On Monday afternoon in Sycamore, Morris pitcher Tim Smyk allowed three hits — and was the loser by a two-run decision against the Spartans. On Tuesday, Morris lefty twirler Nick Evola allowed five hits — and was a loser by a 3-2 score at home to the same Northern Illinois Big 12 East foe.
On Monday, Morris coach Todd Kein said, "we couldn't get a hit with runners in scoring position. We need guys to step up in big situations like that." Morris had four hits, none with runners in scoring position, in what turned out to be a 2-0 shutout.
Tuesday, the Redskins had five hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
"It's a trend we need to put an end to real quick or these kind of results are going to continue," Kein said after Tuesday's game. "I don't expect that it's a mental thing, they are just not coming through when they need to. We're not going to make excuses here. It's just a lack of execution."
Except for the bottom of the fifth inning, that is. It was then that Austin Conrod got the lone hit with a runner in scoring position in the last two games for the Redskins. Ryan Borgstrom walked to start the inning and Kyle Hill reached on a bunt single to put runners at first and second. After Trevor Lines laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third, Conrod ripped an opposite field line drive through the hole at shortstop to plate both runners.
"I was very happy with Austin's ability to come through with that hit," Kein said. "But they (the Spartans) had one more big hit than we did today."
Which came in the top of the sixth inning.
The inning before, Evola had just struck out the side for his sixth, seventh and eighth strikeouts of the game. But one out into the half inning, Mitchell Jordan reached on an infield single, Nate Haacker singled to left to put runners on first and third and Brett Weaver reached on a check-swing infield single that plated Jordan. A groundout to third left runners on second and third, which led to a pinch-hit appearance by Scott Nelson. He flipped a two-strike, opposite-field to right that dropped just inside the line for a two-RBI hit.
"Both starting pitchers had to be great today," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. Evola had something extra going today.
"We kind of got lucky. We got on by two slow grounders and then the RBI hit down the right-field line. Other than a couple of times, we didn't hit the ball well all game."
Evola said that he left a couple of balls up in the zone in the sixth inning and that's what swung the outcome to Sycamore.
"They put the ball in play. One the blooper down the line … I guess I put the ball over the plate a little too much there," he said. "It was a two-seamer and it didn't tail enough."
Evola was asked if there is any extra pressure on a pitching staff when the Redskins offense is as anemic as it has been since the conference season started.
"Our hitting will come around," he said. "We're always talking about guys stepping up. But his one is on me. I left too many pitches over the plate today. You can't give up a three-run inning. Two runs should have been plenty today."
Just as Drew Aldrich came in and relieved Evola and pitched a scoreless inning, Cole Nelson came on to close the seventh for the Spartans to preserve the win for Colin Eggleson.
Despite watching his pitchers shut the Redskins down, Cavanaugh said that a sweep is no sure thing at this point.
"Yorkville also took the first two games of the series against them and Morris came back and won the last game by the 10-run rule, so we have to be ready for that," he said.
Apparently it's that kind of NIB12 East history lesson the Morris players need to get up to speed on.
"Conference play is really challenging day in and day out," Kein said. "I think the younger guys on this team are starting to understand that right now."