Just when it looked like it might be starting to turn things around, Northwestern baseball suffered a tough setback this weekend with a trio of losses in a four-game series against Central Michigan at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park in Evanston.
The Wildcats (5-13) and Chippewas (9-11) split a doubleheader on Saturday, but Northwestern fell in both Friday’s opener and Sunday’s finale to drop the series, the first home set of the season. Northwestern outhit Central Michigan in three of the games but left far too many runners on base throughout the weekend.
After starting the season with seven losses, Northwestern had begun to play better baseball in early March, winning four of seven heading into the series against the Chippewas.
In the series opener on Friday, freshman pitcher Hank Christie had a second consecutive shaky outing to follow up the complete game gem he tossed against Santa Clara two weeks ago. Christie failed to make it out of the sixth inning, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits and two walks as the Wildcats fell into a 4-0 hole.
To its credit, the bullpen came in and performed admirably, allowing just one run (unearned) in 3.1 innings. The bats got going down the stretch, but the Wildcats couldn’t come up with enough clutch hits as they fell 5-3. Jack Dunn and Jake Schieber led the offense with two hits apiece.
Spencer Allen gave the starting nod to Josh Davis in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, and the senior righthander turned in an excellent performance. Davis coaxed 11 groundouts from Central Michigan hitters and held the Chippewas to three hits in six shutout innings. Meanwhile, Willie Bourbon, Nick Paciorek and Dunn drove in runs to stake Northwestern to a 5-0 lead. Tommy Bordignon closed the game with three strong innings as the Wildcats won 5-1 to even the series.
Later that day, the bats fell silent as Northwestern was shut down by Central Michigan’s Tyler Hankins. He threw a complete game, scattering eight hits and a walk and allowing just a single run. That run, coming on a RBI single by Dunn, got the Wildcats on the board first but they wouldn’t score again and lost 5-1.
Looking to tie up the series in Sunday’s finale, Northwestern sent Josh Levy to the mound. Levy, however, struggled mightily with his command, walking six Chippewas over three innings of work. In the 3rd inning, a throwing error by the catcher, Paciorek, allowed two runs to score as Central Michigan took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Wildcats used big two-run doubles from Dunn and Joe Hoscheit to try and come back, but they couldn’t get over the hump and were defeated by a final score of 7-5.
Northwestern’s homestand continues with a game against UIC on Tuesday afternoon and a weekend series with Indiana.