After going 0-4 in last weekend's Snowbird Classic and getting blown out by UIC this past Tuesday, Northwestern baseball needed to get back on track during a four-game series with struggling but perennially strong San Diego State this past weekend.
The Wildcats (5-11) lost the opener on Thursday but split a doubleheader that began on Friday and was postponed/finished on Saturday. The fourth game of the series, originally scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled.
Walk-on Dan Kubiuk, who has been a major surprise for the Wildcats in his first college baseball season, got the start on Thursday and went 6 innings, allowing just 1 run and 5 hits with 2 strikeouts. The Aztecs went up 1-0 on a Jordan Verdon RBI single in the 4th but Northwestern responded with a run-scoring groundout by Ben Dickey in the 7th to tie it up.
But in the bottom of the frame, three Wildcat relievers — Jake Stolley, Pete Hofman and Mack Rosman —undid Kubiuk's great start by combining to allow seven runs, which broke the game wide open. A couple of singles and walks, an error and a home run gave the Aztecs an insurmountable 8-1 advantage. The Wildcats responded with four runs of their own in the 8th and another one in the 9th, but the comeback effort was ultimately futile.
Friday's scheduled doubleheader started out well for Northwestern, as they overcame an early 4-0 deficit with 3-run innings in the 4th and 6th to go up 6-4. Reed Mason got the start and was fairly ineffective in his 5 innings as he gave up 9 hits and 5 runs. But, a storm moved into the San Diego area during the 6th, leading to a delay and, eventually a postponement of the doubleheader until Saturday. As a result, the game originally scheduled for Saturday was cancelled.
When the game resumed, Tommy Bordignon entered in relief for Mason and gave a run right back on a sacrifice fly. But, he pitched a scoreless 7th before the Wildcats got the bats going again in the 8th, scoring seven runs. A two-run triple from Willie Bourbon — his 3rd hit and 4th and 5th RBIs of the game — kickstarted the rally to put Northwestern ahead 13-5. Bordignon gave up four more runs in the bottom of the frame but held the Aztecs scoreless in the 9th to get the save and preserve the 13-7 win.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Northwestern tagged SDSU starter Brett Seeburger for four runs in the top of the 1st to take the early lead. But, as coach Spencer Allen tried to piece together his pitching staff in the series finale, Cooper Wetherbee gave two runs right back in the home half of the frame. He was relieved by Danny Katz after getting just 2 outs as Northwestern ended up using eight pitchers on the day.
Katz went the Aztecs at bay for the next 2.1 innings before Stolley and Josh Davis combined to give up 6 runs in the 4th as SDSU used another big inning to run away from Northwestern. Another 4-spot put up by SDSU in the 6th off Tyler Lass and Richard Fordon put this out of reach, as the Aztecs went on to win 15-10.
Pitching has become a real problem for Northwestern as of late, with the Wildcats giving up 10 or more runs in five of their last six games. The staff is certainly something Spencer Allen will contemplate during this week as the team has off for finals. It'll head to Ohio next Saturday to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats for a three-game series.