Baseball: Northwestern secures rivalry win over UIC on Tuesday


Daily file photo by Peter Warren

Leo Kaplan hits the ball. The junior left fielder hit a home run in NU’s win over Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday.

Ryan Wangman, In Focus Editor

Revenge is a dish best served on a cold afternoon in Evanston.

Only a few weeks after Northwestern suffered a dampening defeat to Illinois-Chicago, the Wildcats put together a well-rounded performance en route to a 6-1 victory over their crosstown rivals at Miller Park.

“(UIC’s) a good program,” coach Spencer Allen said. “They usually pitch us really, really tough too — and so we’ve never blown them out.”

In fact, NU (17-20, 5-7 Big Ten) has rarely beaten the Flames (18-16, 11-6 Horizon) as of late, with Tuesday afternoon’s victory marking only the second time in the last nine tries the Cats have taken down their Windy City foes. With two runs on four hits in the first inning, NU matched its total offensive output from its previous matchup against the Flames.

Cats starter Parker Hanks cruised through the first two innings of the game, inducing groundouts from five of the first eight batters he faced. Then in the third inning, the freshman worked his way out of a jam, allowing only one run after UIC loaded the bases with just one out.

Hanks faced an identical situation in the fourth inning and escaped unscathed, forcing UIC third baseman Matt Bottcher to ground into a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play to end the frame. The southpaw said he’s worked to utilize the natural sinking motion of his pitches to attack hitters and make them come over the top of the ball.

“In those times, you really need to work on going after the guys and just letting them put the ball in play because you never want to walk a guy in that situation,” Hanks said. “Most of the time that they put in play, good things happen for the defense.”

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, senior first baseman Willie Bourbon hit a towering fly ball to Flames left fielder Chris Papapietro, scoring shortstop Jack Dunn from third. NU added another run on a wild pitch from UIC righty Ryan O’Reilly.

The offense kept rolling in the bottom of the eighth, as junior left fielder Leo Kaplan smashed the first pitch he saw over the Koldyke Field sign in left, plating two runs and placing an exclamation point on the Cats’ rivalry win.

Kaplan, who has struggled at the plate and is hitting below the Mendoza Line this season, said he’s been working on choosing the pitches he swings at more selectively. As a junior, he said every opposing pitcher he faces understands and is able to attack his weakness, so he’s had to adapt.

The dinger could have been the perfect time for a celebratory bat flip, but Kaplan wasn’t taking his chances with the wind howling in.

“I knew like, if I bat flip, and this hits the fence, and I get thrown out at second, I’ll never see the field again,” Kaplan said. “I hit the ball, I saw it go over and I was just like, I want to get in the dugout, see everybody.”

Coming off a series in which NU was swept by Michigan, Allen said the win was huge because the team had to “earn it.”

“There was no speech, I didn’t say anything,” Allen said. “It wasn’t … anything about the coaches, you know, the guys just — they know what they need to do and they’re real professional about it. They just went out and took care of business.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ryanwangman

Related Stories:
Baseball: Northwestern drops road series to Michigan