Baseball: Pitching struggles hinder Northwestern in 24-20 defeat over UIC


Daily file photo by Mika Ellison

Graduate student outfielder Griffin Arnone slides into second base in a matchup over Illinois. The outfielder continued his terrific offensive production, hitting a home run in Northwestern’s defeat to UIC.

Aayushya Agarwal, Senior Staffer

Coming off of its first Big Ten series win of the season, Northwestern (5-22, 3-3 Big Ten) hosted in-state foe UIC (14-14, 3-6 Missouri Valley) for a lone Tuesday matinee matchup.

With unseasonably warm conditions, there was little doubt that both teams would collectively put up an offensive clinic. This is exactly what happened, as both teams combined for 44 runs in the Wildcats 24-20 loss, suffering a season sweep to the Flames.  

Graduate student outfielder Griffin Arnone continued his hot stretch coming off of a three home run weekend in NU’s series win over Purdue. The outfielder led off the first inning for the Cats with a solo homer to left-center.

Following multiple base hits, NU continued to tick the scoreboard in the first with sophomore infielder Alex Roessner and graduate student outfielder Kevin Ferrer’s RBI singles. By the end of the frame, the Cats started off exceptionally, putting up four runs. 

However, at the bottom of the second inning, pitching went south for the Cats. After tossing a scoreless first inning, graduate student right-hander Ethan Sund could not escape the second, surrendering three walks that led to four UIC runs and a tied game. Coming in for relief, sophomore right-hander Grant Comstock struggled as well. Hitting back-to-back UIC hitters, Comstock was unable to record an out in his appearance, ultimately surrendering three runs. 

NU’s pitchers continued to struggle in the second. Junior left-hander Nolan Morr allowed two home runs, including a grandslam, which quickly saw the Cats face a ten-run deficit. The left-hander allowed six runs on five hits and also could not help the team get out of the inning, recording only out. 

Stepping onto the mound as the fourth NU pitcher in the second inning, first year right-hander Drew Dickson finally helped the Cats escape a disastrous frame, recording the final out after allowing a walk. Ultimately, NU pitchers allowed 14 runs total on eight hits in an inning to forget. 

When the Cats desperately needed to answer UIC’s explosive offense in the second, they did just the opposite. After Arnone drew a lead off walk on four pitches in the bottom of the frame, UIC quickly turned a double play on the very next batter, stalling an attempt for a comeback in the second. 

In the top of the third inning, Cats pitchers’ struggles continued. Dickson surrendered three consecutive hits to open the frame, capped by a two-run double. While it seemed sophomore infielder Alex Calarco’s marvelous leaping play resulting in a force out would limit the damage, Dickson subsequently surrendered a two-run single and a walk, forcing coach Jim Foster to remove him after recording just two outs. Dickson’s early exit in the third meant he was the fourth straight NU pitcher who failed to complete a full inning of work on the bump.  

Unfortunately for NU and its pitching staff, senior right-hander Jack Dyke’s entrance did not limit UIC’s offensive damage. The right-hander immediately surrendered a grand slam, the Flames’ second in as many innings. Ultimately, the Cats followed an inning in which they allowed 14 runs with 8 more, extending their deficit to 22-4 by the middle of the third. 

In the fourth inning, NU’s offense displayed its resiliency in full force. Following consecutive innings where the Cats left a runner on base, they were able to cash in through the long ball. With Calarco’s grand slam to left-center and first-year infielder Owen McElfatrick’s three-run homer, NU registered a seven-run fourth inning and cut its deficit to 22-11 entering the fifth. 

While the Cats trimmed UIC’s once eighteen run lead down to six courtesy of Roessner’s two-run home run and first-year infielder Trent Liolios’ three-run home run, it was too little too late. Although NU scored nine unanswered runs in the final three frames, the Cats still lost by four. 

Tuesday’s defeat serves as a roadblock for an NU team that seemed to gain momentum this past weekend following a series win over Illinois. Now, the team will have to quickly regroup as it goes back to Big Ten play this weekend, taking on Nebraska for a weekend road series. 

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