Baseball: Northwestern falls to UIC in walkoff fashion, losses keep piling up

Dan+Kubiuk+fires+the+ball+home.+As+Northwestern%E2%80%99s+starting+pitcher+Wednesday%2C+the+sophomore+surrendered+2+runs+in+one+inning+of+work.+

Max Gelman/Daily Senior Staffer

Dan Kubiuk fires the ball home. As Northwestern’s starting pitcher Wednesday, the sophomore surrendered 2 runs in one inning of work.

Max Gelman, Sports Editor


Baseball


CHICAGO — The Wildcats are hurtling toward record-breaking levels of futility.

Through 44 games, Northwestern’s 34 losses are already tied for sixth-most in program history; its .227 winning percentage, if drawn out to the end of the season, would be the worst mark since 1970. With 10 regular-season games left on the schedule and competent opponents in California and Rutgers left to face, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that the Cats will set a new school record for losses, surpassing the mark of 38 established back in 1992.

Unfortunately for NU, the dark ugly cloud of losing continued to hang over its collective head Wednesday night. Under the bright lights of Curtis Granderson Stadium and with the Willis Tower looming large beyond left-center field, the Cats (10-34, 2-16 Big Ten) fell to their crosstown rival Illinois-Chicago (20-23, 11-7 Horizon) in walk-off fashion 5-4.

“It’s not where we’d like to be,” coach Spencer Allen said, “but like I’ve told the coaches, and some of the returning players, if this is rock bottom then I’m OK with that.”

In his first season at the helm of the Cats, Allen said he knew it would take time to build the team into a contender, but never expected the losses to pile up so quickly. After all, NU started off the season 4-4 through its first two series in February. Since then, however, its record is 6-30.

Regardless, the players have continued to go about their business. Junior outfielder Joe Hoscheit said despite the team’s consistent inconsistencies, the players are happy with where they’re at.

“At this point in the season, we’re just trying to have fun and win some games,” Hoscheit said. “Hopefully that can start this weekend against Purdue … and regardless of the previous outcomes, it’s not going to affect our mindset for the rest of the year.”

Wednesday’s loss to the Flames featured little offense — Hoscheit had 1 of only 4 hits for the Cats — but NU was able to push across 4 runs thanks to 4 walks and 6 hit by pitches. The missed opportunities, including the 10 men left on base, is what ultimately doomed NU though, Allen said.

On the mound, the Cats kept the line moving, a strategy Allen has employed in many midweek games this season. Eight members of NU’s conference-worst pitching staff appeared on the hill Wednesday and, in a span between the fourth and eighth innings, they retired 12 straight UIC batters.

But everything unraveled in the bottom of the ninth when junior Pete Hofman hit two batters and gave up the game-winning hit to third baseman Brandon Gibis.

Junior reliever Cooper Wetherbee, who set down all four batters he faced, said he likes the strategy because it helps the team stay loose. However, when it doesn’t translate to results on the field like Wednesday night, he said the losing can get frustrating.

“Would I like us to be playing better? Yeah, absolutely,” Wetherbee said. “But I do think if you look at the results we’ve been seeing, we’re in the phase right now where we’re transitioning from being competitive in ballgames to really learning how to win them and step up in those tight spots.”

With more than 80 percent of the season in the rearview mirror NU has to look forward now.

And Allen, as he’s been after each of his team’s 34 losses, remains optimistic.

“We haven’t helped ourselves, we haven’t made a lot of breaks for ourselves, but I think we’ve got the guys in place and we’ll get it going,” Allen said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MaxGelman

Comments