Baseball Returns to Horizon League Play at Valparaiso

Senior Joey Begel will start for UIC on Saturday.
Senior Joey Begel will start for UIC on Saturday.

April 4, 2013

CHICAGO – The UIC baseball team returns to Horizon League action this weekend with a three-game series at defending conference champion Valparaiso, starting on Friday at 3 p.m. CT.  The Flames are winners of six of their last eight games and look to strengthen their No. 2 spot in the league standings as they are currently tied with Youngstown State with a 3-3 record.  The Penguins will host first-place Milwaukee for a trio of contests this weekend.

“We expect a good series,” said head coach Mike Dee.  “They are a very good club, but I don’t’ think this series will define our season.  It is important because it is the next three games for us and I feel like we have a pretty good chance of playing well this weekend.”

The Crusaders enter the weekend with a 10-17 overall record and league mark of 1-5.  Despite dropping seven of their last 10 games, the Crusaders have proven to be formidable as they nearly upset #20 Notre Dame this past Wednesday.  The Irish scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to squeak by Valpo, 3-1.  The Crusaders have relied on their pitching and defense for much of the 2013 season as they own a league-best 3.41 combined ERA, but a conference-low 101 total runs.  A pair of seniors pilot Valpo at the plate in Tanner Vavra and Andrew Bain.  Both players are hitting just a few points under the .300 mark and have combined for 58 hits and 20 RBI so far this year.

UIC dropped a set of hard-fought road games this past week at #20 Notre Dame on Tuesday and Northwestern on Wednesday.  The 6-2 loss to the Irish was the Flames’ first defeat against ND since May of 2007 as UIC couldn’t dig themselves out of a first-inning 3-0 hole.  Versus the Wildcats, the Flames struggled to string together solid at-bats as they fell 3-1, but nearly equaled NU in hits by a margin of 8-7.  Sophomore Tyler Detmer tallied three of those seven hits as he leads the team with a .326 batting average.

“We have parts of our team that are playing really well right now,” said Dee.  “I think we’re playing the best defense we’ve played all year.  I don’t think we’ve done a good job at having consistently good at-bats and that’s something we are trying to address.”

Sophomore Tomas Michelson will take the mound for UIC on Friday as senior Joey Begel gets the nod on Saturday and freshman Ian Lewandowski on Sunday.  Saturday and Sunday action will begin at 1 p.m.