EVANSTON -- It has been a trying season for the Wildcats, to say the least, but in an 8th inning that saw Purdue commit three errors and gift Northwestern three runs, maybe the universe was being kind for a change. The Wildcats used that big inning to earn a 7-4 victory over the Boilermakers, which gave Spencer Allen's team its first series win of the year and its first winning streak in nearly a month.
Behind a strong start from Reed Mason on Friday, Northwestern (12-34 overall, 4-16 Big Ten) took the first game of this series against the Boilermakers (7-36, 2-18) by a score of 7-3. Saturday's affair wasn't as smooth for the Wildcats, but it helps to get some breaks, for a change.
Northwestern starter Joe Schindler struggled in the first three innings, allowing five hits. But, in the 1st and 2nd, Schindler was able to work around multiple baserunners to escape without any damage done.
That wasn't the case in the 3rd, as he gave up a double and single to Brett Carlson and Kyle Johnson leading off the inning before Carlson scored on a Jack Claeys passed ball. Two batters later, a RBI single from Nick Dalesandro scored Johnson to give the Boilermakers a 2-0 lead. Schindler was able to strike out Daniel Sander and James Jewell to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the frame, the Wildcats finally got some guys on base against Purdue starter Matt Frawley. Singles from the freshmen Willie Bourbon and Ben Dickey set up a run-scoring base knock by Jack Dunn (another freshman) before a Zach Jones fielder's choice tied up the score at 2.
After his rough inning, Schindler settled down a bit until he was relieved by lefty Richard Fordon with one out in the 5th and Carlson on first base after his third hit of the day. Fordon retired lefthanded power threat Kyle Wood on a warning track fly ball but gave up a single to Dalesandro to right field which drove in Carlson and gave the lead back to Purdue. In his 4.1 innings, Schindler gave up 6 hits and 2 walks and was charged with 3 runs (1 earned). He did strike out 6 Boilermakers as well.
Frawley was effective for most of his start -- outside of the 3rd inning -- but started to unravel in the 6th. He gave up a leadoff walk to Zach Jones which was followed up by a Matt Hopfner single.
Tanner Andrews replaced him, still with no outs, and got Joe Hoscheit and Connor Lind to fly and ground out respectively. But, Jack Claeys ripped a two-out pitch on a line drive into right field to score Jones and Hopfner and give NU a 4-3 advantage. It was the type of big hit with runners in scoring position that has been few and far between this year for the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, Northwestern wouldn't hold the lead for long, as Cooper Wetherbee allowed a game-tying double to dead center field off the bat of Wood which scored Kyle Johnson (who doubled against Pete Hofman). Wetherbee struck out Dalesandro to end the inning and keep the score at 4 all.
Both teams' bullpens kept the other offense off the board until he bottom of the 8th, when Northwestern -- thanks to errors by Purdue's shortstop and third baseman -- went ahead 5-4 on a Claeys grounder that was hit slow enough to force a bad throw. That scored Zach Jones and, in the next at-bat, an infield single from Bourbon to third base drove in Joe Hoscheit. Another error, the third of the inning, by Andrews -- still on the mound -- helped push the lead to 7-4, where it remained.
Tyler Lass, in relief of Wetherbee, pitched a scoreless 9th to close out the victory.
The Wildcats go for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 pm CST.