Stars dug down deep and found it in them to make a comeback with junior Megan Eddy starting things off. The Stars then pieced it all together following up with hits by juniors Jenna Bilyeu and Amy Foley. As soon they had gained it, the Cougars had lost it giving up the lead, which would result in a 4-3 win by for UIS.
Game two was even more action packed than game one as sophomore Allie Leight took the mound. Hoping to take game two and sweep the doubleheader, Leight led the team to 3-2 win, pitching six innings and giving up two runs on two hits.
With the momentum from Friday’s wins behind them, the Stars headed for the McKendree tournament. The first game of the day matched up the Stars against Spalding University. Unlike the last two games, which focused on defense and awesome pitching performances, this game was all about offense. In the first inning, UIS started off on the wrong foot giving up five runs putting them in a big hole. After three innings of watching Spalding dominate, the Stars felt it was time to play as junior Holly Heister led the team with a double that resulted in Angela Becker and Jenna Bilyeu helping bring in Heister to make it 5-1. As they slowly chipped away at the lead, Spalding added more runs of their own. In the end it was too much for UIS as they lost 9-6.
Hoping to avenge their game two loss, UIS was paired against the no. 14 nationally-ranked Ohio Dominican University. Knowing they would need to step it up against such an opponent as Ohio Dominican, Bilyeu, Eddy and senior Kayla Moss strung a few singles together to take the lead 1-0. This would be the only time the Stars would see the lead as Ohio Dominican strung a bunch of hits together and used their exceptional base-running to jump out ahead and take the game 6-1.
In the final game of the tournament, UIS knew the combination of offense and defense was the key to walking away with one win for the day. Taking on Robert Morris, the Stars came out strong with a 3-0 lead in the first lead. A lead they would never give up, but would add to.
As Robert Morris tied the game up, UIS had no intention of losing and so their offense came together at the right time scoring five runs on seven hits and a huge home run by Megan Eddy. When all was said and done, UIS prevailed 8-3.
Taking one win away from the tournament this now puts the Stars at 9-15 with a home game today at 2 p.m. against Culver Stockton.
America's pastime underway in significant year
Mark Brockett - Sports Reporter
After the turn of March to April, we all have come to expect Major League Baseball to be starting up their season. This season, we will be in the first full year of a set steroid policy for MLB players. Thus, the post-steroids era has begun in the midst of the speculation of Barry Bonds who will look to surpass both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron to top the all-time home runs list for a career.
But this season will prove to be important for more positive reasons rather than the negative. After the Chicago White Sox surprised everyone last year by handily winning the World Series against the overmatched Houston Astros, there is now a more upbeat attitude in every respective ball club. The fear of the big market teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is diminishing due to the effort of teams to play more baseball-oriented, or “small ball” as it is often called. There isn’t that reliance on the home run as there used to be and teams are looking more towards pitching and defense to get the job done.
While offense is still extremely vital to a team’s success, the need for players to do the little things in order to attain big goals is larger than it has ever been. An example of this was in the ALCS last year when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran out a dropped third strike in a tight ball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That play ultimately set up Joe Crede to be the hero and give the Sox the victory to tie the series at 1-1. The team didn’t lose another game the rest of the playoffs.
There are many questions surrounding many teams this season. In talks of the World Series, we first must look at the Yankees and the Red Sox. Both teams made moves in the off season to improve their ball clubs and increase their payroll. Boston acquired pitcher Josh Beckett, a former World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, and second basemen Mark Loretta from the San Diego Padres. Both players look to finally find some consistency in their play for a full season as they both faced their fair share of injuries. The Yankees signed former Red Sox center fielder and fan favorite Johnny Damon. This is in hope to improve their lead off hitting capabilities for their high powered offense.
One can’t be too quick to write off the defending champion White Sox. While nobody has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won three in a row spanning 1998 to 2000, this team looks to have improved more than anything else in adding first basemen Jim Thome and saying goodbye to locker room cancer Frank Thomas. Plus, Ozzie Guillen may be the best manager in the game and most certainly is outspoken. The main thing to look at with them is how their starting pitching performs as the core of their starters has returned but the bullpen is in question.
The New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays were the most active during the offseason and have put themselves in position to challenge the top dogs in their divisions. For the Mets, they must be able to turn back the Atlanta Braves who still have a core of great young players. The Mets acquired closer Billy Wagner and first basemen Carlos Delgado to headline the top acquisitions of the offseason. The Blue Jays signed pitching help in A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan to help keep themselves in close games.
Finally, in talking about the World Series, we must look no further than the Chicago Cubs. I only mention the Cubs because they by far have the longest drought in World Series Championships, as it will be 98 years this October. With Mark Prior and Kerry Wood both on the DL to start this season, it doesn’t look good for the Northsiders despite improving their offense with Juan Pierre and Jacques Jones. Will the pain end for all the Cubbie faithful this year? The odds say no, but there is no question they are due.
Yes, baseball is in the air and will be here for the next six months whether we like it or not. For Major League Baseball’s sake, I hope that it is more of a year of controversy in game plays and calls rather than about controversy in off-field issues like steroids. If I were to make a guess as to who will be in the World Series this year, I’d say the White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers with the Sox repeating as champions in five games. Take care and thanks for reading.
Men's tennis continues early season success with Hack Keller tourney win
By Micheal Fitzpatrick - Sports Reporter
The Hack Keller tournament was quite an important event for the men’s tennis team as it was only one of two tournaments the team will have competed in this spring, and it just happened to be at home. Like most tennis tournament, the play went from early Friday morning till late Saturday. While there were a total of 33 games played over the course of the weekend, the Prairie Stars amazingly won 29 of them, only losing four.
Although it would be nice to report that there was a lot of competition at this tournament, the fact is that would be a blatant lie. UIS completely dominated all of their matches, and the four losses were very close.
On Friday to begin the tournament the Stars defeated Lewis and Clark 5-1 in their first match of the tournament. Following the win, UIS was off on the right foot and rode the momentum as they easily disposed of St. Ambrose 5-0. Hoping that the competition would heat up, the Stars went into the final match of the day against Elgin Junior College, and like the previous opponent, they too fell to UIS, being swept 5-0 with Michael Angarita and Kino Phetlhongsy picking up the wins in singles competition.
Following Friday, the team continued the tournament early Saturday morning against Lakeland College. With what seemed to be the common theme of the tournament, the Stars once again dominated with stellar defense and an explosive offense to take the match 5-1. By beating Lakeland, the team earned a spot in the championship, which they would square off against the University of St. Francis. Going into the match, it looked as if UIS had it all locked up, and they did. Although St. Francis put up the best fight taking 2 of 9 from the Stars, they too were controlled from start to finish by a team that was just quicker, and more talented then they were. After taking the match 7-2, the Stars had all the right to call themselves the 2006 Hack Keller champions, and put them at 9-4 for the season.
Coming off of a grueling tournament, the Stars were not given any rest but definitely put to the test, as no more than 24 hours later did they take on Harris Stowe. It’s amazing how the truly great athletes continue to perform even when they are exhausted, and that’s what UIS did as they easily won 9-0. The worst part for Harris Stowe was that the Stars did not let up a single point in the entire match. This now puts UIS at 10-4 with 1-0 in conference.
Next week the Stars will participate in the Greenville tournament. Matches are scheduled to begin on Friday and continue on until Saturday.
Women's tennis takes second in Greenville, defeat Hornets
By Mark Brockett - Sports Reporter
Success has become even more valuable to the UIS women’s tennis team after taking second in the Greenville tournament last weekend. It was evident in their 9-0 sweep of conference foe Harris Stowe on Sunday.
The team compiled 19 wins, both singles and doubles, over the two-day tournament, which wasn’t enough to match the Bearcats of McKendree, who won the tournament with 35 wins. UIS lost every singles and doubles match against them, leaving them hungry for a rematch down the road this season.
Individually, Christine Hoffman, Ashley McGowan, Jennifer Cloyd and Jennifer Gebben took home the second-place plaque. The team finished ahead of the host team of Greenville who had 16 wins, Lewis and Clark Community College who had nine wins and Principia, who finished last with only five wins total.
After the tournament, the Stars returned home to play their final home match of the spring season against the Hornets of Harris Stowe. Being a new program, the growing pains couldn’t have been more evident in how the Hornets struggled to compete with such a seasoned group in the Prairie Stars. Hoffman, the team’s number one singles player, easily defeated Camille Cozart 6-1, 6-0. Other notable victories came from Jennifer Maziarka (6-0, 6-1), Sarah Wellard (6-1, 6-0) and Nicole Cudiamat (6-2, 6-1).
In doubles action, Hoffman and Maziarka teamed up to defeat the team of Cozart and Shanve Bryant 8-1. Gebben and Cloyd won their match against Ashley Smith and Purnima Davis 8-0. Both the no. 3 doubles match up and no. 6 singles match-up were won by default by the Stars.
After last weekend’s play, the team is now 8-1 overall. They will travel this weekend to Baker University on Friday, McKendree on Saturday and Lindenwood University on Sunday. This weekend will be a good indicator as to where the Stars will be in preparation for the NAIA Regionals, which are set to take place in late April.