After a massive series win over rival Illinois this past weekend, Northwestern’s offense followed that performance with even more firepower. The Wildcats scored 20 runs at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park against University of Illinois-Chicago.
Somehow, 20 runs were not enough as the Flames scored 24. Though Northwestern put up their season-high in runs, they gave up 20 or more runs for the third time this season (the other two against Texas State). Alex Calarco led the way for Northwestern with five RBIs, while Alex Roessner, Owen McElfatrick and Trent Liolios all drove in three. Starting pitcher Ethan Sund pitched 1.1 innings, and seven Northwestern pitchers gave up runs Tuesday afternoon.
The first inning went exactly as Northwestern planned. Ethan Sund pitched a scoreless top of the inning and in the bottom half, Griffin Arnone homered on the leadoff at-bat to put the ‘Cats in front. At the end of the first inning, Northwestern found itself up 4-0, with Arnone, Bennett Markinson, Roessner and Kevin Ferrer all driving in runs. But, the second inning is where things went wrong.
During the second inning, the Flames scored 14 runs and knocked three different Northwestern pitchers in Sund, Grant Comstock and Nolan Morr, out of the game. After Cole Conn hit an RBI single to get the Flames on the board, Sund hit Bobby Grimes and Clay Conn with the bases loaded to score two more. Shortly after, Carson Roberts drove in two more runs on a single to give UIC a 5-4 lead. Then, Breck Nowik hit a grand slam to blow the doors open.
UIC scored five more runs that inning, most notably a home run from Cole Conn, who began the scoring for the Flames with a single, and by the middle of the second inning, Northwestern was down 14-4.
The Flames continued to pile it on in the top of the third. Rayth Petersen drove in two with an RBI double to start it off, and the inning was punctuated with a Jackson Bessette grand slam. Just like in the second, Northwestern struggled to make it out of the inning and by the end of the third, UIC was leading 22-4.
Though Northwestern could not get any offense going in the second or third, the offense started hitting again in the fourth inning. The Wildcats were able to get the bases loaded off of Flames’ pitcher Rigel Verciglio, then Alex Calarco hit the third grand slam of the game and first for the Wildcats to make the score 22-8. Immediately after, Stephen Hrustich and Markinson reached base on hits, and McElfatrick hit a three-run bomb as Northwestern kept chipping away. The Wildcats scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to 11.
As the game went on, both teams’ offenses died down, with a Petersen RBI double the lone run scored in the fifth and sixth. Northwestern and UIC exchanged runs in the seventh inning and the Wildcats were down 12. Then, the bats started heating up again.
Northwestern started the eighth inning with a two-run homer by Roessner, then a Flames error brought in Marty Kaplan, bringing the ‘Cats within single digits for the first time since the end of the first. Shortly after, Liolios hit a three-run home run off a 1-1 count and Northwestern was down 24-18 at the end of the eighth.
With a chance for a historic comeback, the ‘Cats clawed back into the game with their best effort, but ultimately fell short. Though Northwestern scored two runs off a hit by pitch with the bases loaded and a fielder’s choice that brought in Roessner, there was no more offense to speak of. Northwestern’s offense showed up, but their pitching did not, and the Wildcats fell to the flames 24-20 in a marathon of a game.
Tuesday’s loss was Northwestern’s second at home, and the Wildcats are now 5-22 before traveling to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a three-game set, starting Friday at 6:05 CST.