By Rikki Greenberg
The environment at U.S. Cellular Field was electric and it wasn’t because the White Sox were in town.
This game was all about sporting purple and white or blue and gold while heading to the park to pledge your allegiance to either Northwestern or Notre Dame.
Northwestern senior Tony Vercelli’s two home runs in the 5-1 defeat over Notre Dame was the added bonus to the Wildcat’s big league experience at The Cell last Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (9-23) came out roaring early with a 1-0 lead at the top of the first inning when sophomore third baseman Chris Lashmet hit a double to left field and brought in freshman second baseman Trevor Stevens for a run.
Northwestern hit a dry spell in the fourth inning and continued until the top of the seventh when Vercelli hit a solo home run, his fifth of the season, and extended the lead to 3-0 over the Fighting Irish (20-13).
Vercelli continued his home run hitting streak in the top of the ninth when he scored a two-run homer and dashed any hopes of a Notre Dame comeback with a 5-1 lead.
“If you hit a home run, it’s like a dream come true,” said Vercelli. “But if you hit two, it’s like a fantasy.”
The event was hosted by the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA). Northwestern Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips was the driving force in making this event a reality for the Wildcats program.
“He [Jim Phillips] does not know the word no,” said Northwestern Head Coach Paul Stevens. “He will go out and try to give you the best opportunity to show case your program and this was a great venue for that.”
Stevens also expressed gratitude over Phillips “pushing the envelope” for the athletic programs at Northwestern and his ability to provide them with “world class experiences,” such as the most recent occurrence with the Chicago White Sox.
The 2,101 fans in attendance were able to take advantage of open concessions (fresh off the grill polish sausages, hearty hot dogs and cheese fries were just some of the tasty menu options) while taking in a collegiate ball game with a dedicated fan following.
Northwestern fans were not without the trademark Wildcat roar, which blared over the PA system any time a Wildcat player scored a run or made a big hit. RAR RAR RAR!
The enjoyment from an evening spent at U.S. Cellular continued long after the game was over.
All proceeds from the event went to Chicago White Sox charities, such as the Inner City Youth baseball league, the White Sox Amateur City Elite and the RBI program (run through the Chicago Park District).