A pair of furious 9th inning rallies fell just short for Northwestern baseball in Evanston over the weekend, as the Wildcats were swept by the Indiana Hoosiers in both team’s first Big Ten series of the season.
The Wildcats (5-17, 0-3 Big Ten) just fell behind by too much to the Hoosiers (13-8-1, 3-0 Big Ten) early in the second and third games of the series, and Northwestern’s comeback attempts at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park weren’t enough.
Inclement weather forced the teams to play a Friday doubleheader, both halves of which were back-and-forth affairs.
Northwestern jumped on Hoosiers starter Jonathan Stiever early on in Game 1, scoring a trio of 2nd inning runs to grab an early lead. A Nick Paciorek double, which scored Jack Dunn, capped the rally.
Tommy Bordignon gave it all back the next half-inning, though, as he allowed a three-run home run to Matt Gorski that tied the score at three. But Stiever got hit hard again in the bottom of the 3rd, giving up five more runs and getting chased. Triples from Matt Hopfner and Jake Schieber led the way, and run-scoring singles for Joe Hoscheit and Paciorek contributed to the outburst as the Wildcats went up 8-3.
The game would be far from over, as the Hoosiers used a Jake Matheny sacrifice fly and a pair of Matt Lloyd dingers in the 4th and 6th to draw even at 8-8. Northwestern went ahead again in the bottom of the 7th on a run-scoring Hoscheit single, but it was only a temporary advantage.
Back-to-back solo shots from Logan Sowers and Lloyd, again, off Josh Levy pushed Indiana ahead the next inning, and the Hoosiers didn’t look back. B.J. Sabol and Lloyd — on the mound — held off the Wildcats for the final few frames to seal the 13-9 win.
Game 2 featured a ton of early scoring, as the score after the 1st inning was 4-3 in favor of Indiana. Lloyd hit a three-run bomb — his fourth of the doubleheader — off Hank Christie to get the Hoosiers started. That, following a Craig Dedelow RBI single, put the Wildcats’ freshman starter in a big hole.
Joe Hoscheit responded with a three-run homer of his own off Indiana’s Brian Hobbie to draw closer. Those would be Northwestern’s only runs until the 9th inning.
Alex Krupa made it 5-3 in favor of the visitors in the 4th on a home run to right off Christie, who made it through four full innings with seven hits and five runs (and only two strikeouts) on his ledger.
Scattering 10 Northwestern hits, Hobbie went the distance for Indiana but ran into trouble in his final half-inning. After the Hoosiers added a run in the top of the 9th, back-to-back doubles from Hopfner and Hoscheit set up a potentially big rally. The Wildcats drew within 6-5 after a Connor Lind groundout and Jack Claeys single, but a Leo Kaplan flyout and Paciorek strikeout ended the effort.
A similar script was followed in Sunday’s series finale, as Indiana tagged Josh Davis for a pair of 1st inning runs, which Northwestern responded to in the bottom of the frame with three runs off Andrew Saalfrank. He was relieved by Pauly Milto after recording just one out, as Northwestern finally seemed primed to get off the schneid on the weekend.
But Milto threw 6 1⁄3 scoreless innings of seven-hit relief as the Hoosiers built a 10-3 lead off Davis, Joe Schindler, Sam Lawrence, and Danny Katz. The Wildcats got a run back in the 8th with a Willie Bourbon home run and, yet again, made an enormous push with the Hoosiers trying to close out a win.
It started with a Hopfner double to right. The score was 10-5 when he was driven in by an Alex Erro single. A few batters later, Erro scored on a Jake Schieber single off Indiana’s Brad Littleton. Things got worse for the Hoosiers when the offensive star of the series, Lloyd, relieved Littleton.
Lloyd immediately gave up singles to Kaplan and Bourbon, the second of which cut the Indiana lead to just two runs. Kaplan scored on a wild pitch, which brought Paciorek up to the plate with Bourbon on second as the tying run. However, Lloyd struck both Paciorek and fellow freshman, Charlie Maxwell, out to narrowly preserve the 10-9 victory and the series sweep.
Alex Erro was held hitless in Friday’s second game, which snapped his hit streak at 17 consecutive games.
The Wildcats have a short break before welcoming Chicago State to Evanston on Wednesday afternoon for a 3:30 pm CST matinee. Then, this weekend, Northwestern will host the Air Force Falcons in a three-game non-conference series.