CHICAGO - Anyone expecting UIC to flame out in the NCAA tournament doesn't know Jack, or Jake for that matter.
Jake Dahlberg went 10-2 in his senior season on the South Side and was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year - an honor he's earned twice, which has never happened before in the history of the conference.
Dahlberg's drawn some comparisons to another award-winning hurler in town, Jake Arrieta, who he shares a first name with and bears a striking resemblance to.
It's more of a mirror image considering Dahlberg's a southpaw, but the same steady results have helped vault the Flames pitching staff to second in the nation in ERA, hits allowed per 9 innings, WHIP and shutouts, trailing only No. 1 ranked Oregon State.
The UIC staff also has a stalwart defense behind them, which based on fielding percentage is the best in college baseball.
"Every single practice that's the primary focus. Every single day - ground balls, working on pitching," Dahlberg remarked. "You've heard it over and over again as long as you can remember: 'Defense wins championships.' That's why we pride ourselves on that so much. If we're playing clean baseball out there we know we need one run, two runs, maybe three and we're going to have a chance to win. We really believe in defense and pitching here."
Dahlberg and the Flames will make their fifth NCAA tournament appearance under head coach Mike Dee beginning on Friday, when they play Southern Mississippi in the Hattiesburg Regional.