After a disappointing weekend in Port Charlotte, Florida, which saw them lose all four games they played, the Northwestern baseball team looked to get back on track Tuesday against cross-town rivals University of Illinois-Chicago. But the Wildcats (4-9) couldn’t douse a sizzling Flames (5-7) offense, and UIC blazed past Northwestern 11-2.
The Wildcats started off strong in the top of the first when junior left fielder Joe Hoscheit hit a solo home run. Hoscheit now has three dingers on the year; no other Wildcat has one. Hoscheit wasn’t done, however – with two men on in the third, he sent a double to leftfield which scored a run. It would’ve scored two, but first baseman Zach Jones was gunned down at home by Cody Bohanek, the Flames’ junior shortstop.
Still, the Wildcats were in decent shape heading into the bottom of the third with a two-run lead. But UIC made sure sophomore Richard Fordon’s first career start would be one he’ll want to forget. Six different Flames drove in at least a run in the bottom of the third, and UIC tagged Fordon with seven earned runs, knocking him out of the game after just 2.1 innings pitched. Sophomore designated hitter Rob Calabrese led the offense in the inning for the Flames, causing two runs to score on a fielder’s choice grounder on which he reached. Tyler Lass came on in relief and didn’t allow any runs of his own in 2.2 innings.
Both offenses cooled until the seventh innings, when the Flames ignited once more. Calabrese struck again with a two-run homer off Mack Rosman, increasing UIC’s lead to 9-2. But they weren’t done there. In the bottom of the eighth, leadoff man David Cronin capped off his perfect 4-for-4 afternoon with a double off Evan Schreiber that scored two more runs. Finally, the damage was done, and UIC celebrated its first home game of the season with an offensive display that New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, for whom the Flames’ field is named, would have been proud of.
Trevor Lane, a senior lefty who made his first start of the season for the Flames, shone brightly, allowing just two runs, only one of which was earned, on three hits. He struck out seven, but also walked four of the 24 batters he faced in six innings pitched. None of the three UIC relievers pitched more than an inning, but Northwestern failed to get more than one hit off of any of them.
It was another rough showing for the Wildcats, who have now allowed at least 10 runs in five of their nine losses. Fordon was saddled with the loss in his first career start, and Schreiber’s season debut was also forgettable. Northwestern’s team ERA has now ballooned to 5.26.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats' offense, certainly the team’s strength, failed to get anything going against Flames pitchers after the first three innings. Hoscheit had two of the team’s five total hits, and one of the two runs. The junior leads the team in homers, doubles and RBI, and is second in total hits. The Wildcats’ team batting average dips to a still respectable .282 after a collective 5-for-30 performance, while opponents are batting .303 against Northwestern pitching.
Before the 11-2 loss, NU's fifth straight, the 'Cats had won their last six against UIC. Northwestern will have a chance for retribution when UIC visits Rocky Miller Park on April 5. For now, though, NU will simply have to ice up its burns and get ready to head back out to California for a four-game series with San Diego State starting Thursday.