Baseball: Northwestern makes quick work of UIC in eight-inning run-rule game, looks ahead to Indiana this weekend


Daily file photo by Mika Ellison

Three and four hitters senior infielder/outfielder Stephen Hrustich and sophomore catcher/infielder Alex Calarco lock in before their at-bats. Behind Hrustich’s six RBIs and Calarco’s three runs and two hits, the two set the pace in the 17-7 win over Illinois-Chicago.

Lawrence Price, Sports Editor

Northwestern and Illinois-Chicago’s electric matchup in mid-April broke the power bank.

The afternoon duel at Miller Park on April 11 lasted nearly four hours as Chicago’s Big Ten team (8-31, 3-12 Big Ten) couldn’t take the cake in a 44-run battle, losing to UIC (19-21, 6-12 MVC) 24-20.

However, the Wildcats got their revenge away from home Tuesday, downing UIC under the lights 17-7 in an eight-inning run-rule match. Once again, NU’s bats turned it up a notch as temperatures dwindled.

With the Big Ten’s third-seeded Indiana next on the schedule, here’s what clicked on all cylinders for NU in the 10-run win and will be critical against the Hoosiers this weekend.

1. Once again: That 3-4 hitting combination? Yeah, don’t change it.

Straight away, dead center. That’s where senior infielder/outfielder Stephen Hrustich’s three-run jack in the first inning went to give the Cats an early lead. The home run only turned NU’s motor up from there, with the team plating four more runs in the second.

By the end of the night, Hrustich finished with another hit and led the team in RBIs with six — a career high for the three-hitter. And he’s only one half of the two-headed monster: Four-hitter sophomore catcher/infielder Alex Calarco knocked in two, scored three times and had two hits.

Although the team has struggled to produce at the plate throughout the season, the Hrustich-Calarco tandem hasn’t been an easy out, owning the top two batting averages on the team (.317 and .290, respectively).

To ask Hrustich and Calarco to be perfect hitting wise is an impossible task, but outside the two, no player is batting over .250. Different than usual, though, three other players finished with two hits each against UIC. Production from the top to the bottom of the lineup is every coach’s wish, but at least coach Jim Foster doesn’t have to worry about the heart and soul of it.

2. Pitchers get much-needed reps

It’s not very common to see a pitcher get the win after tossing only one inning, but alas, Tuesday was one of them. Senior right-hander Reed Smith was given the victory after pitching an inning and striking out two.

Surprisingly, Smith wasn’t the only player to put in just one full inning of work; seven other Cats did as well. In total, 10 arms were used.

Even though the pitching load was spread out, it was a good chance for most players that will see the mound this weekend to get in-game reps and build confidence beforehand. Graduate student right-hander and usual Game Two series starter Michael Farinelli started for the Cats, giving up zero hits and notching a strikeout.

3. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”

Dorothy’s signature saying in “The Wizard of Oz” about stepping outside of what’s comfortable looms large here for NU — Big Ten play hasn’t been too kind to the Cats.

After getting swept once again last week, NU received a significant morale boost from its big midweek win. However, this story has already been written before, as NU has won its last three out-of-conference games, only to lose all three of its weekend contests days afterward.

With three wins to its 12 losses in Big Ten play, the Cats have found its conference opponents to be tough outs. And now, with three weeks left in the season, it will be interesting to see how NU’s win in Chicago will play a role in its weekend affair versus the Hoosiers.

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