A come-from-behind series win over the Portland Pilots two weekends ago seemed to be the turning point for a Northwestern baseball team ending a road-heavy portion of its schedule.
So far, it has been anything but.
After dropping three of four games over the weekend to Central Michigan in Evanston at the start of a 12-game homestand, the Wildcats (5-14) lost a Tuesday matinee to the UIC Flames (11-6) by a score of 7-1. It was Northwestern’s second home loss to UIC in the past two weeks.
UIC got on the board early, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the 1st off Cooper Wetherbee, who got the rare start. He would settle down after the rough start, keeping the deficit at 2-0 for the next three innings.
The Wildcats had a golden opportunity to immediately respond in the bottom half of the opening frame, as a leadoff Jack Dunn walk and Matt Hopfner single put a runner in scoring position with no out. But, as would be the case all day, Northwestern was promptly retired in order and kept off the board.
A Nick Paciorek single in the 4th off Flames’ starter Jacob Key plated Northwestern’s first run, scoring Charlie Maxwell. It looked like the start of a big rally, but Noah Masa relieved Key and got the next two Wildcats out to preserve UIC’s 2-1 lead.
The Flames added three more insurance runs off Danny Katz and Richard Fordon in the 7th to increase their advantage and put away a run-starved Northwestern team for good. The Wildcats managed just seven hits on the day, all of which were singles.
Tyler Lass allowed a two-run home run to Scott Ota in the 9th to make it 7-1. There would be no comeback attempt for Northwestern this time. Wetherbee picked up the loss, his first of the season, while Masa got the win for the visitors to improve to 1-0.
The Wildcats kick off Big Ten play this Friday with a three-game weekend set against the Indiana Hoosiers at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park. Game 1 is set for 3:00 pm CST.