After a rough sweep at the hands of Michigan State (28-13, 10-5 B1G), Northwestern needed a spark. The ‘Cats simply couldn't get anything going on offense, scoring a total of just eight runs in the series. Following an April in which they went 5-13, the baseball team was hoping for a good start in May.
Against UIC (19-21, 6-12 Valley), Northwestern accomplished that mission. The Wildcats (8-31, 3-12 B1G) put up one of their finest offensive outputs of the year, scoring 17 runs on 13 hits. Northwestern tallied a 17-7 win in eight innings — its second run-rule victory in the span of a week. To further sweeten the victory, it was the first time the ‘Cats had extinguished the Flames all year.
The key was Stephen Hrustich, who continued his hot-hitting ways by going 2-for-4 and knocking in a career-high six RBIs. Alex Calarco was also successful at the plate, garnering a 2-for-3 day and scoring three runs. Other offensive stars included Bennett Markinson (2-for-4) and Marty Kaplan (2-for-5), the latter of which had his first career multi-hit game.
The pitching was very much a group effort with 10 different Wildcat hurlers taking the mound. Michael Farinelli and Jack Dyke held UIC hitless in the first two innings, and after Ethan Sund was touched up for two runs in the third, Reed Smith got two strikeouts to end the threat. Smith earned credit for the win, and Jack Sauser, Coby Moe, and Ben Grable all pitched scoreless innings.
The Wildcats jumped on UIC from the get-go. After two walks in the first, Hrustich hammered a pitch over the centerfield fence to give Northwestern a 3-0 lead. In the second, the ‘Cats put on a two-out rally behind some wild pitches and a Hrustich single to left. UIC may be the Flames, but Northwestern was hot in this game, holding a 7-2 lead through three innings.
UIC seemed it may have a chance to come back after Grant Comstock gave up a home run in the fourth to cut the lead to 7-3. However, the ‘Cats responded by mauling UIC’s pitchers in the sixth inning en route to an astounding seven-run frame.
Kaplan started things off with an RBI double to score Griffin Arnone. After some errors and walks, it became clear Kaplan set a trend. Calarco, Markinson, Kevin Ferrer, and Arnone all managed RBI doubles in a span of just five batters. By the time the dust settled, Northwestern led 14-3.
First-year pitcher Drew Dickson got into a bit of trouble but kept the advantage, walking the bases loaded and then walking two more batters. However, Moe was able to come in and limit the damage to just one more run, keeping the ‘Cats up by a comfortable margin of 14-6.
Calarco had another RBI double in the seventh, and in the eighth, Kaplan singled home Markinson, which was soon followed by a sacrifice fly from Owen McElfatrick to bring home Arnone for his third run of the day.
Despite giving up a home run in the bottom of the eighth, Nolan Morr was unfazed and got the next three batters out to seal the deal. The victory ended a three-game win streak for UIC against Northwestern and evened the all-time series score at 20 apiece. It was the first victory over UIC for the Wildcats since April 5, 2022. Coincidentally enough, Hrustich was a pinch-hitter in that game and had an RBI fly-out in the seventh.
His performance this time around was much better, fitting a larger trend. After a rough first month (Hrustich was hitting just .256 on March 19), he found his groove and is currently hitting .317 to lead the team. Given that he had no RBIs in the previous two contests against UIC this year, it seems Hrustich may have had this game circled on his calendar, and he certainly delivered.
Another performer who stepped up was Dyke. The pitching staff has been much-maligned this year, but Dyke has been really good over the past month. He hasn’t allowed a run over his past four innings of work (across three appearances), dropping his ERA from 11.57 to 4.16. The key against UIC was weak contact with Dyke allowing just one ball to be hit out of the infield — right to the center fielder.
The Wildcats will be back in action this weekend in a home series against Indiana (31-14, 9-1 B1G), beginning May 5 and concluding on May 7. Last year, Northwestern bounced back from an opening-game loss to win the series. The ‘Cats are hoping for a similar result this year to keep their May success going.