Baseball: Wildcats won’t get much rest ahead of midweek matchup


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Joe Hoscheit watches a hit. The junior outfielder leads the Wildcats in home runs this season with 3.

Max Gelman, Sports Editor


Having won just one out of every four games played thus far, the Wildcats find themselves needing to snap yet another losing streak.

Following a series sweep at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, Northwestern will host Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday afternoon beginning at 3 p.m. It is the second matchup of the season between the two Chicago-area teams, with the Flames taking the first contest 11-2 almost a month ago.

The Cats have won consecutive games this season just once — Feb. 19, when they swept their season-opening doubleheader against Nevada. Since then, NU has accrued two separate six-game losing streaks, lasting from March 4 to March 11 and from March 11 to their Big Ten opener against Ohio State on March 25.

Nevertheless, coach Spencer Allen said the best way to prepare for a game on such short rest is to, relatively, keep the status quo.

“At this point (of the season) there’s not a lot of physical stuff that you’re doing, it’s just mentally (preparing) and getting guys confident,” Allen said after Sunday’s loss. “I think the day off will be good, and obviously they’ll be in class, and then we’ll get after a good UIC team.”

When NU last faced Illinois-Chicago, sophomore pitcher Richard Fordon started the game and was shelled. The Flames put up a crooked 7-spot in the third inning, forcing Fordon out after just 2.1 innings pitched.

This time around, the Cats will need to focus on limiting the big inning, especially coming off a series in which their pitchers allowed 33 runs to Michigan. Junior Matt Hopfner, who started the series finale against the Wolverines, said staying relaxed will be key for NU.

“We’re probably going to take (Monday) pretty light, take some batting practice, try to regain that confidence and that focus,” Hopfner said after Sunday’s loss. “Going into UIC, we’ll be ready to play.”

But preventing such offensive outbursts may be difficult against a good offense like Illinois-Chicago’s. Led by senior Conor Philbin, the Flames will trot out a lineup that currently sits second in the Horizon League in slugging and on-base percentages. Philbin currently leads Illinois-Chicago with a .387 batting average in 16 games and is tied for second on the team with 3 home runs.

In NU’s meeting with the Flames last month Philbin did not play, but their other two sluggers, junior Ricardo Ramirez and sophomore David Cronin, picked up the slack in his absence with a combined 6-for-8 effort. Ramirez leads the Horizon League in slugging percentage and is tied for second in home runs.

Regardless of what happened last time, the Cats will be up to the task come Tuesday.

“(Monday) we’ll go to class and (Tuesday) get right back here,” freshman shortstop Jack Dunn said. “Guys will come hit, hang out in the locker room, talk baseball. … You can’t really take days off now.”

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