To find success in a long baseball season, a team’s biggest goal is to overcome stretches of adversity and pave a path toward the playoffs.
The Oswego Cats bounced back from a tough weekend on Wednesday, riding the wave of Jose Camacho's huge hit and a solid bullpen effort to edge the DuPage Angels 7-6 at Benedictine University.
After rounding out June with six wins – four in Chicago Suburban Baseball League play – in seven games, the Cats (14-8, 10-6) opened the month with a doubleheader loss at North Division rival Crystal Lake 5-3 and 12-1 on Sunday.
Oswego currently sits second in the division behind undefeated Lombard (13-0) and is in a position to compete in the season-ending, single-day elimination CSBL tournament on July 29.
“We’ve got 10 games left in the league, and obviously, our goal is to finish in the top two, so we can go to the tournament, and right now, we’re where we need to be,” Cats manager Todd Miller said.
On Wednesday night, the Cats traded offense early and often with the Angels, who entered on a three-game win streak.
In the first, Bobby Smith brought Camacho home on a deep double to center to put Oswego on the board.
DuPage, though, responded with three runs off of right-hander Anthony Nicholas in the bottom half of the inning.
The Cats answered back with three of their own in the second, including two on Anthony Fumagalli’s triple to left center. He then came around on Clay Schuler’s double to the same spot.
Nicholas got himself into a bit of trouble at the bottom of the third, where he struck out three but gave up four hits and two runs, as well.
DuPage left-hander Andrew Jurack, however, walked Nick Mayerhofer and Schuler in the fourth before Camacho (2-for-2, three walks, two runs) homered over the left field fence to give the Cats a 7-5 lead.
“[Camacho] has been swinging a really good bat for us,” Miller said of the Cats veteran. “From when he first started playing with us to now, the improvement has been so steady. I don’t want to say dramatic (...) but you saw the progress from coming from [Oswego High School].
“He goes about everything – there’s a professionalism to how he prepares himself. He’s really matured as a ballplayer. He’s got a really good glove, and he can hit from both sides of the plate like you saw [Wednesday]. He showed the power that he had.”
DuPage scored on a two-out single in the bottom of the inning, marking the end of the night for Nicholas, who surrendered 10 hits and three walks on the night. Right-hander Carter Turnquist struck out the last batter in relief.
Both bullpens were stellar, as the Angels’ right-hander Colin Pfoftenhauer allowed three hits and three walks while fanning six in five innings.
Meanwhile, Oswego’s Turnquist gave up two hits and a walk in 2 1/3 innings, and right-hander Austen Kapusinski allowed four walks and struck out one over the next two innins.
Right-hander Kendall Interial rounded it out with a walk, a hit and a strikeout in the ninth to preserve the victory.
“That’s kind of where we need to be, especially with the nine-inning games. If I can get five out of the starters, that’s a bonus, because I’ve got the pen to go to,” Miller said.
“I didn’t expect it to be a rollover, because [DuPage] can hit, and I know they’ve got a little bit of pitching. The first time we came up here, we 10-runned them [12-1 on June 6]. I think at the beginning, they kinda thought it was [going to be easy] and saw that we were in a little bit of a dogfight there. But they stuck with it, and we played pretty good defense; that was a good win.”
Oswego looks to build on the victory as it continues its four-game CSBL road trip tonight at Addison before heading to Joliet for a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Cats return to Jackie’s Field of Dreams for a doubleheader against new league member Hammond on Sunday. Several players will then head to the league’s College All-Star Game at Judson University next Wednesday before the final week of the schedule.
“This is the toughest time of the year, but the end of the month is the fun part,” Miller said.