Baseball Set for Season Opener against Purdue on Friday
March 7, 2013
CHICAGO – After playing its first nine games on the road, the UIC baseball team (3-6) will open up home play with a three-game series against reigning Big Ten Champion Purdue (3-8) set to begin on Friday at 4:05 p.m. CT. The Flames have played one of the nation’s toughest schedules so far this season, facing six nationally-ranked opponents over the first three weekends.
“The schedule was certainly challenging,” said head coach Mike Dee. “Travel alone is tough enough and you combine that with the fact that we haven’t been able to get outside much it makes for a challenging first three weekends. I feel like our guys have held up really well and we some momentum. This program has to be about pitching and defense and we are getting both of those things.”
The opening weekend series will be the start of 28 home games for the Flames this season, the most since 2003. Last year UIC compiled a 14-14 home record, winning six of its last nine contests at Les Miller Field. Purdue visited “The Mill” once last season and came away with a 12-2 victory.
“Purdue had a great club last year and was a legitimate top 30 program in the country,” said Dee. “By the same token, when you’ve played who’ve we played they don’t seem bigger than life. It’s another great challenge for us this weekend and I expect it to be a hard-fought series.”
The Boilermakers are fresh off a historic season which witnessed a school record 45 wins and its first Big Ten title since 1909. Purdue advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years and finished the season ranked No. 12 in the NCAA’s final RPI. After saying goodbye to 18 letterwinners, this year’s Boilermakers seem to be rebuilding with 12 true freshmen on the roster. The club is currently on a six-game losing streak after beginning the 2013 campaign with a 3-2 record. Purdue is led at the plate by redshirt senior Jake Hansen with a batting average of .333 as the team boasts five players well over the .300 mark.
The Flames return home after dropping three straight at #2 Vanderbilt last weekend. UIC took the Commodores into extra innings on Sunday, eventually losing 3-1, and suffered a 5-3 defeat on Saturday. The Flames hung tough down the stretch, equaling Vanderbilt’s six runs over the last 18 innings of the series and held the Dores scoreless in 17 total frames over the weekend. UIC also restricted Vandy to a batting average of .241 and didn’t allow a single stolen base as the Dores had already amassed 39 bags in 10 previous games.
Senior Joey Begel picked up Horizon League Pitcher of the Week honors for his 7.1 innings of work against Vandy on Sunday. Begel kept the Dores off balance yielding just three hits and run and not allowing a runner past second base. The Flames have garnered weekly league honors in each of the first three weeks of play. Alex Grunenwald was named Batter of the Week on Feb. 28 and Tomas Michelson began the season as the HL Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 18.