April 24, 1998
Baseball Prepares for Purdue
Northwestern Wildcats (19-18, 4-12 Big Ten)
vs. Purdue Boilermakers (17-22, 5-11 Big Ten)
April 24-26, 1998 - Rocky Miller Park
Northwestern finally sees the friendly confines of Rocky Miller Park after being on the road for three-straight weekends. NU has played 13 of its last 16 games away from home, but will end the year with 10 of its last 17 games played in Evanston.
The Wildcats defeated Northeastern Illinois on Wednesday, 7-3, thanks to a trio of freshmen. First baseman Wes Robinson knocked a three-run homer to right field in the fourth inning, shortstop Jeremy Kurella went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while catcher Joe Hietpas knocked two leadoff doubles and stopped numerous pitches in the dirt. Seven pitchers took the hill with another freshman, J.J. Standring, earning his first collegiate win.
Probable Starting Pitchers
* Friday - Phil Rosengren (Jr., RHP, 0-4, 8.33 ERA)
Last: L 4-3 at Indiana (6.0 IP - CG, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 4BB, 5K)
* Sat. game 1 - Chris Hargan (Sr., RHP, 2-4, 7.07 ERA)
Last: ND 6-7 at Indiana (5.0 IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, 3BB, 0K)
* Sat. game 2 - John Seaman (Jr., RHP, 8-3, 3.24 ERA)
Last: ND 7-3 vs. NEIU (1.0 IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1K)
Last Big Ten: L 1-2 at Indiana (7.0 IP - CG, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 7K)
* Sunday - Nick Franzese (Jr., RHP, 3-2, 5.74 ERA)
Last: ND 7-3 vs. NEIU (1.0 IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1K)
Last Big Ten: L 2-5 at Indiana (6.2 IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 2K)
Record vs. Purdue
This weekend marks game Nos. 139-142 in the all-time series between Purdue and Northwestern. The Boilermakers lead the series, 76-60-2. The two teams split last year's series at Rocky Miller Park, with PU winning the first two and NU taking the final two games.
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 285-306-4 career mark. His 285 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.
Stritch, Kurella Hit 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.
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 making a serious bid for Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors. He has made 53 appearances this season, seven as a starter and eight out of the bullpen. He currently leads the Big Ten in wins (eight) and is sixth in ERA (3.24).
Last Saturday at Indiana, Seaman and Indiana's Chad Smith engaged in perhaps the best pitching performances of the Big Ten season. Seaman allowed just two runs and fanned seven batters in seven-plus innings, while Smith gave up just one run and fanned 10 in eight innings. The two teams combined to send 54 batters to the plate, none of whom received a walk.
Seaman was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on March 30 after earning wins at UCF, at Stetson and vs. Ohio State, all of which made last year's NCAA regionals.
Seaman Moving Up the Charts
With his 15 appearances on the mound this year, John Seaman now has 67 career appearances as a Wildcat, fourth 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, 67 from 1996-present.
He also needs just one victory to become the ninth player in NU history to record nine wins in a season. The only Wildcats to do so in the decade of the '90s were Brad Niedermaier and Chad Schroeder, who notched 10 and nine victories in 1995, respectively. The Wildcat record of 11 wins in a season was set in 1986 by Grady Hall.
Kurella - Freshman of the Year Candidate
Shortstop Jeremy Kurella is making a bid for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He opened the year by hitting for the cycle in just his eighth collegiate contest.
Thus far, he is hitting .336 with one homer and 23 RBIs while hitting in the two slot. The switch hitter also leads the team in runs scored (32) and is third in the Big Ten in triples (four).
Defensively, he has started all 37 contests for NU at shortstop, forming the league's best double-play tandem with second baseman Ollie Dunn. Kurella is tied for the conference lead in assists (127) and sixth in double plays turned (32).
There were a couple of roster changes made on Wednesday. Second baseman Ollie Dunn is now wearing No. 19 and Kevin Ciarrachi, who was No. 19, is now donning No. 9. Dunn's uniform change means No. 12, formerly worn by Joe Girardi, is now in permanent retirement.
Way Back, That Ball is Gone
The Wildcats have hit 34 homers this season, a big change from last year when NU managed just 23 homers in 55 games. In fact, 13 players have at least one homer this year. Freshman catcher Joe Hietpas leads the squad with six homers this season.
Stritch Moving Up Homer and RBI Charts
Fifth-year senior Mike Stritch currently ranks second on the all-time school list with 29 career homers. Eric Mogentale set the record of 36 career homers from 1981-84. Stritch entered the year tied for second with Matt Huff and current New York Yankee catcher Joe Girardi.
Stritch also ranks fifth on the all-time school RBI chart with 130. Jon Osborne is in fourth at 132, with Mogentale in third place at 145. Girardi holds down second place with 156 with Tom Hildebrand owning the NU mark with 160 career RBIs.
Stritch Ties Big Ten Single-Game Record
Last Friday at Penn State, Mike Stritch tied a 41-year-old Big Ten record with six hits in a game. Only two other players in conference history had recorded six hits in a Big Ten game. Purdue's Bill Gorman did it against Iowa in 1957 and NU's Don Burson did it against Wisconsin in 1948.
Stritch ended the Penn State series batting 13-for-18 (.722) with nine runs scored and 10 RBIs. He was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday.
Pitching Staff Coming Around
Don't let the 'Cats' mini-slump fool you. The pitching staff has been very tough of late. On April 11, NU's team ERA reached its season peak at 6.52 following an 8-5 loss at Penn State. In the eight contests since then, the Wildcat pitchers have allowed just 24 earned runs in 64 innings, an ERA of 3.38.
* Patrick Thompson needs just one hit to reach 100 for his career. Brian Baron got his 100th career hit on April 15 at Northeastern Illinois.
* Jeremy Kurella needs just one more triple to become the 13th Wildcat to record five in a season. The last to do so was first-team All-Big Ten outfielder Jim Reeder in 1995. The single-season record is eight by former major leaguer Mike Huff in 1984.
First Inning Prowess
The Wildcats have scored 27 first-inning runs this season, and at least one first-inning tally in 15 of 37 games. The 'Cats are 11-4 when scoring in the first inning.
No Homers Allowed, Just Double Plays
The Wildcats have turned 47 double plays this season, tops in the Big Ten. Also, Wildcat pitchers have allowed just 24 homers thus far, the second-fewest in the conference.
This year's early-season schedule was 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.
WNUR Radio Schedule
Five more Wildcat baseball games will air on WNUR 89.3 FM, the Northwestern student radio station. The list: April 24 and 26 vs. Purdue; April 28 vs. Northern Illinois; May 8 and 10 vs. Minnesota.
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