NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

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    April 2, 1998

    Wildcats to Face Illinois

    Northwestern Wildcats (14-7, 2-2 Big Ten)
    vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (14-11, 3-1 Big Ten)
    April 3-5, 1998 - Champaign, Ill.

    Northwestern hits the road this weekend for a four-game series with the Fighting Illini. NU will travel three-consecutive weekends (Illinois, Penn State and Indiana) before hosting Purdue on April 24. In all, 13 of the next 14 games will be played away from Rocky Miller Park.

    NU won a rain-shortened game at home on Wednesday, defeating Northeastern Illinois in 4 1/2 innings, 6-0. Fourteen of the 25 Wildcats who stepped to the plate reached base (10 hits, two walks, two HBP). Eight of the nine starters had at least one base hit, and the one who didn't (catcher Kevin Ciarrachi) walked in both of his plate appearances. Shortstop Jeremy Kurella and first baseman Patrick Thompson each went 2-for-3 while DH Brian Baron went 1-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two-RBI triple to center field. Freshman southpaw Nick Kreinbrink (2-2) earned the complete-game shutout victory, allowing four hits while walking none and striking out three.

    Probable Starting Pitchers  
    *   Friday - Chris Hargan (Sr., RHP, 2-1, 8.16 ERA)
    Last:  W 15-9 vs. Ohio State (5.0 IP, 8H, 8R, 7ER, 3BB, 5K)
    *   Sat. game 1 - Nick Franzese (Jr., RHP, 2-1, 5.01 ERA)
    Last:  L 12-1 vs. Ohio State (4.2 IP, 10H, 6R, 5ER, 4BB, 3K)
    *   Sat. game 2 - Phil Rosengren (Jr., RHP, 0-2, 9.98 ERA)
    Last:  L 5-2 vs. Ohio State (7.0 IP - CG, 7H, 5R, 4ER, 4BB, 4K)
    *   Sunday - John Seaman (Jr., RHP, 6-0, 2.63 ERA)
    Last:  W 6-4 vs. Ohio State (8.0 IP, 9H, 4R, 3ER, 2BB, 4K)
    
    Seaman Named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week

    John Seaman was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on Monday. Last week, he went 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, earning victories in all three appearances.

    On Monday, he pitched three shutout innings in relief at Central Florida, allowing just two hits as NU won in 10 innings, 8-7. On Wednesday at Stetson, he allowed just one hit over four shutout innings to lead NU to a 10-8 victory. Sunday against OSU, he scattered nine hits and allowed just three earned runs as the Wildcats defeated the Buckeyes, 6-4. All three opponents qualified for last season's NCAA Regionals.

    Record vs. Illinois

    This weekend marks game Nos. 193-196 in the all-time series between Illinois and Northwestern. The Illini lead the series, 126-65-1.

    Head Coach Paul Stevens

    Paul Stevens (Lewis, 1976) is in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach, all of which have been at the helm of the Wildcat program. He currently owns a 280-295-4 career mark and a 116-166-1 record in Big Ten play. His 280 wins rank second on the all-time NU list, behind only George McKinnon's 304 wins from 1962-81. Stevens was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1991 and 1995.

    You'd Better Try and Win Big

    Northwestern is 7-1 this season in games decided by two runs or less. The only blemish was a 5-4 loss to Southeastern Louisiana. NU is 3-1 this year in one-run games (def. South Alabama, Boston College and Central Florida) and is 4-0 in two-run games (def. No. Iowa, Central Fla., Stetson and Ohio State).

    Ohio State Series Recap

    The Wildcats opened the Big Ten season last Friday with a 15-9 victory over Ohio State. The last time NU won the Big Ten opener was 1995, a 4-0 decision at Purdue. The Wildcats finished that season 15-13 in the conference and qualified for the Big Ten Tournament.

    NU controlled Friday's game from the outset as leadoff man Ken Kilian hit a homer to left field on the first pitch. The 'Cats led 14-1 before the Buckeyes put eight runs on the board in the sixth inning. Eight of the nine Wildcat starters collected at least one base hit and one RBI. Seven of the starters had at least two hits as NU pounded 21 as a team.

    Saturday was a different day as the Buckeye pitchers kept NU off the basepaths. NU managed just six hits in the doubleheader, two of which came by catcher Joe Hietpas in game one. Phil Rosengren tossed a complete game in the nightcap.

    Sunday was a matchup of two undefeated pitchers: NU's John Seaman and OSU's Andy Lee. The game went back-and-forth until the bottom of the seventh, when Brian Baron knocked a two-RBI triple off the center field wall to give NU a 5-3 lead. Seaman was relieved by Charlie Williamson in the top of the ninth. With the tying run on first and one out, Williamson retired Mark Carek and Dan Seimetz (both of whom made first-team All-Big Ten last season) for the final two outs of the game.

    Stritch Hits for the Cycle

    Fifth-year senior Mike Stritch hit for the cycle in NU's 11-6 victory over Grand Canyon on Feb. 21. He knocked a triple in the eighth inning to complete the cycle, and concluded the afternoon 5-for-5 with three runs and five RBIs.

    Kurella Also Hits for the Cycle

    Not to be outdone, freshman shortstop Jeremy Kurella also hit for the cycle in the first game of the Boston College twinbill on March 7. He was the second Wildcat in six games to accomplish the feat. Kurella singled in the first, homered in the third, tripled in the fourth and doubled in the fifth inning. He ended the game 4-for-4 with a walk, four runs scored and two RBIs.

    Seaman Shutting Them Down

    Junior righty John Seaman is off to a hot start. He has made nine appearances this season, four as a starter and five out of the bullpen. He currently leads the Big Ten in wins (six), is second in lowest opponent average (.194) and is third in ERA (2.63).

    Seaman has allowed an earned run in just three of his nine outings. He has picked up the win in five of his last six appearances. On March 7 vs. Boston College, Seaman earned wins in both ends of the doubleheader. His game-by-game stats are below:

    Seaman Moving Up the Appearance Chart

    With his nine appearances on the mound this year, John Seaman now has 61 career appearances as a Wildcat, moving him into fourth place on the all-time NU chart. The list: (1) Brian Cummins, 83 from 1992-95; (2) Josh Levey, 75 from 1994-97; (3) Jason Wallace, 69 from 1983-86; (4) John Seaman, 61 from 1996-present.

    Way Back, That Ball is Gone

    The Wildcats have hit 21 homers in their 21 games this season, unlike last year when NU managed just 23 homers in 55 games. In fact, 12 players have at least one homer this year. The difference also is shown in the team's slugging percentage. Last year, NU's slugging was .393. This year's squad has a slugging percentage of .516.

    Stritch Moving Up Home Run Charts

    Fifth-year senior Mike Stritch currently ranks second on the all-time school list with 27 career homers. Eric Mogentale set the record of 34 career homers from 1981-84. Stritch entered the year tied for second with Matt Huff and current New York Yankee catcher Joe Girardi.

    Dunn Nearing Century Mark

    Second baseman Ollie Dunn enters the weekend having started in 96-consecutive games for the Wildcats. If he starts all four games this weekend, Sunday would be his 100th-straight start. The last time Dunn wasn't in the starting lineup was April 16, 1996, vs. Notre Dame. He came in as a pinch hitter during the fourth inning of that game, and subsequently went 3-for-3 with a homer.

    Hietpas Shining Early

    Freshman catcher Joe Hietpas is off to a good start in his first season as a Wildcat. He currently leads the team in hitting (.419), homers (five), slugging (.860) and on-base percentage (.500) and is tied for third in RBIs (14).

    But you won't find him among the Big Ten leaders in average. The reason: he is 10 at-bats shy of the minimum required to qualify. Hietpas would rank second in slugging percentage and seventh in batting average. He is, however, tied for sixth in the Big Ten with five homers.

    First Inning Prowess

    The Wildcats have scored 18 first-inning runs this season, and at least one first-inning tally in 10 of the 21 games. The 'Cats are 8-2 when scoring in the first inning.

    No Homers Allowed, Just Double Plays

    The Wildcats have turned 30 double plays in 21 contests this season, tops in the Big Ten. Also, Wildcat pitchers have allowed just 12 homers thus far, the fewest in the conference.

    Tough Schedule

    This year's early-season schedule is definitely one of the toughest of any team in the nation. Of the first 13 opponents NU faced this season, six of them (Texas Tech, Central Florida, South Alabama, Wichita State, Stetson and Ohio State) earned a berth into last year's NCAA regionals. The Wildcats won more than their share of those contests, going a combined 7-5 against those teams.

    A Young Team

    Twenty of the 30 players on the Northwestern roster are either freshmen or sophomores. There are only five seniors on this year's squad: second baseman Ollie Dunn, pitcher Chris Hargan, outfielder Ken Kilian, infielder Chris Pedersen and outfielder Mike Stritch. Kilian has a year of eligibility remaining after missing all of 1997 due to a hamstring injury.

    Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

    Three members of the NU baseball team also play football for the Wildcats. Freshman pitcher J.J. Standring is a punter, freshman pitcher Nick Kreinbrink plays quarterback, while junior outfielder Kyle Sanders is a safety. All three have an opportunity to earn starting jobs on the gridiron next fall.

    WNUR Radio Schedule

    Seven more Wildcat baseball games will air on WNUR 89.3 FM, the Northwestern student radio station. The list: April 7 vs. UW-Milwaukee; April 22 vs. NE Illinois; April 24 vs. Purdue; April 26 vs. Purdue; April 28 vs. Northern Illinois; May 8 vs. Minnesota; and May 10 vs. Minnesota.

    Where They Rank

    Here's where the Wildcats ranked among the Big Ten leaders as of Mon., March 30:

    Hitting
    Triples:        Jeremy Kurella - t1st (4)
                    Brian Baron and Ken Kilian - t5th (2)
    Doubles:        Mike Stritch - t4th (8)
    Home Runs:      Joe Hietpas - t6th (5)
    RBI:            Patrick Thompson - t7th (23)
    Steals:         Ken Kilian - t9th (7)
    Pitching
    Wins:           John Seaman - 1st (6)
    Opponent BA:    John Seaman - 2nd (.194)
    Saves:          Charlie Williamson - t2nd (2)
    ERA:            John Seaman - 3rd (2.63)
    Appearances:    John Seaman and J.J. Standring - t5th (9)
    Innings Pitched:John Seaman - 7th (37.2)
    Fielding
    Double Plays:   Ollie Dunn - 1st (21)
                    Jeremy Kurella - t3rd (18)
                    Chris Pedersen - 9th (15)
    Assists:        Jeremy Kurella - 2nd (71)
                    Ollie Dunn - t4th (64)
    Team
    Fielding:   4th (.962 pct.)
    Hitting:        4th (.330)
    Pitching:   7th (5.87 ERA)
    
    NU Retires Joe Girardi's Number 12

    On Feb. 10, former Wildcat catcher and current New York Yankee Joe Girardi became the first Wildcat baseball player to have his number retired. The ceremony was done in conjunction with his induction into the Northwestern Athletics Hall of Fame.

    Girardi ranks among the top-10 all-time at NU in batting average (.351), homers (24), games played (208), at-bats (646), hits (227), RBIs (156), doubles (45), walks (100) and total bases (364). Current senior Ollie Dunn, who started the season with No. 12, will be allowed to finish the season with that number before it is placed in permanent retirement.

    Wildcats on the Web

    Complete results of all Northwestern baseball games this year, including box scores, will be available to fans and media on the official web site of the Wildcats. The internet address is NUSPORTS.COM.