Northwestern baseball picked up its second Big Ten win of the season on Sunday afternoon in Lincoln, Neb., routing the Cornhuskers by a score of 11-3 at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park. Jake Stolley got the start and, after pitching 3 shutout innings, was aided by four Wildcats relievers to hold onto the big lead. The win snapped both a seven-game overall losing streak and a seven-game skid in conference play.
It was a true team effort, as six different Wildcats (8-24 overall, 2-7 Big Ten) drove in runs to snap a three-game winning streak for the Cornhuskers (22-10, 7-2). After dropping the first two games of the series by a run apiece, Northwestern got the scoring going early on Sunday and let the bullpen shut the door down the stretch for a stress-free victory.
One-run losses have been the unfortunate norm for the Wildcats this season, as Northwestern is 1-7 in such contests. While that's a measure of Northwestern's defensive struggles, lack of timely hitting late in games and an iffy bullpen, it also shows that the Wildcats probably should have more than eight wins.
In Game 1 on Friday, Northwestern scored two runs in the top of the 1st on a Matt Hopfner RBI single and a Joe Hoscheit fielder's choice. Early leads have also been a common threat for the Wildcats, but, as has often been the case so far, the bats died down as the game went along. Those two runs -- off Nebraska starter Garrett King -- would be all they'd get on Friday as Kidd cruised for the next 5 frames.
Reed Mason got the start for Northwestern and pitched pretty well for 6.1 innings, striking out seven batters. However, the 4th inning unearned run he allowed on a Jake Placzek single gave the Cornhuskers a 3-2 lead that they held the rest of the way. The Wildcats had multiple chances in multiple innings to tie or take the lead, but couldn't take advantage with runners in scoring position.
Saturday's Game 2 featured a lot more scoring than Friday's affair but ended with the same result, as Nebraska edged the Wildcats 8-7. Dan Kubiuk got roughed up by the Cornhuskers for 5 runs in his three innings of work and was relieved by Northwestern opening day starter Joe Schindler, who had been suspended since the season-opening series against Nevada for a violation of team rules. He allowed a run and was replaced by Tyler Lass before he could record an out.
But, the Wildcats made some noise late, cutting the Nebraska lead from 8-2 to 8-7 with two runs in the 7th and three in the 8th. The one person Northwestern has to thank for those runs is Joe Hoscheit, who hit home runs in both innings to account for the offensive firepower. Unfortunately, the Wildcats couldn't tie the score up in the 9th against Nebraska closer Chad Luensmann. All seven of NU's runs on Saturday came on the strength of home runs, as Matt Hopfner's two-run shot in the 3rd got the road team on the board.
Schindler also pitched on Sunday, allowing a pair of runs in two innings. There hasn't been any word on whether or not the suspension for Antonio Freschet, which was announced in conjunction with Schindler's back in February, is over, but he did not play this weekend.
Northwestern heads home to take on Bradley at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park on Wednesday afternoon. Then, starting on Friday, the Wildcats welcome Penn State to Evanston for a weekend Big Ten series.