Northwestern baseball began the Spencer Allen era last weekend with a split of a season-opening four-game series against the Nevada Wolf Pack down in Mesa, Ariz. at the Chicago Cubs' spring training facility. This weekend, the Wildcats (4-4) split another four-game series, this one in Stockton, Calif. against the Pacific Tigers (2-6).
The Wildcats won Friday's series opener 3-1 behind a strong start from Reed Mason, who allowed just one run in his six innings. Then, with his team up by two runs thanks to a three-run fifth inning, Tommy Bordignon finished off the game with four shutout innings in relief to secure Spencer Allen's third win at the helm of the Northwestern program.
Mason, who pitched 3.1 innings in the Nevada series both as a starter and in relief, gave up only three hits and a walk in his start at Klein Family Field. The California native shut down the Tigers' lineup before ceding to Bordignon in the sixth. Northwestern got all of its scoring done in the inning before on back-to-back-to-back RBI hits from Ben Dickey (a triple), Willie Bourbon (single) and Zach Jones (double), all of which came with two outs.
Bordignon threw 4.1 hitless innings to save the season opener and put forth another yeoman's effort on Friday, allowing just one hit and nothing else. The game followed the low-scoring style of the Wildcats' wins in the Nevada series, with pitching and defense leading the way along with some rare but timely hitting.
The next day's doubleheader didn't go as well for Northwestern, as the Tigers won both games by a score of 7-3.
In Game 1, left fielder Joe Hoscheit hit a first inning solo home run to give the Wildcats an early lead, but starter Josh Davis gave it right back on a Nate Verlin sacrifice fly. Then, the floodgates opened in the third inning when Davis allowed home runs to Danny Mayer and J.J. Wagner, which were solo and three-run shots, respectively. Spencer Allen let Davis pitch two more innings before bringing Danny Katz out of the bullpen to finish the game off.
Northwestern would mount a comeback attempt in the sixth inning against Pacific starter Ricky Reynoso, scoring two runs on a Willie Bourbon sacrifice fly and then a Grant Peikert single. But, Justin Giovannoni stopped the rally when he relieved Reynoso, effectively ending the Wildcats' best chances to tie the score up. Northwestern wouldn't push any more runs across the rest of the day. Katz, a freshman, allowed two runs (one earned) in his three innings and also struck out four batters in his third college appearance.
Game 2 followed a similar script to Game 1, as Northwestern took an early lead on a two-run single from DH Matt Hopfner that was erased by the fourth inning, thanks to a throwing error by Jack Dunn and doubles from Louis Mejia (three-run) and Mayer. Starter Pete Hofman was chased in the fourth and took the loss, but wasn't helped much by reliever Tyler Lass, who was charged with three of the runs in that inning and another one in the sixth. An RBI double by Dickey would be the only other offense for the Wildcats as the Pacific bullpen shut things down yet again.
After a weak offensive showing on Saturday, the Wildcats got the bats going in the series finale on Sunday, bashing Pacific 14-5 to get back to .500 on the young season. Northwestern, which scored first in each game of the series, pushed four runs across in the second inning and never looked bad. Walk-on Cooper Wetherbee gave up seven hits and four runs in an ineffective 2.1-inning start, but his offense backed him up, scoring 10 runs by the end of the fifth. Three Wildcats had multi-hit games in the win (Jack Dunn, Matt Hopfner and Willie Bourbon), and all but one starter got a hit.
Jake Stolley relieved Wetherbee in the third and held serve for the next 4.2 innings, getting the win and only allowing one run. Dan Kubiuk, who is also a quarterback on the Northwestern football team, threw two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to preserve the victory for the Wildcats. Northwestern comes back to the Chicago area this week to play UIC at Curtis Granderson Field in Chicago on Wednesday before heading down to Port Charlotte, Fla. this weekend to play four games in three days against four different teams, including Boston College and Illinois State.
- Pacific's center fielder, Jimmy Boras, is the nephew of MLB super agent Scott Boras, who played baseball for the Tigers in the 1970s.
- On Sunday night, news broke that Northwestern starting pitcher Joe Schindler was suspended indefinitely by Spencer Allen for a "violation of team rules." Schindler, a junior, started Northwestern's season opener and got the win after throwing five scoreless innings. He did not appear in the Pacific series.