Baseball: Jack Dunn sparks Cats’ first win over Illinois-Chicago since 2015


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Jack Dunn prepares to take a swing. The junior shortstop hit the only RBI of the game in Northwestern’s 1-0 win Tuesday.

Peter Warren, Assistant Sports Editor


CHICAGO — Junior shortstop Jack Dunn has been playing baseball with his cousin, Illinois-Chicago pitcher Wyatt Trautwein, for almost all of his life.

But Tuesday was the first time the two had ever gone head-to-head in an organized game.

“He was always a year up … so whenever he came down to Georgia to play, he had to play in the older division,” Dunn said. “I never got to face him until today.”

Not only did Dunn face off against his cousin — someone he said he’s looked up to for years — for the first and probably only time at Curtis Granderson Stadium on Tuesday, but he also led Northwestern (10-24, 1-14 Big Ten) to a 1-0 victory over the Flames (20-14, 8-7 Horizon).

The cousins split their first two at-bat matchups. Trautwein got Dunn to softly groundout to first base to start the game, then Dunn walked on five pitches with one out and no one on in the third inning.

When junior center fielder Ben Dickey and freshman right fielder Casey O’Laughlin reached base to the fifth, the cousins were set to face off in a crucial situation: a tie game with a runner in scoring position.

But UIC coach Mike Dee had other ideas.

He yanked Trautwein and brought in left-hander Braeden Toikka to face Dunn. The move backfired, as Dunn singled to center field to bring in Dickey and give the Cats the 1-run lead.

“I was honestly pretty happy (they took Trautwein out),” Dunn said. “I was having a tough time picking up his stuff. He’s a lanky guy, so his fastball gets on you a little bit, and the right-on-right (handed) matchup was tough. I was kind of relieved they brought in the lefty.”

Dunn then put the final nail in the Flames’ coffin in the ninth. After UIC loaded the bases, senior pitcher Tommy Bordignon got Dominic Smith to hit a weak grounder to the left side. Dunn raced in, fielded the ball on the run and made a strong throw to first base to beat Smith and secure the Wildcats’ first victory in nearly two weeks.

Dunn almost doubled the lead in the seventh. With O’Laughlin on second base and two outs, Dunn hit a frozen rope to center field, where the Flames’ Derrick Patrick made a diving play to keep the UIC deficit at 1.
“(Patrick) made some good plays all day,” Dunn said. “I feel like if we scratched another run across the board right there and get an insurance run, we’d feel a lot safer out there with a two run. I was mad he ran and caught that, but hats off to him.”

Freshman Ryan Bader, in his first start since March 3 at Texas, threw three innings of four-hit ball. Sophomore lefty Matt Gannon, who started the last three midweek matchups, was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the Cats and picked up the victory.

NU ran into some trouble in the seventh inning. Sophomore pitcher Sam Lawrence walked two of the first three batters of the inning to give the Flames’ two best hitters, Scott Ota and Bowen Ogata, a chance to tie or take the lead. But Lawrence struck out Ota on a pitch in the dirt before sophomore Josh Levy relieved him and got Ogata to ground out to junior Willie Bourbon at first.

UIC put the pressure on again in the eighth, but Levy again managed to eliminate the opportunity. After Alex Dee tripled with two outs, Levy got Aaron Ackerman to fly out on a 3-1 pitch to O’Laughlin in right field.

“I was pretty happy with the pitch he hit the triple on, so I wasn’t really worried,” Levy said.

This was the first time the Cats and the Flames faced off this season, with two previous games scheduled for March 6 and April 4 having been canceled.

Tuesday’s victory was the first time NU defeated their Chicago area rivals to the south during coach Spencer Allen’s tenure. The last time the Cats had beaten UIC before Tuesday was a 6-4 victory on April 22, 2015.

“Anytime you get a chance to win a ballgame, it doesn’t necessarily matter who it is really, you just want to play good baseball,” Allen said. “We’ve played some good games against them so it does feel nice to finally get the ‘W.’”

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