Devils vs. Orioles # 2
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July 20, 2003
Regular Season Comes to a Close, Devils Lose Heartbreaker to Orioles # 2
It was an adventurous day at Flames Field to say the least, as the Devils gathered for a noon game that didn't get under way until about six o'clock. The last game of the regular season also decided the season series with the Orioles # 2, and despite a valiant comeback, the Devils came up on the short end of a 5-4 final. LF Joe Ogrodnik ended the season on a tear, just like he always does, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base.
Scott Schuster was quite literally the only pitcher available on Sunday night, and he pitched his heart out in a complete game performance. He started off a little rusty and gave up two runs in the first, but he regained his composure and only allowed one tally through the next five innings. After the Devils had fought back to tie the game 3-3, Schuster wobbled out to the mound in the top of the seventh and retired the first two batters of the inning. Back-to-back singles put the winning run in scoring position, and with the outfield playing shallow trying to take away a potential game-winning single, disaster struck. The Orioles ninth-place hitter closed his eyes on a 2-2 pitch and drilled a two-run double straight over the head of CF John Crist, ultimately deciding the Devils fate.
With only nine players available for action, this was the Devils most creative lineup of the season. With two out and none on in the third, 3B Jim Danko would not let his team go quietly and doubled to left. Ogrodnik followed him up with a double of his own to right-center to bring home Danko, and then 2B Luke Shudtz singled up the middle to score Ogrodnik and tie the game at two. Needing a run to draw even again in the sixth, Ogrodnik stayed hot and singled to lead off the frame. Shudtz waved through a pitch on a hit-and-run call, but Ogrodnik was still able to steal second base and get in scoring position. After a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Shudtz got the runner to third, the Orioles pitcher air-mailed a throw on an intentional walk, scoring Ogrodnik to bring the Devils even once again. Needing two runs to stay alive in the bottom of the seventh, Crist tatooed a 3-1 pitch over the left-centerfield wall for his third dinger of the season to cut the deficit in half. A bloop single by SS Marco Loschi put the tying run on, but the threat was dashed two batters later as Ogrodnik hit another rocket that resulted in a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
As always seems to be the case, it was a trying regular season for the Devils. They enter the Skyscraper League playoffs probably as the seventh seed, so it will be a tough road ahead in the postseason tournament. If Ken Henry and Kevin German can be as dominant on the mound as they are capable of being, the offense is making just enough noise to make anything possible.
Devils vs. Prairie Sox
July 19, 2003
Devils Take Season Series From Prairie Sox, Complete Saturday Sweep
In perhaps the most exciting game of the year, the Devils shook off some early inefficiency to score a thrilling comeback victory over the Prairie Sox. An everybody-chipped-in rally in the sixth inning brought home all six runs in a much needed 6-4 win. LF Joe Ogrodnik was 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI, with both of his hits coming in the decisive sixth frame.
This has been said before, but Kevin German was long overdue for his first win of the 2003 campaign. He has been plagued by poor defense and miniscule offensive support most of the year, but his persistent performance finally paid off for him on Saturday. In an impressive complete game performance, German gave up just one earned run in seven innings, striking out five and allowing only two walks. After a leadoff single and a blown call by the umpire gave the Sox two runners with no outs in the sixth, the middle infield got the groundball they were looking for and turned a clutch 6-4-3 double play. German fanned the next batter he faced to end the threat and preserve a Devils triumph.
The Devils were curiously stumped by the Sox left-hander for five innings and trailed 4-0, but Ogrodnik lead off the sixth with a solid single. 1B Tom Spalla walked one batter later, and CF Jason Phillips got his squad on the board with an RBI single to left. RF Jim Danko followed with a run-scoring double, and pinch-hitter Allan Terrutty made it a 4-3 deficit with an RBI groundout. With two out, 2B Lester Garrett launched a hot shot to third, but the Sox infielder could not make the play as the Devils pulled even. Garrett stole second base a pitch later to get himself in scoring position, and then SS Marco Loschi singled sharply to right-center to give his team the lead. After C John Crist reached on another Sox error, Ogrodnik delivered again with an RBI single to left to push the score to 6-4. Crist was overly aggressive and was thrown out at third on the relay, but the damage was done, and a good deal of it was done with two outs in the inning.
This double-header sweep was just what the doctor ordered, and the Devils have now successfully avoided the play-in game of the Skyscraper League tournament. The regular season comes to a close against the Orioles # 2 tomorrow afternoon at Flames Field. Ken Henry will probably get the start, looking to earn his third win of the year.
Devils vs. Orioles # 3
July 19, 2003
Another Double-Header Gets Off to a Good Start, Devils Rip Orioles # 3
The Devils welcomed a sight for sore eyes to Flames Field on Saturday morning, the Orioles # 3 of the Midwest Suburban League. After scoring 39 runs against them in two preseason contests back in April, a quirk in the scheduling allowed this game to count in the Skyscraper League standings. The Devils responded with a convincing 13-2 victory, and SS Marco Loschi had a career day at the plate with three doubles and four RBIs.
With their team batting average swimming dangerously close to the Mendoza line, the boys in black came out swinging to the tune of ten hits and six walks. The Devils racked up seven hits and five walks in the first inning alone, leading to an 11-run frame. RF Bruce Tria went 2 for 3 and scored twice, his best performance of the year. 2B Lester Garrett, CF Joe Ogrodnik, and 3B Luke Shudtz each collected a hit and two RBIs. All in all, seven Devils recorded at least one hit, and eight players scored at least one run.
Eager to bounce back after a demoralizing performance his last time out, rookie Josh Morrison went the distance to earn his first career Skyscraper League win. The strike zone danced around him a little bit in his four innings on the hill, but he only allowed two runs on four hits while striking out two. The defense was superb all game long and turned two double plays to help Morrison out of a few jams.
This victory was all but a guarantee given the talent disparity between the two ballclubs. If all goes well, the Devils lineup will learn a little muscle memory and continue to put runs on the board. Kevin German is long overdue for a mark in the win column and will get the start in game two of Saturday's double-header.
Devils vs. Red Sox
July 15, 2003
Devils Look Lifeless, Red Sox Complete Double-Header Sweep
If the Devils were waiting for the Red Sox offense to cool down after an impressive game one performance, well, they're still waiting. Westmont hit the ball all over the ballpark once again in a 10-0 shutout victory, completing a lopsided double-header sweep. SS Marco was the lone bright spot for the Devils, recording a single and a walk in his two plate appearances.
Getting his first career start in the Skyscraper League was right-hander Jason Phillips, and in a nutshell, it was not his best day. What do you get when you combine two hits, a walk, a hit batsmen, a few wild pitches, and some inexcusable defensive sloppiness? A five-run first inning for the Red Sox, that's what. Phillips allowed two more runs in the second, but to his credit, he settled down and retired the final eight batters he faced. Josh Morrison was unable to escape the fifth inning, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk, ending the game prematurely by the 10-run rule.
The Devils have not exactly been an offensive juggernaut this season, and Tuesday night was no exception. Aside from Loschi, 2B Luke Shudtz was the only other player in the lineup to deliver a hit, a sharp single to right in a 1 for 2 performance. The boys in black had only three baserunners in the game and struck out six more times in only 16 official at bats.
This double-header was a tough assignment since the two best pitchers on the roster were unavailable. Ken Henry had started two of the previous three games over a three-day stretch, and Kevin German could not pitch because he came back from California with a yeast infection. With three games left on the schedule, mostly against weaker teams, the Devils still have an opportunity to finish on a high note.
Devils vs. Red Sox
July 15, 2003
Double-Header Starts Off on a Sour Note, Red Sox Pound Devils
Despite the regular season being practically over at this point, the Devils squared off with the Red Sox for the first time this year thanks to an opening-day rainout. Mother Nature was not as cooperative this time around as the boys in black were drummed 11-2 in the first game of a weekday double-header. CF John Crist continues to swing the bat well, finishing the game 2 for 3 with two doubles.
This is starting to get awfully repetitive, but the Devils offense just can not score enough runs to stay competitive. On perhaps the most bizarre play of the season, LF Jason Phillips reached on an error by the third baseman, and as he made his way to second base, another errant throw caused the Red Sox shortstop to inexplicably throw his glove at the ball to knock it down. The umpires' ruling was a two-base fielder's interference call, and Phillips was awarded home. Crist scored the only other Devils run, ripping a double over the centerfielder's head and eventually scoring on a groundout by C Allan Terrutty. DH Joe Ogrodnik smoked his fourth double of the season, but no other player in the lineup could manage a hit.
After almost a full season of respectable bullpen work, Scott Schuster was given his first starting assignment on Tuesday night. He was pretty sharp through three innings, only giving up one run on a solo homer in the second. Things came unglued in the fourth, however, as four walks and four hits brought home six more runs for the Red Sox. In an arduous five-inning performance, Schuster gave up eight runs, all of them earned, threw 140 pitches, and still wondered why coach Tom Spalla pulled him. Jeremy McDonald came on in the sixth and had a forgettable outing, allowing three runs on five hits to bring an end to the scoring.
The lone goal for the Devils at this point is to avoid the play-in game of the playoffs. One or two more wins would probably do the trick as the teams cluttered at the bottom of the standings all play each other the final week of the season. Anything can happen in the double-elimination tournament, although the Pope will have a Bar Mitzah before the Devils walk away with a Skyscraper League championship.
Devils vs. Orioles # 2
July 13, 2003
Sunday Heat Catches Up With Devils, Still Earn Double-Header Split
The second game of a double-header is always a tough test for any baseball player, and the Devils simply ran out of gas against a well-rested Orioles club. The bats could not carry over their performance against the Prairie Sox, and the pitching was a little erratic in an 8-0 shutout loss. On a brighter note, the Devils struck out only one time, a season low.
No one will ever question Ken Henry's guts again, as he asked for the start after having just thrown the second half of game one. He performed quite admirably considering he was going on just two days rest from his last start, giving up three runs in three very respectable innings of work. Henry breezed through the first and third, but a few mistakes in the second were hit hard, as the Orioles racked up four hits and two walks in the frame. Scott Schuster has had a solid year out of the bullpen so far, but this was not his best effort as he allowed four earned runs in an inning and two thirds. Jason Phillips made his Devils mound debut, and after giving up a two-run double, he induced a harmless groundout to bring an end to the scoring.
The starter for the Orioles was far from impressive, but he must have had a leprechaun in his back pocket because every hard hit ball seemed to find a defender's glove. 3B Jim Danko and DH Allan Terrutty each had a single to finish the double-header 2 for 6. 1B Luke Shudtz and RF Dan Groenewold were the only other Devils to deliver a hit, each recording a single in a 1 for 2 performance.
A double-header sweep would have been ideal, but a split is a helluva lot better than being swept. The depth of the pitching staff will be severely tested as the season draws to a close. Two more double-headers are scheduled for Tuesday and Saturday, and then the regular season wraps up this Sunday afternoon.
Devils vs. Prairie Sox
July 13, 2003
Devils Get Offensive, Pound Prairie Sox
In the first game of a Sunday double-header at Flames Field, the Devils awoke from their long batting slumber and put on an impressive hitting display. The boys in black tallied eight hits in six innings, including five for extra bases, in an 8-3 defeat of the Prairie Sox. CF John Crist was on base four times and scored twice, going 3 for 3 with a walk.
This team has struggled in the batter's box all season, but the offensive wealth was spread around quite generously this game. C Allan Terrutty got the scoring started in a hurry with a first-inning double that brought home two. DH Tim Moyes came up with the biggest hit in the fourth, roping a two-out, two-run double to left-center to give the Devils a 4-3 lead. In the fifth, a leadoff triple by SS Marco Loschi and doubles by Crist and 3B Jim Danko ultimately lead to four more runs and a decisive advantage. All in all, seven Devils scored at least one run and six were credited with at least one RBI.
Luke Shudtz got the start on the bump, and he'll be the first to tell you that he didn't have his best stuff out there. The strike zone was moving around on him all afternoon, but he stuck it out through three and two-thirds and gave his team a chance to win. Ken Henry made his first relief appearance of the season, and he was nothing short of dominant the rest of the way. He did not allow a run in three and a third, striking out six while only giving up one hit and one walk. Henry fanned two batters each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to earn his second victory of the year.
This was a big victory for the Devils, avenging a previous loss to the Prairie Sox and getting themselves out of the Skyscraper League cellar. If the lineup continues to hit a little bit, good things will happen because the pitching and defense are still good enough to win.
Devils vs. Clowns
July 10, 2003
Long Layoff Takes its Toll, Devils Drummed by Clowns
Thanks to some questionable scheduling, the Independence Day festivities, and a rainout, the Devils took the field for the first time in 19 days on Thursday night. Baseball is a tough game to play with so much time between contests, and the boys in black looked like the Tin Man in search of his oil can in a 10-1 loss to the Clowns. SS Marco Loschi was 1 for 3 with a bullet double, and he came around to score the lone run of the evening.
Ken Henry made his fourth start of the season, and after a flawless first inning, things did not go his way the rest of the game. To their credit, the Clowns swung the bats very well all night long, collecting ten hits and drawing three walks with only two strikeouts. Henry lasted five innings and allowed seven runs, although only four were earned as his infield defense let him down on several occassions. Josh Morrison came on to pitch the sixth, and he should have been out of the inning unscathed if it weren't for another two-out defensive miscue. As his luck would have it, the next batter delivered a three-run homer to left that somehow bounced off the glove of LF Joe Ogrodnik.
As weak offensive performances go, Thursday night was about as unimpressive as the Devils can possibly be. The lineup could only muster four hits and one base on balls, whiffing an unbelievable 14 times in 22 official at bats. Loschi began the fourth with a double in the left-center field gap and eventually scored on a Clowns error. CF John Crist was 1 for 2 with two steals, including the team's first swipe of third base this season. C Troy Steele and LF Jason Phillips were the only other Devils with a hit, each delivering a solid single up the middle.
It should not take long to get back in the swing of things, as the Devils play three double-headers in the span of seven days starting Sunday afternoon. The Prairie Sox and Orioles # 2 come calling that day, two of the more beatable teams in the league. The Devils desperately need to string together a few wins to improve their seeding in the season-ending Skyscraper League tournament.
Devils vs. Prairie Sox
June 21, 2003
Devils Dumped by Lowly Prairie Sox, Season Quickly Headed Down the Crapper
In the second game of double-header action on Saturday, the Devils once again took the Prairie Sox too lightly and were topped 4-3. Every mistake seems to come back and haunt this team, and this time a harmless fly ball that got lost in the sun eventually brought home the deciding runs for the Sox. C Allan Terrutty is warming up along with the Chicago summer, finishing the game 2 for 4 with a double.
The Devils occupied the basepaths all afternoon thanks to nine hits and three walks, but they stranded nine runners and could not get the big hits when they needed them. 3B Jim Danko began the second inning with a walk and came around to score on an RBI single by 2B Michael Clemens, his first career Skyscraper League hit. In the fourth, SS Marco Loschi drove in LF Jason Phillips with a bases-loaded single, and CF John Crist brought Clemens plateward with an RBI groundout. With two out and none on in the seventh, Crist singled to keep the Devils' hopes alive. Terrutty followed him with a double down the right field line, but it was not deep enough for Crist to score the tying run, and the game ended with a popout one batter later.
Kevin German has been chomping at the bit to get his first win of the year, but he simply can not get a break no matter how well he performs. He was cruising along to start the game, having given up just one run through the first four innings, but the fifth was the difference. With one out and one on, a routine popup to right flew directly in the path of the bright Chicago sun. RF Bruce Tria had no chance on the play, and the ball landed safely for a gift double. German then allowed a walk, a wild pitch, and a clutch two-out single to help the Sox to three runs and a victory they probably did not deserve.
Needing a sweep of the double-header to get back into contention in the Skyscraper League, the Devils got swept themselves and are stuck at the bottom of the standings. They will get plenty of opportunity to evaluate what has gone wrong because the schedule currently shows no games for about two weeks. There are two makeup games against the Red Sox that need to be played, however, and Coach Tom Spalla is trying to get them in during the long layoff.
Devils vs. Apaches
June 21, 2003
Devils Strike First Against Apaches, Shoot Blanks the Rest of the Way
Although they like to consider the Apaches one of their hated rivals in the Skyscraper League, this rivalry is getting awfully one-sided since the Devils have not beaten them in two years. The Devils sent no more than four men to the plate in five of the seven innings, and even though they got two singles with runners in scoring position, neither actually produced a run in a 4-1 loss. CF John Crist hit the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark for his second homerun of the season, and he added a bunt single to finish the game 2 for 3.
Luke Shudtz was masterful in his first start of the season, and he looked to follow that up with another solid performance on Saturday. He gave up four runs in his five and a third innings of work, but none of them were earned as a pair of Devils errors came back to bite him. A boot on a groundball eventually led to a two-run homer in the fifth, and a dropped putout allowed a sacrifice fly to score another run in the sixth. Scott Schuster made his team-leading seventh relief appearance of the season, and after letting one inherited runner score on the sac fly, he blanked the Apaches for an inning and two-thirds. Both Shudtz and Schuster threw well on the day, and each now has an ERA under two.
The Apaches starting pitcher did not appear to have overwhelming stuff on the mound, but he had the Devils scratching their heads all day. LF Joe Ogrodnik hit a pair of rockets in a 2 for 2 performance, and RF Sam Mleczko recorded his first career Skyscraper League hit with a single. The fifth inning was a microcosm of the Devils season to date. Ogrodnik started the frame with a double to left-center, and Mleczko followed him with a bouncer between short and third to put runners at the corners with no one out. 2B Lester Garrett hit a potential double-play ball, but the Apache shortstop inexplicably threw home to cut down Ogrodnik trying to score. After a walk to SS Marco Loschi loaded the bases, Crist came to the batter's box, already with two knocks on the day. He hit a one-hop bullet to third, leading to an easy 5-3 double play and the end of the threat.
Annie Savoy said that baseball is a lot like sex; you've just got to relax and concentrate. The Devils are not relaxed at the plate, and their concentration in the field is questionable from time to time. The proof is in the pudding, as a 2-9 record to date is well below expectations.
Devils vs. Badgers
June 20, 2003
Devils Take a Step Back, Badgers Still Have Their Number
After winning two of their last three and playing very well over that span, the Devils made a few costly mistakes in the field and could not generate enough offense to compensate in a 6-1 loss. Two errors in the third helped the Badgers to a five-run inning, which was more than enough the way their starting pitcher was throwing the ball. 1B Luke Shudtz had the most impressive hit of the evening, a screaming double over the centerfielder's head to lead off the seventh.
Ken Henry is starting to make a name for himself in the Skyscraper League, and he had pretty good stuff on the mound once again. He went the distance for the second consecutive start, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and two walks while whiffing a pair. After his defense let him down in the decisive third inning, Henry turned it up a notch and faced just one batter over the minimum the rest of the way.
Offensively, the Devils were completely overmatched and struck out a ridiculous 16 times. The top of the order finished the game just 1 for 9 with seven punch outs, and overall, five of the nine spots in the lineup fanned at least twice. The lone productive inning was the second, as a double by C Troy Steele and a single by 3B Jim Danko put runners at the corners with no one out. Two batters later, DH Allan Terrutty delivered a sharp RBI single up the middle to plate the lone run. CF John Crist was the only other Devil in the hit column going 1 for 3.
Saturday is a pivotal point in the Devils season as the Apaches and Prairie Sox are on the schedule in double-header action. Shudtz will look to build upon last week's fine effort and will get the start in game one, and Kevin German is hungry for his first victory and will go in game two. Two wins against these two very beatable teams would be just what the Devils need to turn their season around.
Devils vs. Orioles # 1
June 15, 2003
We Don't Know Who You Guys Are, But Would You Like to Play Out the Season?
It was a perfect day for baseball in the beautiful city of Chicago, and the Devils responded with quite possibly their best game performance in team history. The offense hit the ball hard all afternoon, the pitching kept the Orioles completely off balance, and the defense made all the plays in a dominating 8-0 victory. 2B Lester Garrett had a career day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a walk and 3 big RBIs.
The middle of the Devils order has been hit-and-miss so far this season, but they really showed what they could do on Sunday. CF John Crist, C Troy Steele, and 3B Jim Danko combined for five hits in the game, and they scored a total of five runs between them. After scoring a pair in the second, the third was the big inning as Crist and Steele started the frame with back-to-back doubles. The hit parade continued as Danko singled to put runners at the corners with nobody out. An Orioles error and an RBI groundout by 1B Tom Spalla brought home another run, and then Garrett delivered the second of his two RBI singles to drive in two more. A lone run in both the fourth and seventh brought an end to the scoring. All in all, the Devils smacked twelve hits including three doubles, scored eight runs, and drew seven walks, all season highs.
Although Luke Shudtz didn't know he was going to get the start until about half an hour before game time, he was very sharp all afternoon. As a matter of fact, he failed to allow a hit in his four plus innings of work while walking five and striking out three. It was a tough decision, but with the Devils really needing a victory, Coach Spalla went to the bullpen after Shudtz walked two batters to begin the fifth. 2002 Rolaids Relief Man Scott Schuster dazzled once again, inducing a 4-6-3 double play and a harmless groundout to put an end to the Orioles' only potential rally. Schuster worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and retired the side in the seventh to record what is believed to be the first save in Devils baseball history.
With the defending champion Badgers on the horizon this coming Friday, the Devils will need another team effort to stay in the win column. After that game, the rest of the schedule is peppered with weaker teams, which should be a golden opportunity to move up in the Skyscraper League standings. It took a few games too many, but the Devils appear to finally be hitting their stride.
Devils vs. Apaches
June 11, 2003
Devils Only Make One Mistake, But It Was a Costly One
On another unseasonably cool June evening at Flames Field, the Devils played a good ballgame but were still on the short end of a 3-2 decision to the Apaches. This was a baseball purist's dream, as good pitching, solid defense, and timely offensive execution were on display from both teams. LF Dan Groenewold is settling in as the regular leadoff man, delivering two scorching singles up the middle in his four at bats.
The Devils have been waiting for reigning Cy Young Award winner Kevin German to return to his 2002 form, and he did not disappoint on Wednesday night. Although his arm never felt that good, he still managed to throw a complete game on only 67 pitches. German has been plagued by an abundance of baserunners this year, but this time he held the Apaches to just five hits and one walk while striking out two. He also drilled two batters, which is always nice to see. With one out in the fourth and the bases loaded, German got the ground ball he was looking for, but his defense could not complete the inning-ending double play as an errant throw cost him the lead, and ultimately, the game.
With his team not exactly tearing the cover off the ball so far this year, Coach Tom Spalla decided to get aggressive and play a little small ball. Groenewold roped a single to begin the third, and SS Marco Loschi followed him with a picture perfect hit-and-run to put runners at the corners. However, the middle of the order had no answers and killed a potential rally. 2B Lester Garrett drew a walk to start the fourth, and the throw on RF Bruce Tria's sacrifice bunt was launched into right field allowing Garrett to huff and puff all the way from first to score. 1B Luke Shudtz was long overdue for a hit and promptly lined an RBI single to bring in Tria for a 2-0 lead. Needing a run to stay alive in the seventh, Groenewold again drove a single up the middle, and Loschi put him in scoring position with a beautiful bunt. With the fate of the game in his hands, C Troy Steele bounced a ball back up the box that would have been a hit on almost any other field, but the Apache shortstop ranged way to his left and made the play to preserve a victory.
If Pedro Cerrano were on this team, he would say it's time to sacrifice a live chicken. The Devils have had more bad luck to start the season than Eddie Harris after he drank Jobu's rum. Ken Henry will look to build upon his strong outing this past Sunday and get the boys in black back on track.
Devils vs. Orioles # 2
June 8, 2003
That Monkey Had Turned into a Gorilla, but it's Finally Off the Devils Back
In a rain-shortened game with the wind howling out to centerfield all day long, the Devils busted into the win column with a 5-4 defeat of the Orioles # 2. Ken Henry threw about 195 pitches in a five inning complete game effort to earn his first career Skyscraper League victory. CF John Crist went 2 for 3 on the afternoon, including a bomb two-run homer.
It was not a performance reminiscent of the ' 27 Yankees, but the lineup was much more productive and finally came up with a few big hits. SS Marco Loschi singled and stole second in the first, and he came plateward on a two-out RBI single by C Allan Terrutty. After a walk to LF Bruce Tria to lead off the third, Crist got a hanging breaking ball and promptly deposited it over the centerfield wall for a 3-0 Devils lead. 2B Lester Garrett started a rally in the fifth, leading off with a single to right-center. After Loschi bounced into a fielder's choice, Crist and Terrutty delivered back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. 3B Jim Danko tied the game with a sacrifice fly to bring in Loschi from third, and Crist took advantage of an Orioles error to score from second with some aggressive baserunning to regain the lead 5-4.
Ken Henry made his second start of the year, and he showed flashes of brilliance in his five innings of work. Despite allowing seven walks on the afternoon, he blanked the Orioles through the first four frames, striking out ten batters in the process. Henry's inconsistency caught up with him in the top of the fifth, though, as two walks and two singles were wrapped around a towering homerun to left. Four runs crossed the plate to make the deficit 4-3, but his offense answered with a pair in the bottom of the inning. Shortly thereafter, Mother Nature proved to be a Devils fan as she opened the heavens and drowned out the Orioles to put an end to their comeback bid.
The proverbial monkey is off their back, although a 1-6 record is not exactly what the Devils had in mind to start the season. A mid-week meeting with the hated Apaches should be a good opportunity to continue the good feeling and get a winning streak started. Kevin German is long overdue for his first win of the season and will get the call on the mound.
Devils vs. Clout
June 7, 2003
Beautiful Day for Baseball, but Devils Offense Still Can't Produce Any Sunshine
On what was probably the nicest day of the year in beautiful downtown Chicago, it was much more of the same as the Devils dropped a 9-1 decision to the Clout. There were only three hits on the afternoon, and nine more strikouts brings the season total to 50 in six games. SS Marco Loschi registered his first knock of the season in a 1 for 4 effort.
Kevin German was on the hill again Saturday, and he is still yet to have an outing worthy of his considerable talent. He allowed single runs in the first and second but rebounded to silence the Clout in the third and fourth. After giving up a hit and a walk to lead off the fifth, he was sent to the showers in favor of southpaw Scott Schuster. Although his previous four relief appearances were downright dominant, Schuster didn't have good stuff this time out, surrendering three runs in two-thirds of an inning. Youngster Josh Morrison followed with a scoreless inning and a third, and Jeremey McDonald allowed a lone run in the seventh in his first appearance on the bump this season.
Once again, the offensive highlights were few and far between. CF John Crist had the only extra-base hit of the day, a rope of a double in the left-centerfield gap. Aside from Loschi and Crist, the only other Devil in the hit column was 2B Jim Danko who was 1 for 3.
If this team would ever get hot at the plate, they'll have a chance because the pitching has been pretty good and the defense has been better than average. To be fair, the weather has not cooperated very much, and the opposing pitchers have been very solid thus far. Big righty Ken Henry will be making his second start of the season on Sunday against the Orioles # 2.
Devils vs. Clowns
May 31, 2003
The Devils Will Hit Again One of These Days, But Not Today
In what has become an all too familiar occurance on game day, the Devils offense could hardly get the scoreboard operator to flip a switch. Another weak performance by the lineup produced just three base hits, none for extra bases, while whiffing seven times and drawing only one walk in a 6-1 defeat. LF Jason Phillips got his first career Skyscraper League base hit, a single to left that drove in the lone run of the ballgame.
It was hard to know what was colder on Saturday afternoon, the chill in the summer-averting Chicago weather or the bats in the hands of the Devils. RF Jim Danko singled, stole a base, and came around to score on Phillips's base hit in the seventh. The only other knock the offense could muster was an infield single by 2B Lester Garrett to lead off the first. In the third, the Devils had runners at the corners with nobody out thanks to a pair of Clown errors and a walk. However, the top of the order failed to deliver again, as two strikeouts and a fielder's choice quickly ended the threat.
Kevin German made his third start of the young season, and he is still yet to have overpowering stuff on the mound this year. He was uncharacteristically inconsistent, walking three batters and onloading a few wild pitches in his four innings on the hill. All in all, German gave up three earned runs on four hits and failed to record a strikeout. Relief man Luke Shudtz made his first appearance of the year and breezed through the fifth inning 1-2-3. In the sixth, two singles and a walk led to two runs, more than enough for the Clowns to hang on for a victory.
The Devils will again have a lengthy layoff before they get back to action at Flames Field. The Clout and Orioles # 2 come calling next weekend, two very beatable teams if the boys in black play to their potential. German and Ken Henry are the likely starters on Saturday and Sunday.
Devils vs. Clout
May 24, 2003
Offense Still in Disarray, Swinging the Bat Possible Solution
With a depleted roster that had half the lineup playing out of position, the Devils made a good effort but still couldn't dent the scoreboard in a 5-0 defeat. There hasn't been an extra-base hit since opening day, and of the 18 outs the Clout recorded on Saturday, 12 were strikeouts. CF Dan Groenewold looks to be settling into the leadoff role, recording a beautiful bunt single and a stolen base on the afternoon.
Unlike the two previous games, the Devils actually had some opportunities for big rallies. 3B Luke Shudtz and RF Tim Moyes each singled to start the second inning, but a failed sacrifice bunt and three consecutive strikeouts ended the frame in a hurry. Leading off the third, Groenewold singled and stole second base two pitches later. The heart of the order couldn't get it done, however, fanning three more times and failing to deliver a key hit. SS John Crist finished the game 1 for 3, and P Lester Garrett had a 1 for 2 effort.
Garrett made his long anticipated return to the mound, and he gave the team everything he had for four innings. His defense let him down on a few tough plays, but given the situation, he gave a great effort and performed pretty well. Garrett allowed five runs, although only three were earned, on seven hits with four walks and one strikeout. Scott Schuster is still doing his 'Everyday' Eddie Guardado impression, coming on in relief for the fourth consecutive game. He was sparkling again, throwing two scoreless frames without allowing a base hit.
The Orioles # 1 come calling again on Sunday, and the Devils are hungry to make a better showing than they did on Tuesday. Ken Henry will probably get the start once again, as he looks to exact a little revenge after suffering the loss in his first start of the season. If the offense doesn't start to put some pressure on the other team, wins will be few and far between.
Devils vs. Badgers
May 22, 2003
Good Ole Fashioned Pasting, Badgers Continue Dominance of Devils
Despite playing the Badgers as tough as anyone in the league last year, the Devils looked totally overmatched Thursday night. The defending Skyscraper League champions pounded the ball all over Flames Field in route to a 9-0 victory. The Devils can't get anything going offensively, as the team batting average has plummeted to an anemic .136 after three games.
It seems unfathomable, but the red and black are still yet to send more than five men to the plate in any inning this season. LF Joe Ogrodnik had a single and a few highlight reel catches in in the outfield. The only other Devil in the hit column was 1B Tom Spalla, who finished the game 1 for 2. As a unit, the top of the order is not setting the table, the middle has had very few RBI opportunities, and the bottom has done little to pick up the slack.
In what can only be described as a gut-wrenching performance, starter Kevin German simply did not have it on the mound and was beat up pretty bad. With revenge on his mind after a few heart-breaking losses to the Badgers last season, he lasted only three and a third innings, allowing nine runs on twelve hits. The stomach punch was a towering homerun that ricocheted off the building past the left field fence, an impressive shot to say the least. Scott Schuster came on for the third consecutive game and threw scoreless relief for the third consecutive game. Yes, that Scott Schuster.
It has been a tough start to the 2003 season already, and a solid Clout squad is next on the schedule. Hitting is contagious, so the Devils just need to get a few knocks to fall in and get everyone feeling better about themselves. The pitching has been decent, and the defense has been pretty good, so there is reason to be optimistic.
Devils vs. Orioles #1
May 20, 2003
Hits Few and Far Between, Devils Shutout by Orioles # 1
Despite a solid pitching effort and an error-free evening on defense, the Devils could not get it going on offense and were blanked 4-0. The Orioles # 1 faced the minimum in five of seven innings, striking out eight batters while allowing only one walk. RF Dan Groenewold went 1 for 2 for the second consecutive game, but he has had little opportunity to do any damage at the top of the order.
Ken Henry made his Skyscraper League debut and fared pretty well. Despite pitching from the stretch practically all evening long, he worked his way out of some tough jams and looked better and better with each passing inning. Henry gave up only four runs despite eight hits and seven walks, fanning five in five and two-thirds. Scott Schuster came on in relief for the second game in a row and got the last out in the sixth.
It's still early, but the Devils lineup has done little to produce runs in the first two games. CF John Crist had another 1 for 3 performance and has reached base in four of six plate appearances so far this season. SS Jim Danko was on base twice via an infield single and a walk. The team's strikeout-to-walk ratio is an alarming 8-1 after two ballgames, an obvious indication that we are not making enough contact.
It's never a good idea to start the season 0-2, and it doesn't get any easier with the defending champion Badgers on the horizon. If the bats don't start to come around soon, the Devils are going to dig themselves a big early hole. Kevin German looks to get a little payback after coming up empty last year despite some strong performances.
Devils vs. Clowns
May 16, 2003
Devils Start Season Flat, Dropped 9-1 by Clowns
After being rained out in the season opener on Wednesday, the Devils could do little right on a crisp, cool Friday evening at Flames Field. The pitching was a little rusty, the defense made a few key miscues, and the lineup never sent more than five men to the plate in any inning. CF John Crist recorded the only extra-base hit with a ringing double off the wall in right-center field.
Big righty Kevin German made his second consecutive opening day start, and he had very good stuff in the early going. Things started to come unraveled when he air mailed a potential double play ball into center field in the third, allowing two runs to eventually score. Overall, German surrendered seven runs in five innings, although only three were earned, striking out four and walking none. Southpaw Scott Schuster walked two in the sixth, but retired the side without any damage being done. Rookie teenie-bopper Josh Morrison made his Devils debut, and he was greeted rudely to the tune of two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning of work.
The bats never truly got it going all night, as the Clowns starter went the distance for a complete game victory. Rookie RF Dan Groenewold singled and stole a base in the third, but he fell asleep and got picked off to kill a potential rally. C Allan Terrutty swung the bat well in the preseason, and he kept the momentum going with a 1 for 3 effort. LF Joe Ogrodnik scored the lone run, registering a single and a steal on the evening. The Devils simply were not aggressive at the plate, striking out eight times, including four of them looking.
There will be plenty of opportunity to right the ship this coming week with four games in six days. Ken Henry is scheduled to make his first career Skyscraper League start against the Orioles #1 on Tuesday.
Devils vs. Clout
May 3, 2003
Devils vs. Braves
May 4, 2003
Boys Play Well Against Good Teams, Still Drop Two Over the Weekend
After beating up on inferior opponents from weaker leagues around the city, the Devils stepped up the competition a notch or two. Even though a few key players were missing due to prior commitments, there was enough solid pitching and superb defense to leave everyone feeling good about the team's performance. The hits were hard to come by, however, as the Devils were shut out by the Clout 2-0 on Saturday and were then topped by the Addison Braves on Sunday by a count of 4-3.
Opening day starter Kevin German was nothing short of dominant against the Clout, tossing four perfect innings. Scott Schuster and Luke Shudtz each performed well in relief and kept their team in the ballgame. The offense was stagnant all afternoon, as only three Devils made it into the hit column. SS Marco Loschi logged a double, while C Allan Terrutty and 1B Tom Spalla each singled. It's still the preseason, but ten strikeouts is too many.
Against the Braves, Schuster again wobbled out to the mound, this time getting the start. Shudtz worked in relief for the second consecutive day, and Lester Garrett sparkled in his two scoreless frames. Terrutty was the star of the day at the plate, going 3 for 3 on the afternoon with an RBI. Loschi and C Troy Steele drove in one run a piece to cap the scoring. The defense can sometimes be an adventure in preseason action, but the Devils made good catches and good throws all weekend long.
The regular season is right around the corner, so this weekend's double-header against the Braves will be the last opportunity to knock off the rust.
Devils vs. Orioles # 3 / Bulls
April 19, 2003
Inferior Competition, but Devils Improve to 2-0 in Preseason
On a windy day at Flames Field, the Devils again played circles around a talent-lacking Orioles squad of the Midwest Suburban League to the tune of 20-4. The statistics looked very softballesque for the second consecutive weekend, scoring 20 runs on 23 hits. Eight players had multi-hit games, led by 2B Michael Clemens with three knocks, two steals, and two RBIs.
Eleven of the twelve Devils in the lineup had at least one hit, and ten players scored at least one run. 1B Tom Spalla went 3 for 5 with a double and two RBIs, and rookie OF Tim Moyes swung the bat well again with two hits and two RBIs. SS Marco Loschi and CF John Crist each have five hits after two games, combining with Clemens to ignite the top of the lineup. 3B Jim Danko and OF Joe Ogrodnik each logged two singles and two runs in their first game of the spring. The Devils also cut their strikeouts in half from last week, down to six from twelve.
Reigning Cy Young winner Kevin German graced us with his presence and threw four scoreless innings in his first start of the preseason. He did gave up a screaming double off the wall to Jeremy McDonald, and he probably would have been cut from the team if it had been a foot higher and actually left the yard. Southpaw Scott Schuster threw two more innings of scoreless relief and looks determined to repeat as Rolaids Relief Man. Continuing his long road back from surgery, Lester Garrett was touched for two runs in the seventh, but he recovered and tossed a scoreless eighth. Clemens made his Devils mound debut and allowed two runs in the ninth.
It's nice to be 2-0 and off to a good start, but the competition has been well below par thus far. The Devils will get back to the practice field at noon on Sunday, April 27th at Horner Park. A pair of games on May 3rd and 4th against better teams will be a more accurate indication as to how much progress we have made so far.
Devils vs. Orioles # 3
April 13, 2003
2003 Preseason Off to a Good Start, Devils Pound Orioles #3
The Devils started their 2003 preseason campaign on a good note, hammering the Orioles of the Midwest Suburban League 19-1 on the first day of live action. The pitching was dominant, the defense was solid, and the offense swung the bats well in an overpowering performance. CF John Crist paced the offensive attack with a single, a triple, two steals, and four RBIs.
The boys in black sent at least five men to the plate in every inning and had runners on the basepaths all day long. 2B Michael Clemens appears to be the answer at leadoff, registering four runs on two hits, two walks, and three stolen bases. SS Marco Loschi followed him up with a single, a triple, and four runs on the afternoon. The lineup did strike out twelve times against a suspect pitching staff, but that is to be expected this early in the year. All in all, the Devils stole seven bases, drew twelve walks, and racked up fourteen hits in an impressive offensive display.
Ken Henry made his Devils debut and was awfully tough in three scoreless innings. He worked fast, kept his defense on its toes, and breezed through the Orioles lineup without too much of a challenge. Following a torn labrum a few seasons ago, Lester Garrett made his long anticipated return to the hill, and after an arduous fourth inning, he rebounded to allow just one run in three frames. Scott Schuster was relieved of his suspect duties as umpire and threw two shutout innings of relief. Tim Moyes labored a bit in the ninth but was able to escape unscathed.
Things are off to a positive start this season and the Devils will look to continue the good vibes on Saturday, April 19th in preseason action at UIC.
"Baseball is all clean lines and clear decisions...wouldn't life be far easier if it consisted of a series of definitive calls; safe or out, fair or foul, strike or ball? Oh, for a life like that, where every day produces a clear winner and an equally clear loser, and back to it the next day with the slate wiped clean and the team starts equal."
Eric Rolfe Greenberg