Consider it one of the oddest facts of an unusual spring: it's the final week of the regular season and the Jacobs baseball team has yet to hold a full, outdoor practice.
Persistent cold, wet weather throughout late March and April kept the Golden Eagles off their own unplayable infield and in their field house for weeks on end.
When the weather finally did improve enough to play outdoors, coach Jamie Murray's team took advantage of any dry day by eating into the backlog of postponed games. No time to practice. Just play, play, play.
Though they haven't had the opportunity to work on cutoffs from the outfield or pitchers covering first base, the Golden Eagles have nevertheless managed to win 18 of 28 games, including Monday's 7-0 whitewash of District 300 rival Dundee-Crown in a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division tilt in Carpentersville.
"This Thursday," Murray said of the team's first scheduled outdoor practice. "Seriously, it's unbelievable. We've been inside or we've been only in the outfield because the infield's not ready and we use the cages. We're looking forward to it."
One player rounding into form as the postseason draws near is Jacobs right-handed starting pitcher Evan Blunk. The senior tossed his second shutout in three outings, limiting Dundee-Crown (7-15, 4-12) to 5 hits. Blunk (3-3) struck out 4 and walked 3 in a 98-pitch effort.
"I threw the curveball a lot and threw it great," said Blunk, who shut out Huntley 1-0 two weeks ago. "The fastball was popping and I kept it low, and I was confident with that changeup."
"The biggest difference in him from last year to this year is that he's been able to throw change-ups consecutively," Murray said. "If a guy hits a hard foul ball off his fastball, he'll come back with change-ups for strikes."
The Chargers had trouble adjusting as Blunk changed speeds, locations and pitch selection. The right-hander's big, sweeping curveball was particularly tough on right-handed hitters, many of whom topped it, resulting in 9 groundouts.
"We have to make an adjustment," D-C coach Jon Anderson said. "Either move up in the box, move back in the box, hit it before it breaks, hit it after it breaks. We should have made the adjustments."
Jacobs (18-10, 10-7) collected 10 hits. They tagged D-C starting pitcher Vince Damato (3-3) for 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits. Damato walked 4 and struck out 4 in 5 innings.
Joe Rizzuto staked Jacobs to a 1-0 lead on a first-inning triple to the center-field wall, scoring Ben Murray. Jon Berndt singled home Aaron Meciej for an unearned run in the second inning.
The Golden Eagles scored 3 more runs in the third inning to break it open, highlighted by Meciej's 2-run double. They added 2 more runs in the sixth when Murray pulled an inside pitch over the right-field fence for a 2-run home run.
"I honestly thought it was a popup," Murray said. "I was hoping. I was like, 'Please carry.' It had the height, but I wasn't sure it had the distance. I hit one the first game of the year, but I hadn't hit one since. It felt good."
The teams will complete their 2-game series Wednesday in Algonquin.