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Baseball: Northwestern seeking revenge against UIC

Matt+Hopfner+follows+through+a+swing.+The+junior+will+look+to+extend+his+hitting+streak+to+three+games+against+Flames.+
Matt Hopfner follows through a swing. The junior will look to extend his hitting streak to three games against Flames.

Matt Hopfner follows through a swing. The junior will look to extend his hitting streak to three games against Flames.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Matt Hopfner follows through a swing. The junior will look to extend his hitting streak to three games against Flames.

Ben Pope, Reporter

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Baseball


After being outscored by a combined score of 18-2 in its first two meetings against University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern will try to end the season series against its cross-city rival on a good note Wednesday night.

The Wildcats (10-33, 2-16 Big Ten) squandered an early lead March 8 to lose 11-2 in their first trip to UIC (19-23, 10-6 Horizon) this year. They were then shut out 7-0 in Evanston on April 5.

In the second meeting, Flames freshman pitcher Reid Birlingmair picked up his only win of the season thus far by holding the Cats scoreless in the fourth inning. This week, NU will get a chance to see more of Birlingmair — who sports a team-worst 10.07 ERA and allowed 7 runs in 1.1 innings in his last start — as he makes his third start this year for the hosts.

We both know each other pretty well,” junior outfielder Matt Hopfner said. “They probably have a pretty good scouting report against us and we have the same against them, so I would say it’s a pretty even playing field.”

Taking the mound first for the Cats will be sophomore pitcher Dan Kubiuk (0-5, 6.41 ERA), although coach Spencer Allen said the team will rotate a number of pitchers onto the mound as the night wears on.

This is a strategy they’ve used often in mid-week games, deploying 10 pitchers on a Tuesday outing to Chicago State two weeks ago and nine when hosting Bradley the week before.

We’re really just trying to see a lot of different guys and get them experience,” Allen said. “We’ve got some young guys, we’ve got some guys that are really trying to find their command and … their secondary pitches. We’ve got it mapped out of who’s going to throw what innings.”

Meanwhile, Kubiuk said he’s not thinking about breaking his goose egg in the win column but rather solely about the game at hand.

The sophomore has thus far had two games to scout UIC’s batters. However, those batters have not yet had an opportunity to do the same, as Kubiuk is not one of the 11 NU pitchers to face the Flames thus far this season.

I was able to obviously watch them for two games and kind of get a feel for what their strengths are,” Kubiuk said. “I think it’s helped a little bit and I’ll use that going into (Wednesday’s game).”

The Cats enter the matchup struggling through a six-game losing streak after failing to convert on numerous leads in three consecutive one-run losses at Indiana last weekend. NU recorded more total hits in the series than the Hoosiers did, however, including three hits and 2 runs from Hopfner in the series’ second and third games combined.

Hopfner, the team’s batting average leader this season at .369, said the Cats need to be better at moving runners into scoring position using sacrifice fly-outs and bunts when they have outs to burn. He said he is hoping to simply react to the ball instead of overthinking his at-bats as he attempts to extend his hitting streak to three straight games Wednesday.

Allen likened the trip to UIC’s Curtis Granderson Stadium as the equivalent of a Sunday game in a three-game weekend series — a situation his team has been in often — in terms of the two rivals’ knowledge about each other.

We’re familiar with their team and the park, so it should be a good matchup,” Allen said. “But college baseball ebbs and flows as far as who’s hot and who’s not, so we’re just going to have to come out and play good baseball.”

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Twitter: @benpope111

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