After dropping game two of the doubleheader on Sunday afternoon, the Northwestern Wildcats won the series against the Michigan Wolverines in epic fashion, taking game three in a thriller.
The televised doubleheader on the Big Ten Network lived up to the billing. But game one of the doubleheader was the “Evan Hill” show for the Michigan Wolverines. The freshman southpaw stifled the Wildcats, blanking them 5-0, hurling 7 innings of shutout baseball, surrendering only 4 hits, and giving up only 3 walks, 2 strikeouts on 83 tosses. With the win, Hill improves his record to an outstanding 7-1 and his era to an astounding 1.52.
Sophomore Brandon Magallones pitched a pretty solid game, tossing a complete game. Even though he gave up 5 runs on 9 hits the box score didn’t do him justice. But in the third inning with 2 on, Travis Maezes raked a liner into right field. Wildcat right fielder Walker Moses bobbled the ball, and it rolled to the fence, causing a rare inside the park home run to put the Wolverines up 3-0, which was the turning point of the game.
The Wildcats’ lone opportunity to make the contest a ballgame came in the bottom of the sixth. With Michigan up 4-0, The Wildcats had the bases loaded with 1 out as pinch hitter Scott Halen came to the plate. But as Hill did all day, he caused Heelan to ground into the inning-ending double play. Hill’s movement gave the Wildcat batters fits and caused numerous groundball outs. After the Wildcats squandered their only opportunity, the Wolverines held the Wildcats scoreless the rest of the way, while adding an insurance run in the ninth, to take game two of the series 5-0.
Game two of the doubleheader, and the rubber match of the three-game set, was a classic.
Michigan’s momentum from the first game of the doubleheader carried on into game two. The Wolverines got on the board in the first, scoring a run on 3 hits off Wildcat starter Zach Morton thanks to Michigan’s lively bats. Michigan would later tack on an insurance run in the third to make it 2-0 after 3. Morton pitched seven innings of solid baseball, giving up 2 runs on 9 hits and fanning 4 batters.
In the eighth, the Cats put their rally caps on and made the game interesting. Wolverine Jacob Cronenworth came on in relief to replace starter Logan McAnallen. Walker Moses got the rally going for the Wildcats with a leadoff single up the middle. Then the leadoff man for the NU, Trevor Stevens, laid down a great bunt. Cronenworth bobbled the ball resulting in Stevens to get aboard and advance Moses. Pitchers were staying away from the red-hot Kyle Ruchim all day. Ruchim sacrificed himself with a bunt to advance both runners. Morton then hit a sac fly to center to score Moses, making it 2-1. Then Jack Havey hit a groundball to the Wolverine shortstop Travis Maezes for the routine throw to first, but Maezes bobbled the ball and Havey barely beat out the throw to first to score Stevens to knot the game up at 2.
In the top of the ninth, Zach Zott was thrown out at third on a beautiful zip throw from Wildcat catcher Jake Straub. After Michigan got a man aboard, with two out, Wolverine catcher Cole Martin cranked a ball to deep right field off Ruchim. The starting right fielder this game, Zach Jones got on his horse and made a Ken Griffey Jr.- like catch jump over the wall to rob Jones of a certain homer.
After NU failed to score, the game went to extras. In the bottom of the tenth Michigan kept Cronenworth on the rubber. Again, Moses led off the inning with a rocket single to left. Stevens reached first due to Cronenworth falling down for an error. Ruchim then fouled out. Moses and Stevens advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Cronenworth intentionally walked Morton to load them up for the potential double play.
Then Cronenworth and Havey had an epic duel. After fouling off numerous pitches, Havey hit a 1 hopper to the mound. Again, Cronenworth dropped the ball and threw the ball home late as Moses slid safely for the winning run while the crowd erupted. With the final being 3-2. Ruchim got the win, improving to 3-1 on the year.
Colby Everett extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and Havey’s hitting streak was snapped at 11 since the final play was deemed an error.
“With one out bases loaded, all I’m thinking is put something in play, and put pressure on them,” Havey said. “He (Cronenworth) had been throwing sliders effectively, but I knew since bases were loaded he’d be scared to go to it. You know, it’s the tenth inning, cold day, doubleheader; we’re all trying to go home early. What a great way to end it.”
After a historic win at Wrigley Field on Saturday night, a win in game three was just as significant.
“I was thrilled with the guys for what they did, it was monumental,” coach Paul Stevens said. “The thing that I love about these guys is just because their down, don’t turn your back on them, they will find a way to come back and make you understand you’re in a fight.”
With the win, NU improved to 17-14 overall, and 6-9 in Big Ten play. Next up, the Wildcats will take on Northern Illinois at home on Tuesday at Rocky Miller Park, at 3 p.m.