The Spencer Allen era of Northwestern baseball started with a bang on Friday, as the Wildcats (2-0) opened up their season with a sweep of a doubleheader against the Nevada Wolf Pack (0-2) at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.
Allen, who was hired this June to replace longtime head coach Paul Stevens, managed his team to 4-2 and 5-1 wins at the spring training home of the Cubs. Junior Joe Schindler got the start and the win in Game 1 while Tommy Bordignon threw 4.1 scoreless innings in relief to get the win in Game 2.
Northwestern lost its first six games last season en route to an 18-36 record in Stevens' final campaign while Nevada, under ex-head coach Jay Johnson, went 41-15 before losing to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
In the first game of the day, the Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning on back-to-back RBI singles from Connor Lind and Jack Claeys. Then, in the 7th, Joe Hoscheit hit a two-run home run that provided all the runs Northwestern would need. Nevada, against relievers Jake Stolley and Pete Hofman (who got the save), got back a run in both the 8th and 9th innings but couldn't tie it up.
Schindler notched 6 strikeouts in his 5 innings while Hoscheit, a junior outfielder, led the way with 3 hits and 2 RBIs. Lind, who started 44 games as a freshman in 2015, had 2 hits for the Wildcats.
Game 2 wasn't nearly as smooth for Northwestern, which saw starter Reed Mason get chased in the 2nd inning with the bases loaded. But, Bordignon entered the game in relief and struck out two Wolf Pack batters to let the Wildcats escape down just 1-0.
The six pitchers that followed Mason, including Bordignon and walk-on Dan Kubiuk (also a walk-on QB on the football team), held Nevada scoreless (with just 3 hits) the rest of the way. The Wildcats would answer back to the Wolf Pack's early run with two of their own in the bottom half of the 2nd inning, as second baseman Antonio Freschet knocked in Zach Jones and Hoscheit on a two-run single. Those runs would end up being the only ones Northwestern needed, as the Wildcats cruised to a 5-1 victory.
It's a picture-perfect start to the season for Allen, who served as Illinois' hitting coach in 2015 during the Illini's 50-win season and NCAA Super Regional appearance, and has been tasked with rebuilding a downtrodden Northwestern program. It's safe to say that sweeping a doubleheader from a very good Nevada team is not a bad way to begin your time at a new school.
These teams play again Saturday night at Sloan Park and finish off the weekend series with a Sunday matinee. Considering the Wildcats haven't started a season 3-0 since 2003, Allen probably will be pleased regardless of how the next two games go for his team.